Friday Public Action Report
by Trevor Whenham - 09/05/2008
We're back with anther season of the Public Action Report. The theory here is simple. In most cases the line in a game moves in the same way as the bettors are betting. If one team is getting the majority of the betting action then their line will often be moved so that they are more favored. Sometimes, though, the opposite happens - a team gets heavy betting action, but the line moves against them. A situation like that means that the sportsbooks aren't afraid of heavy action on the favorites, and may even be encouraging it. That could mean that the underdog is worth a serious look. For this report, our criteria is that a team has to have at least 70 percent of the public action while the line moves against it. There are no NFL games that fit the criteria, but six college games do:
Eastern Michigan (+21) at Michigan State - This is a particularly striking movement. Not surprisingly, four out of five bettors are on Michigan State. Despite that, though, the line opened at 24 and has dropped a full field goal. Eastern Michigan is coming off a 52-0 shellacking of Indiana State that proved nothing except that the offense is working. Michigan State lost to Cal in their opening game. Eastern Michigan played Michigan surprisingly close last year, losing by 11 as 28-point dogs. The MAC has looked strong so far, and this could be another place for them to show their talent, especially against a team that completed less than 42 percent of its passes last week. Based on the line movement alone, Eastern Michigan is worth a look.
Marshall (+20.5) at Wisconsin - This movement is less - just from 21 to 20.5, but it's still significant because it has moved off the key number of 21 (three touchdowns and extra points) despite 78 percent of bets being placed on Wisconsin. This is the first meeting between these teams. Marshall is coming off a solid but meaningless win over Illinois State. Wisconsin beat Akron, but not as easily as they perhaps should have - they didn't cover the 26-point spread. Wisconsin's offense was ridiculously unbalanced towards the run in their first game, and Marshall was effective at containing the run, so perhaps that is a reason to believe Marshall could cover.
BYU (-9) at Washington - I have to say I am surprised to see this one here. BYU has high expectations, and Washington didn't show us a lot to like in their opening effort. Still, despite attracting 71 percent of the betting action, the line here has moved from 10 to nine. That's a move off of a key number, and those are always important. You can come up with a few reasons to justify a look at Washington - Jake Locker should be a much better QB than he was against Oregon, the Huskies will be at home for the first time this year and the crowd should be fired up about playing a ranked team, and BYU let Northern Iowa score 17 points last week - far more than they should have.
Texas A&M (-2.5) at New Mexico - Here's another one that moved of a key number - three in this case. Both teams are coming off opening losses. The Aggies were embarrassed at home by Arkansas State, and have a lot to prove this week. New Mexico was totally shut down by TCU at home. Neither team is in particularly good shape, and this line movement reflects the challenges of backing a Big 12 team that loses to a Sun Belt foe.
Louisiana Tech (+20) at Kansas - Kansas was a very pleasant surprise last year. They won't sneak up on teams this year, but they still have the tools to be more than solid. That makes this line movement interesting. Nine out of 10 bettors are on Kansas, yet the line has dropped from 20.5 to 20. Not a significant move, but notable because it has moved away from a key number. Kansas thoroughly trounced Florida International last week, though they didn't cover the giant 36.5-point spread. Louisiana Tech upset Mississippi State as seven point dogs last week. Last year they covered against some good teams - Hawaii, Call, Fresno State. They are the kind of team that can be dangerous if taken lightly, so they are worth a look here.
UL Monroe (+13) at Arkansas - The books clearly aren't impressed with the dawn of the Petrino era. Arkansas has attracted three-quarters of the bets, yet the line has dropped off the key number of 14. Arkansas had way more trouble beating Western Illinois last week than they ever should have. QB Casey Dick was fine, but their running futility showed just how monstrous the task of replacing both Darren McFadden and Felix Jones is. UL Monroe lost badly to Auburn. The Warhawks do have the ability to rise up in a big game, though - last year they covered against Clemson and beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Even so, it would seem that this line movement reflects lack of trust in Arkansas more than faith in UL Monroe.