Ferringo Examines Early Line Moves
by Robert Ferringo - 09/25/2007
Being able to properly read and assess the opening line in college and professional football seems like one of the most basic and simple components of football betting. However, analyzing the opening line and initial movements off of it is a skill that takes years to master. In fact, even handicappers that have been in the game for decades still have difficulty explaining why a certain line may move a certain way during the week - and even more trouble still deciphering what that movement portends.
Basically, the opening lines are created by institutions like the Las Vegas Sports Consultants and then passed on to their clients, the sportsbooks. The books then open their lines to sharp bettors and players who wager tens of thousands of dollars. Those players get their initial action on certain sides and totals, and the books then adjust the lines before releasing them to the general public in an attempt to balance out the action. It's a constant shadow dance between the books and the betting public.
Each week we're going to analyze the opening lines with the greatest variance from their original release from the LVSC. These "steam" moves are indicative of where the "smart money" began and is usually a predictor of where the money will continue to roll. Our goal is to make sense of exactly where the value is on some of these situations for either the underdog or the favorite. Again, this is a delicate science and I'm not going to presume to have all the answers. But together we'll try to sift through the games that the sharp action is on and see if we can't uncover some useful trends as the season progresses.
To this point, sharp action has gone 10-11 against the spread in college movements and 10-6 ATS in the NFL movements. That's 20-17 ATS (54.1 percent) overall. Here are some of the most noticeable and significant early steam movements in both the college and pro football opening lines:
Southern Mississippi at Boise State (7:45 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 27)
Open: Boise State -7.5.
Current: Boise State -10.0.
Southern Miss will dive into the blue, hitting the carpet to take on the Broncos on Thursday night's primetime matchup. Both of these schools have been off since Sept. 15, but neither was overly impressive in their last game. Boise State has won 13 straight nonconference home games but with only 11 starters back from last year this isn't the same caliber Broncos team that we've seen over the past few years.
Memphis at Arkansas State (7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 27)
Current: Arkansas State -4.0.
This is one of the most significant steam moves of the week and I think that most of it has to do with the blood-letting that Memphis underwent last weekend at Central Florida. Arkansas State converted a Hail Mary at the buzzer to pull a stunning upset last year, but the Tigers had won 10 straight in this series prior to that. Memphis is a putrid 13-26 in its last 39 road games and Arkansas State is 19-8 in its last 27 road games.
UNLV at Nevada (4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29)
Open: Nevada -6.0.
Current: Nevada -3.5.
The Battle of the Freemont Cannon is going down and it looks like the Vegas boys could be ready to spring an upset. Maybe. Nevada is 12-6 in this series over the past 18 years and has won the past two games by a combined 52-17 score. The Wolfpack are 3-1 ATS at home against the Rebels recently and Nevada is coming off a bye week.
Louisville at North Carolina State (3:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29)
Open: Louisville -11.0.
Current: Louisville -8.5.
After a colossal upset at the hands of Syracuse, my beloved alma mater, the Cardinals are now road favorites over a pathetic Wolfpack squad. This one could break either way: the Big East absolutely dominates the ACC and you have to think pride will kick in for the Cards after two straight heartbreakers. However, since 1997 teams are 2-15 ATS after losing a game outright as a favorite of 20.0 or more points. See: Michigan vs. Oregon this year.
Clemson at Georgia Tech (3:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29)
Open: Georgia Tech -1.0.
Current: Clemson -3.0.
This was the most noteworthy movement of the week. I know Tech has fallen since it's huge opening win over Notre Dame (which has clearly lost some of its luster). But I don't know if they should be home dogs to the Tigers and their shaky quarterback. Then again, Clemson is 4-0 ATS in its last four trips to Atlanta and James Davis and C.J. Spiller - the pair that combined for 332 rush yards in last year's 31-7 blowout - are still in uniform.
Indiana at Iowa (Noon p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29)
Open: Iowa -15.5.
Current: Iowa -12.0.
It's Homecoming for the Hawkeyes, but since this isn't high school that doesn't really mean anything. Instead, we're catching Iowa in a Letdown-Look Ahead spot here. The Hawks are coming off a tough loss at Wisconsin and they have a big game at Penn State next weekend. Iowa doesn't exactly have an offense that could be called "explosive" or even "competent" so it could be tough to cover a two-TD spread.
Temple at Army (Noon, Saturday, Sept. 29)
Open: Army -8.5.
Current: Army -6.0
The Army is clearly capable of dominating Third World countries, but they're football team is not as good at taking care of business on the home field. The Black Knights are 3-23 at home against Division I-A opponents. But now the good news: Temple has dropped 24 straight road contests. We clearly have the proverbial moveable object against the stoppable force. No wonder the sharps are taking the points.
New England at Cincinnati (8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 1)
Open: New England -6.0.
Current: New England -7.5.
The Patriots are 3-0 ATS and none of their games have even been close. Home dogs on Monday Night Football are usually a strong play, but considering that the Bengals have absolutely no defense to speak of there's a strong possibility that they could get hit for 50 again. Yet, the Bengals are 7-1-1 ATS against the Patriots and 5-1 ATS against them at home. With an offense that still works, the back door could be left open for the Bengals to sneak in.
Green Bay at Minnesota (1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30)
Open: Green Bay -3.0.
Current: Green Bay -1.5.
The Favre Effect is going to start seeing the Packers as thicker favorites than they should be. That may or may not be the case here, considering that Favre has typically struggled in domes and is just 1-4 ATS in his last four against the Vikings. But then again, while we still have no idea who the Vikings will be putting under center we can be pretty sure that whoever it is won't be an NFL-caliber signal caller.
Oakland at Miami (1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30)
These were two of the top four total defenses from just a year ago, but now it appears that the books are expecting a shootout. Miami is No. 20 in the league in defense this year while the Raiders are coming in at No. 26, and these teams have combined to go 5-1 against the total on the season. I think this might be an overreaction by the books, pushing the total through several key totals numbers, but we'll see if the bettors bite.
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