The time has come for another year of my favorite little project — the Public Action Report. For the next 12 weeks or so we will be on the lookout for a very specific type of game in college football and the NFL.
You can’t typically find out how much money has been bet on each side in a game at the sportsbooks. What you can find out, though, is the percentage of bets that have been place on each side. We’re looking first for games in which the action is one-sided — 70 percent or more of bets placed on one team. When action is lopsided like that you would expect the odds to shift to make the popular team less attractive to bettors so that the books can attempt to balance action and minimize their risk.
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What we want to find, though, are the games where the lines move in the opposite direction — where the popular team becomes more attractive due to line movement despite the high percentage of bets on them. When that happens we can assume that one of two things have happened. Either a small number of smart bettors have aggressively bet on the opposite side of the public and the books are shifting the odds to avoid more of that action, or for some other reason the books aren’t afraid of action on that side and are looking to encourage even more. In either case it is an indication of a potential largely unrecognized strength for the less popular team, and a good sign that that team is worth a closer look for bettors.
I don’t typically suggest that these games should be blindly bet. I like to use them more as a guide of what to look for, and which favorites to reconsider. If you were to bet them without consideration, though, you would usually do pretty well. Last year the spread was covered by the chosen team in 42 of 77 games. That’s a 54.5 percent win rate, which is nicely profitable. Even better results could be had if you only focused on college action. There, the record was 31-22 ATS, which is a very nice 58.5 percent hit rate. Each week we’ll keep track of the results this year to see how we stack up. Keep in mind, though, that the results often get better as the season progresses.
Without further ado, let’s get started. There are eight games to get us going this week — five in college football and three in the NFL:
Central Michigan (+20) vs. Michigan State (Saturday, Sept 8, 3:30 p.m. ET)
Three quarters of bettors have backed the Spartans, yet the line has dropped by more than a field goal from 23.5 to 20. That’s a clear sign that smart money isn’t buying into the Spartans at this point, so the Chippewas are worth a look. Michigan State’s offense was very one-dimensional in their opener and showed little beyond the run, so they could struggle to run away with this one — especially on the road.
Oregon State (+6.5) vs. Wisconsin (Saturday, Sept. 8, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Nearly 80 percent of bets have been on Wisconsin, but this one opened at eight and has moved through the key number of seven to 6.5, so the Beavers are definitely worth a look here. Thanks to a weather related postponement last week they have had extra time to get ready for this one. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is coming off a disappointing effort against Northern Iowa last week, and now it faces a tough road trip.
Kent State (+6.5) at Kentucky (Saturday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m. ET)
Four out of five bettors have backed the Wildcats, yet the line has dropped from the key number of seven to 6.5. When a key number is involved it’s a significant move, so this is a good indication that Kent State is worth a close look. Kentucky looked terrible against Louisville last week so it’s not surprising that smart money doesn’t like them — even if they are from a major conference.
Missouri (+2) vs. Georgia (Saturday, Sept. 8, 7:45 p.m.ET)
About 80 percent of bets have been placed on Georgia, yet the line has dropped from the key number of three to the current two-point level. A move off of or through three always catches my eye, and that means Missouri is worth a close look as they make their SEC debut. Missouri will be at home in front of a very excited crowd, and Georgia allowed too many points against a weak Buffalo team last week. Therefore, the Tigers are attractive.
Arizona (+10) vs. Oklahoma State (Saturday, Sept. 8, 10:30 p.m. ET)
Oklahoma State has drawn nearly nine out of every 10 bets, yet the line has dropped from 13.5 to 10. That means the Wildcats are worth a look here. Just because I identify these games doesn’t mean I always understand them. This is the second game under Rich Rodriguez, and the Wildcats barely escaped against Toledo in the opener. All Oklahoma State did, meanwhile, is win 84-0 last week. Still, the line movement is significant.
Tennessee (-5) vs. New England (Sunday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m. ET)
About 85 percent of bettors have backed the very public Patriots, so it is very noteworthy that the line has dropped from 6.5 to five. That means that the Titans are worth looking closely at. The game is being played in Tennessee, the Titans are a better team than they get credit for, and the Patriots have had issues this week at receiver, so it’s not surprising that smart bettors don’t share quite the enthusiasm for Patriots that the public does.
St. Louis (+7.5) at Detroit (Sunday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m. ET)
Four out of five bettors have been on the Lions, but the line movement from nine to 7.5 points us right to the Rams. The Lions were solid last year, but many need to see that they can sustain it before they give them credit for a line this big. The Rams were terrible last year, but they have made several changes. This shouldn’t be the same team we saw before.
Tampa Bay (+2.5) vs. Carolina (Sunday, Sept. 9, 4:25 p.m. ET)
The public loves Cam Newton, and they have bet heavily on his Panthers — nearly 80 percent of bets have gone their way. Despite that the line has dropped from the key number of three to 2.5, and can even be found lower in places. Tampa Bay was lousy last year, but a whole lot has changed for them and they have showed renewed focus and intensity. It doesn’t seem like they are getting the respect they deserve, so they are clearly worth a look here.
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