Doc's Friday Public Action Report
by Trevor Whenham - 09/28/2007
It wasn't as solid a week last week for games with line movement that didn't match the public action. The previous week, all five games were winners. We were still able to isolate three nice underdog winners in Michigan, Virginia and Iowa, though. This week four college games and one pro matchup meet our criteria - more than 70 percent of the public bets that have been placed have been on one team, yet the line is moving to make the popular team even more attractive:
Buffalo (+14) at Ball State (Saturday, Sept. 29, 12:00 p.m.) - It's very interesting that Buffalo shows up on this list for the second consecutive week, and for the second consecutive week this criteria would indicate that they are worth a look. About three quarters of bets placed have been on Ball State, yet the line has shifted from 16.5 to 14, and can even be found at 13.5 in many places as I write this. The public fascination with Ball State is not surprising given their near upset of Nebraska last week as 24.5-point underdogs. They also have a 21-8 ATS record in their last 29 games, which will attract attention. Buffalo was disappointing against Baylor, but had previously been competitive against Penn State and Temple. Either the oddsmakers of the smart money are obviously willing to give Buffalo a mulligan for last week and expect a bit of a letdown for Ball State after coming so close against a major opponent.
Penn State (-3) at Illinois (Saturday, Sept. 29, 12:00 p.m.) - The public is all over Penn State here (88 percent of bets placed), yet oddsmakers have moved the line from 3.5 to the key number of three. This makes some sense. Penn State is a public team thanks to the aura of Joe Paterno, while little is known about Illinois to most of the public. The Nittany Lions, though, were painfully inept offensively against Michigan last week, and have failed to cover two weeks in a row. Illinois, on the other hand, has covered two in a row easily, and were a single point away from covering their season opener against Missouri. Illinois covered last year, and they have an improved offense this season. The line movement tells you that Illinois is, at the very least, worth a second look.
Hawaii (-25) at Idaho (Saturday, Sept. 29. 5:00 p.m.) - This game could be the battle of the ankles. Hawaii QB Colt Brennan missed the game last week with an ankle injury, and though he is likely to return, he may be somewhat limited this week. Idaho is likely to be without their star player, freshman stud running back Deonte Jackson, thanks to an ankle injury of his own. Though those injuries may be enough to keep many bettors away from this game, they aren't enough to stop oddsmakers from giving us a hint that Idaho is worth a look. The line opened at 27, and is at 25 and dropping despite the fact that 83 percent of bettors are on Hawaii. This movement is likely mostly because Idaho is a better team than people give them credit for. They have covered against both USC and Washington State this year, and they made a strong comeback after a terrible start against Northern Illinois last week. Hawaii is a public team these days and seems to get lines assigned to them that are bigger than may be reasonable.
Arizona State (-14) at Stanford (Saturday, Sept. 29, 10:00 p.m.) - Here's something we haven't been able to say in a long time - Arizona State is rolling. They are 4-0, 3-1 ATS, and they look like they may be ready to climb out of the pit of mediocrity that has long been their home. The books aren't buying it, though. Four out of five bettors are backing the Sun Devils, yet the line has dropped from 15 to the key number of 14. Arizona State only covered by one point last week, and it took a comeback to do it. The week before they weren't even within a touchdown of a cover. Stanford is 1-2 ATS, but I sat in Stanford Stadium last week and watched them lose to Oregon, so I know that they aren't as bad as the score sheet indicates. They were brilliant in the first half, but failed to show up after halftime. Coach Jim Harbaugh will correct that problem, so perhaps they have what it takes to cover this spread. The line movement tells us that they are certainly worth a look.
Houston (-2.5) at Atlanta (Sunday, Sept. 30, 1:00 p.m.) - The Texans have been one of the great stories of this early season. QB Matt Schaub has looked like a seasoned veteran, and the team is finally more than a doormat for the rest of the league. They are 2-1, and they still managed to cover in their one loss against Indianapolis last week. The public is clearly enjoying the ride - the Texans have more support this week (88 percent of the action on the game) than any other team in the league. Despite that overwhelming support, the line, which opened on the key number of three, has dropped to 2.5 points. You could argue that Schaub will be nervous returning to the building he served as a backup in, and that the Atlanta defense will know him better than anyone. We've also seen signs this week that the Falcons are sick of the whole Vick issue and want to put it all behind them with a big performance. Whatever the reasoning, the line movement means that Atlanta is worthy of a look.