Football Betting: Friday Public Action Report
by Trevor Whenham - 10/10/2008
It's time for another installment of everyone's favorite Friday diversion - The Public Action Report. For those who haven't been hanging on every word for the last couple of years, what we are looking for here is line movement in college and NFL games that doesn't make sense. The criteria is that 75 percent of the bets made on a game are on one team, yet the line is moving to make the favored team more attractive. That doesn't make sense, but it is surprising how often it happens. There are a couple reasons it could happen - the books think they know something that makes them unafraid of unbalanced action, or smart money is pouring in on the underdog. Either way, this makes the underdog worth a look. I'll remind you, as I often do, that that does not mean that the underdog is an automatic pick. It just means that, if you liked them already, you should take a much closer look because you aren't alone.
There are no NFL games that fit the criteria this week. Interestingly, there is only one team, the Bears, that has the kind of unbalanced action we are looking for as the starting point for our criteria. That is much fewer than normal - perhaps an indicator that the public is finding this week tougher to call than some. It is also an atypically light week in college action, with just two games that fit. Without further ado:
Rutgers (+7) at Cincinnati (Saturday, Oct. 11, 12:00 pm) - Rutgers has been pretty awful this year. Cincinnati has somehow overcome all sorts of QB issues to become a legitimate Big East contender. Not surprisingly, the public is all over the Bearcats. Three quarters of all bets placed have been on Cincinnati. Despite that, this line, which opened as high as 9.5, has dropped to just a touchdown. Though it hasn't moved through a key number it's still a significant move, and now only requires Rutgers to keep it within one score. There are a couple reasons to justify a look at Rutgers. For one, Cincinnati has been unable all year to put together back-to-back strong efforts against the spread. They have alternated between covering and not, and according to that trend should be due for a non-cover here. Rutgers has covered just once, but it came in their last game. Playing West Virginia close isn't as impressive as it could be since Bill Stewart has consistently proven his incompetence this year, but it's still a significant step forward for a team that has struggled badly. Greg Schiano can coach, and perhaps that performance last week was a sign that he is getting somewhere with this team. The line movement indicates that someone really thinks so.
Tennessee (+12.5) at Georgia (Saturday, Oct. 11, 3:30 pm) - This has some of the most lopsided action we have seen this year, especially among games with heavy action. Of all bets placed so far, 82 percent of them have been on the Bulldogs. Despite that, the line opened at 13 and has dropped to 12.5. That tells us that someone that matters doesn't like Georgia. Or likes Tennessee. The Vols just haven't been very good this year. They came into the season with mild expectations, but haven't even lived up to those. They are 2-3, and the have covered just once. Their two wins have come against second-rate competition, and they have barely put up a fight against legitimate contenders (or not particularly legitimate in the case of UCLA). There are many people in Tennessee who would happily give up a day to help Phil Fullmer move out of the state. So why does there seem to be a strong indication to look at this team? Hard to tell. Georgia's showing against Alabama two weeks ago affirmed what many had been feeling throughout the season - this team is good, but not really good. They were lauded at the start of the season, but they seem to be believing their hype just a little too much. Now they have had two weeks to think about their humiliation, and that might not be a positive thing. Tennessee and Fullmer have to be desperate now, and that could be enough to get them a cover. The line movement suggests that that is a strong possibility.