Football Betting: Friday Public Action Report
by Trevor Whenham - 10/03/2008
Time now for another installment of the Public Action Report. Before we get into the action, though, let's revisit just what we are doing here, and why. Though the general public can't find out the amount of money bet on either side in a particular game, there are lots of places you can find out how many bets have been made on each side. In general, a game in which one side has a significantly lopsided amount of the action, the line will move to make that team less attractive. That's just basic supply and demand. A few times each week, though, there are games where the bets are very heavily on one side, yet the line is moving to make the popular team more attractive. How does that happen?
Sportsbooks generally like to have the action balanced in games to minimize their risk. If the majority of bets go towards a team at a spread of 4.5, it would stand to reason that they would go even more so at 3.5. On the surface these situations would suggest that they are doing the opposite to what books like to do, then - encouraging the action to become even more lopsided. There are a couple of ways that the books could be doing this. The first is that the books have a strong opinion on the game, think the public is wrong, and are more than happy to take the risk for the shot at extra profit. The second is that the action isn't nearly as unbalanced as it seems - that the big bets, or smart money, are on the opposite team as the public. Either situation should be interesting to bettors. We can't often get a hint as to what sophisticated bettors are thinking, but this is one way we can.
That's not to say that these games should be blindly bet. They aren't a guaranteed indicator of betting success. They are, however, a good indicator that something strange is going on, and that means that the games are definitely worth a look. This week we have four such games - one in the NFL, and three in college:
Indiana (+6.5) at Minnesota (Saturday, Oct. 4, 12:00 pm) - As strange as it sounds given their struggles in recent years, the public likes the Gophers. That makes sense - Indiana doesn't look great, and this is a much, much better Minnesota team than we are used to. Despite that, the line movement makes Indiana worth a look. More than 70 percent of the bets have been made on Minnesota, yet the line has dropped from 7.5 to 6.5. That's particularly noteworthy because it has moved through the key number of seven. It's not that hard to make a case for Indiana. The Gophers could be frustrated coming off a hard loss to Ohio State. Indiana lost to Michigan State last time out, but the Spartans are playing good football, and Indiana played them tougher than Minnesota played Ohio State.
Stanford (+6.5) at Notre Dame (Saturday, Oct. 4, 2:30 p.m.) - The battle of the eggheads sees the Cardinal travel to play the Irish. Not surprisingly, the public loves Notre Dame. They always do. Seven out of 10 bets have been on Notre Dame, yet this line has again moved through the key number of seven, going from 7.5 to 6.5. That means that Stanford is worth a look. The Cardinal aren't a hard team to like, either. They are playing much improved football, and are coming off a nice road win at Washington. BYU showed us earlier that Washington isn't an easy place to play. Notre Dame's schedule has helped them to a better record than they probably deserve, and they have benefited from some sloppy play by their opponents. Stanford's coach Jim Harbaugh is working hard to minimize errors, and if they can do that then they should at least be able to keep it close.
Ohio State (-1) at Wisconsin (Saturday, Oct. 4, 8:00 pm) - Both teams have ugly losses in their recent past to rebound from. The only difference is that Ohio State has made a total overhaul of their offense, and things seem to be better for them. We don't know how Wisconsin is going to bounce back from a truly terrible second half against Michigan. The public doesn't think they are going to do well - three quarters of bets have been placed on the Buckeyes. Despite that, the line has dropped from 2.5 to one. The books or the smart money aren't nearly as fond of Ohio State here as anyone else.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) at Denver Broncos (Sunday, Oct. 5, 4:05 pm) - The public, or at least 75 percent of them, like the Broncos here. Still, the line has dropped from the opening 3.5 down to three, the most key of numbers. That means that the Bucs are worth a real look. Again, it's not hard to figure out why - one team plays very good defense, and the other doesn't know what defense means. Denver won't be able to score as easily as they are used to, and Tampa Bay won't find scoring as tough as normal. That could keep this one closer than people seem to think.