Football Betting: Friday Public Action Report
by Trevor Whenham - 09/12/2008
Last week was the debut of the public action report, and it wasn't as strong as it will be later in the season. That's to be expected - the books will obviously develop a better sense of the teams as the season progresses, and time will also give the public a chance to develop and strengthen their biases. This week there are five games that fit into our criteria - our first one from the NFL, and four from the college ranks. As a refresher, the criteria is that at least 70 percent of bets have bee made on one team, yet the line has moved to make that popular team more attractive.
Indianapolis Colts (-1) at Minnesota Vikings - Four out of five bettors are on the very public Colts, yet the line has moved from 2 to 1. It's not hard to figure out why the books don't seem to be afraid of action on the Colts - they just don't look very good. The Peyton Manning we saw last week bore little resemblance to the player we have become used to, and it may be a while until he is back at his best because he is coming off of knee surgery and never had a preseason. The offensive line was questionable, the defense was lethargic, and the running game just didn't work. Minnesota wasn't great, either, but they are at home, and Adrian Peterson should be able to exploit the same running opportunities that Matt Forte did last week. Either way, it will be very strange to see one of these teams at 0-2. If the line movement is any indicator, that winless team could be the Colts.
Rice (+8) at Vanderbilt - Four out of five bettors are on the SEC team, yet Vanderbilt has slipped from 8.5-point favorites down to eight. That means we have to look closely at Rice. Both teams have yet to lose, both have covered twice, and both are picking up some buzz. It's clear why the public likes Vandy - the SEC trumps Conference USA in virtually everyone's mind. So, why should we consider Rice? A couple of reasons. They returned most of their offense from last year, and it was a quietly effective one. They'll be able to score, and won't be intimidated by the Vandy defense. Vanderbilt is also coming off a huge upset on a national stage at home over South Carolina. The last few years they have followed up big upsets with fairly flat performances in which they didn't cover.
Nevada (+26.5) at Missouri - Four out of five bettors are on Missouri. That's no surprise. What is a bit surprising is that the line has dropped from 27 to 26.5. It's not surprising that it didn't move the other way, since there is often resistance at a key number like 28, but this move down means that the books don't fear action on Missouri. The Tigers will obviously win this one, so it comes down to whether the Wolf Pack can keep it close. As evidence in their favor you can look at last week. They played Texas Tech, like Missouri a very explosive offense. Nevada was able to frustrate and contain the Red Raiders. There is some debate as to whether that is because of something they did, or because Tech QB Graham Harrell doesn't look right, but either way it happened. Nevada has the ability to score, and if they can replicate some of what they did last week then they could potentially cover. The line move says that that is worth a look.
Michigan (-1.5) at Notre Dame - Almost four out of five bettors are on Michigan, yet the line has dropped from 2.5 to 1.5. That makes Notre Dame worthy of a look. To handicap this game you have to decide whether to back the team that was supposed to be pretty bad and is, or the team that was supposed to be pretty good but isn't. The public exodus from Notre Dame isn't surprising. Their game against San Diego State last week was on national TV and they were terrible. I mean really, really, really bad. Michigan, meanwhile, has toiled in relative obscurity, so people haven't seen their lack of offense and struggles on defense. The books are likely happy to take Michigan action because Notre Dame is at home and is more familiar with their coaching and systems.
East Carolina (-13) at Tulane - New national darlings after consecutive huge upsets, East Carolina has drawn the support of three out of four bettors. The books aren't buying it - the line has dropped from 13.5 to 13. Tulane doesn't do much to cause excitement, so what we need to look at is the Pirates. It wouldn't be surprising to see them let up here. After two straight huge wins in which they were significant underdogs they have to be mentally drained. Add to that the novelty of being talked about nationally, and the team seems primed to be distracted. In this case, then, it's not so much that Tulane might play well enough to cover as that East Carolina might not play as well as they should.