My summer homework progression is simple. I do my NFL work first, because not that much changes in the professional ranks over the summer. Once we’re done with the draft and the initial free agent signing period, it’s easy to make preliminary assessments of all 32 NFL teams. While the season win total market is still a long way from true maturity, we do have a pretty good sense of two things. First, how the 32 teams are projected, power ratings wise and second, how tough a team’s schedule is going to be.
When it comes to college football, I don’t do much until after the MLB All-Star break, and the majority of my college football prep comes in August. Why the difference? Simple – a lot more changes in college over the summer, and I’m not a big fan of doing the same work twice! The depth charts that you’re going to see popping up in all the college football preview publications were accurate at the end of spring camp. By mid-August, they’re essentially obsolete.
There are many more players moving up and down the depth charts in college. There are more injuries in college, both serious and minor, due to simple math. More teams and more players on every team equates to more injuries, plain and simple. There are many more positions – most notably at quarterback, but in reality, all over the roster – that have open competitions or changes to the starter between the end of spring camp and the start of the season.
We know who is likely to be the opening day QB starter for just about every team except the Jets and Browns at this stage of the NFL offseason. In college, there are literally dozens of QB jobs that have not been awarded yet; not to mention the dozens of offensive lines that aren’t settled, the dozens of receiving corps in flux and the dozens of defenses that will have massive personal changes between now and the first kickoff of the season.
And that’s just the personnel on the field. College prep work involves reading reports out of camps throughout the month of August. Some teams will pick up new systems from new coordinators quickly; other squads will be much slower to adjust. Some teams will make huge strides in Year 2 or Year 3 of a system; other squads don’t seem to be able to make that leap. To sum it up, there’s a lot more uncertainty in college football at this stage of the offseason than there is in the NFL; hence my NFL work in May and June mantra that has paid dividends for my clients and I over the years.
That being said, I don’t want to get to the latter stages of summer without any real ideas about what teams the markets are likely to be supporting early on at a high level, and which teams the markets are looking to fade right from the get-go. The only way to track this info is to watch the early numbers closely.
I have a ton of respect for Jay Kornegay and his staff at the Westgate Superbook. CG Technology with COO Matthew Holt and his team have been a market leader since the day they arrived in Nevada. South Point Sportsbook , with new director Chris Andrews, are consistent ‘players’ when it comes to unique props and lines. But I would be remiss to exclude the Golden Nugget from any list of the elite sports books in Vegas, with Tony Miller, Aaron Kessler and company providing the go-to destination for serious bettors downtown. Plus, Tony and Aaron are legitimately ‘good guys’, always willing to listen to or share a good betting story. This is not a diss of other sportsbooks here in Vegas, but rather, a recognition of the guys who are ready, willing & able to take wiseguy action.
The Nugget was not first to market on College Football Game of the Year lines in 2016 – South Point posted them earlier this month. But the Golden Nugget was the first book to post a bevy of season win totals in college football, numbers that hit the board late last week. And while I’m not going to pretend to be completely up to speed on the entire collegiate betting board, I do pay attention to these very first ‘market indicator’ season win total line moves.
The Nugget posted win total numbers for 24 teams. Six of those 24 teams saw some early action, including two significant moves: Ohio State Over 8.5 (bet up to 9) and Tennessee Under 10 (now -155 to the Under). Both win totals stood out like a sore thumb when the lines were posted – in casual discussions with other serious bettors, those two win totals came up repeatedly.
And those two win totals were, by far the biggest movers off the opening number with the Nugget taking enough Ohio State money to move the win total up from 8.5 to 9, with the Over 9 still drawing market support. The Buckeyes broke two records during the draft process with a record 14 players invited to the scouting combine and a record ten players selected in the first three rounds of the draft (Tennessee in 2000 held the previous record with eight draftees in the first three rounds).
The Nugget’s opening numbers make it clear – they’re expecting some growing pains for Ohio State after their massive personnel losses. And a schedule that includes road trips to face Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan State prior to their season finale against Michigan was viewed to be somewhat daunting initially. The early market action supporting the Buckeyes did NOT agree with that daunting assessment.
Tennessee finished 9-4 last year, pummeling Northwestern in the Outback Bowl to close out the campaign. All four Volunteer losses – Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama and Arkansas – came by a TD or less, and the Vols held a fourth quarter lead in three of them. With QB Joshua Dobbs returning – just one of 18 returning starters – the Nugget expected to see significant preseason wiseguy support for Butch Jones’ squad. There is a lot to like about this team.
But lining Tennessee’s win total higher than another other SEC school was a bit too much for the markets to support. And with a four game early season stretch against Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama, the markets have said ‘this team loses more than one game’, which is all it takes for them to bet the Vols Under 10 wins . It’ll take an 11-1 regular season record to lose that bet; a win total the Vols haven’t even approached since Phil Fulmer was competing for national titles more than a decade ago.
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