Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Pac-12 Gambling Update

RJ Bell, a popular sports gambling expert in Las Vegas released updated lines on college football over/unders, conference champion future odds, and a bunch of point spreads on some of the bigger games of the year. There are way too many games to breakdown in detail without writing a book even if I narrow it down to just the Pac-12 but you can view the entire list here and nerd out on point spreads if you really want to. Don’t worry I’ll break down all Pac-12 point spreads and make picks and gambling recommendations during game weeks but I don’t see much point to analyzing September lines in July, never mind October and November point spreads.

The interesting content to me are the over/unders and conference champion odds. There were no odds on Arizona, Cal, Colorado, and Washington State so sadly I will have to leave them out. Hopefully, someone reputable in Vegas will put out over/unders on those four at some point before the season. here are all the numbers as well as the odds for over and under for the eight teams that did have a listed number:

Arizona State: 8 (Over +115, Under -135)

Oregon: 11 (Over -110, Under -110)

Oregon State: 8 (Over +110, Under -130)

Stanford: 9.5 (Over +110, Under -130)

UCLA: 6.5 (falls out of chair) (Over -155, Under +135)

USC: 9.5 (Over -110, Under -110)

Utah: 5.5 (Over -110, Under -110)

Washington: 7.5 (Over +145, Under -165)

A few things jump out at me here. First of all, Vegas clearly isn’t buying into the narrative that Stanford is the new team to beat in the conference despite Chip Kelly going to the NFL and the Cardinal being the reigning conference champs. Vegas has Oregon’s win total a win and a half higher and the Ducks are also a four point favorite at Stanford and have the best odds to win the conference (I’ll get to that).

11 wins for Oregon is a stay away bet to me. 11-1 seems like the most likely scenario for Oregon as they could either lose to Stanford and whip everyone else or they could beat Stanford and have a letdown somewhere else (Arizona? Maybe UCLA?). The Ducks' conference schedule is pretty favorable (five home games, four road) with no USC or Arizona St. and a pitiful FCS team (Nicholls St.) and two rebuilding programs (Virginia and Tennessee) on the non-conference schedule. Keep in mind that these over/unders are for the regular season so conference title and bowl games don’t count.

Oregon is talented enough to run the table but I have never been in favor of betting on a team going undefeated because a team can play great 99% of the time but if one little thing goes wrong, you lose your money (see last season). Betting the under and saying Oregon goes 10-2 or worse seems like a bad bet too. It is possible Oregon could have a rough year without Chip Kelly but a lot of talent is returning (32 of 44 from the two-deep by my count) and only one assistant coach is gone. Oregon returns pretty much the same roster that just finished number two in the country and has a very manageable schedule so two losses seems like a long shot as well. Even if 10-2 seems to be a likely scenario, do you want to bet your money against Marcus Mariota and friends? I don’t. Also keep in mind that the odds are at -110 (bet $110 to win $100) for both over and under. Basically, both over and under are unlikely and the payoff both ways is minimal. Vegas is going to steal a lot of money off suckers no matter how this plays out (unless Oregon pushes at 11-1) so this is a text book stay away.

There are a few plays in these lines that I love. First and foremost I would hammer the over on UCLA at 6.5. The odds are -155, a pretty hefty price to pay but to me it’s worth it. UCLA's schedule is very tough with Stanford and Oregon on the road in consecutive weeks, and a 9:00 am PT start at Nebraska. That makes for three pretty much guaranteed losses although I’m not totally convinced Nebraska is a lock to win that game. However, Nevada, New Mexico State, at Utah, Cal, and Colorado are pretty much guaranteed wins. At Arizona is tough and they could certainly lose that game but does a change in venue really turn a 66-10 win the previous year into a loss? I’m unconvinced. Add on to that, the Bruins get Washington and ASU, pitiful road teams in recent years, at the Rose Bowl. If UCLA avoids monumental upsets in those five games I labelled sure wins and can win at least two of those four very winnable games then you win your bet. Who knows, USC might be just as bad as last year and/or, the Trojans might quit on Lane Kiffin by the time Nov.30 rolls around and that could become another great chance at a win.

I also love the under on Washington at 7.5. I touched on Washington’s challenges in my post about Steve Sarkisian’s sneaky dangerous job security but their schedule is brutal. The Huskies were going to have a tough time beating Boise State with Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams but they should be suspended for at least the opener if Sarkisian has any kind of moral compass. The Huskies are not good enough to beat Oregon or Stanford, plain and simple and they have very tough road games against ASU, UCLA, and OSU as well as a road date with Illinois that they should win but could easily lose. Cal and Arizona at home aren’t easy outings either by the way. If Oregon and Stanford are losses and Idaho State, Colorado, and Wazzou are wins that leaves them at 3-2 with seven swing games.

Do I think the Huskies will lose all seven and go 3-9? Absolutely not. Do I think the Huskies will win five of those games and get to 8-4? Again, I don’t. Dan Rubenstein of the Solid Verbal has taken to calling Sarkisian “seven-win Steve” recently and I think the moniker sticks again this year. I don’t see UW winning any of those three tough road games. Combine those with Oregon and Stanford and that’s 7-5 and hitting the under right there.

Hammer the over on Stanford at 9.5 too. The Cardinal are more talented than every team on its schedule except for Oregon and will get the Ducks at home. In addition to the Ducks, Stanford also gets UCLA and ASU at home which means that the three most talented teams on Stanford's schedule have to go to Palo Alto. 10 wins seems like a safe bet for this Stanford team.

I’m not really in love with any of those other bets but If I had to place a bet on the other four teams with lines I would do this:

ASU – I’m inclined to say it’s a push at eight wins but ASU plays Wazzou and Utah in consecutive weeks and losing one of those games and ending up 7-5 would be the most Sun Devil thing ever so I’ll say under.

OSU –I like the over since I think they have a realistic shot at starting 7-0. I don’t think they will pull it off but they should go at least 5-2 to start the year. Stanford and Oregon are losses but they should beat UW at home, USC hasn’t won in Corvallis since 2004 so that could be another win and ASU is hardly invincible even in Tempe. If the number was 7.5 I would jump all over the over but since it is 8 I’m feeling another push although I’m still more inclined to say OSU wins nine than seven.

USC – Keep in mind USC plays 13 regular season games this year so they can hit the over at 9.5 with three losses. Even with Oregon off the schedule I feel very strongly about USC going under. Between at ASU, Arizona, at Notre Dame, at Oregon State, Stanford, and UCLA none of those are guaranteed wins. Realistically looking at this team sans Matt Barkley and with Lane Kiffin still farting up and down the sideline I have 9-4 as a best case scenario.

Utah – I’m going just over 5.5 and saying the Utes finish 6-6. Utah State and Weber State at the start of the year and at Wazzou and Colorado to finish the year should be four wins. Utah might not be very good but I don’t think they are bad enough to lose eight straight. I think the Utes find two wins in the middle of their schedule (at BYU and ASU would be my picks) to make a bowl game and hit the over.

As for futures odds to win the conference title, Oregon is now a massive favourite at 10/11, one of the weirdest lines I have seen. You have to bet the second number the win the first number so a $110 bet wins $100. That is a very poor payoff. Thing is, I don’t think anyone other than Stanford can challenge Oregon anyway and the Pac-12 Title game will likely be hosted by the North Division winner. I really think the conference is going to come down to Ducks-Cardinal on the Farm on Nov.7. If you feel very strongly about Stanford winning that game than go ahead and jump on Stanford at 5-2 (that’s a $250 payoff if you bet $100, not bad). I will say, UCLA at 20-1 is nice long shot bet but I wouldn’t recommend it. Vegas did a really nice job setting lines on the championship futures, I would recommend looking at a more wide open league like the Big 12 if you’re dead set on betting a future on a conference champ.

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