Up-tempo, no huddle spread offenses aren’t new to college football. But the amount of teams that employ it on a regular basis right now is. Prior to this decade, Houston and Hawaii were two of the only teams that went the pass-happy route. The early 1990’s brought Florida’s “Fun-n-Gun” directed by head coach Steve Spurrier. Later that decade, Purdue’s aerial assault took wings under head coach Joe Tiller. Then in 2000, first-year head coach Mike Leach unveiled his “Air Raid” offense and Northwestern under head coach Randy Walker adopted a similar style. From there the floodgates have opened. Within the last 12 years we’ve gone from a few select programs that would push the tempo to now, where by my count roughly 39 FBS teams use up-tempo/spread as their base offense. Beyond those, almost every other team has some form of break neck pace incorporated in their playbook.
The impact all of this 80-snap-per-game style has dramatically changed the world of college football betting and oddsmaking where totals are concerned. Of the 43 traditional board and added board games being played this week, nine are lined with totals between 40 and 49 as of this morning while 11 are at 60 or higher. The overall structure of this week’s card doesn’t appear too different from what we saw last season but what’s different is the willingness of bettors playing OVERS to pound right through a row of key numbers. Key numbers in totals are plentiful in the 50’s. When handicapping any pointspread sport, professionals are always looking to get that half-point point edge below a key number. It’s a mandated rule for anyone looking to make money in this arena. Yet, with the advent of extreme tempo offenses being involved in anywhere from 20-30 games per week, you see things like bettors tearing through four key numbers in the Akron-Florida International matchup only to land on a fifth which renders it good for nothing other than a push. And that apparent halt here on Friday morning may only be temporary when you figure for the public money that pours in and blindly follows line moves on game day. Akron-FIU opened 51, crashed through 52, 54, 55, and 56 before settling at 57 all because Akron under first-year head coach Terry Bowden is running a very fast tempo offense and his defense stinks. I rode Akron OVER the total of 49 last week to an easy win with that knowledge. That game opened 48 and closed 49.5 so there wasn’t much interest from the betting markets. Sure, the opponents are different and there are circumstances to consider in every handicap, but the bigger question is; where is the threshold on totals in college football?
Oddsmakers raise these numbers in a conservative manner weekly but bettors are showing them again this week by betting 26 of the 43 openers up, that they think they still have room to win. Eight games in all have moved between 4.5 and 7 points upward going through multiple key numbers. There have been some downward movements also as bettors have reacted to poor opening week offensive performances from Massachusetts, Maryland and Florida but the story remains the pounding of totals upward by players. The ability to make correct adjustments more often than not is essential to the success of each side of the counter so it will be interesting to see just how high college football totals will go before they finally settle in.
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