Football Betting: Early Week Line Movements
by Robert Ferringo - 10/28/2008
Last week our tracked teams posted a modest profit, as the sharp action went 5-3 against the spread. However, that doesn't curtail the slide that these early line movements have been in over the last month. Over the last four weekends the most severe early line movements have only predicted which team would cover 32 percent of the time (11-23 ATS).
Over the past two years the overall mark for these line movements is just 57-55 ATS. While it doesn't completely dispel the myth of the "sharp action indicators" it's certainly a strong case against them.
This week we have a lot of line shifting going on early in the week, including two of the most significant line movements I've seen this season. Here are this week's games:
Central Michigan at Indiana (Noon, Saturday, Nov. 1)
Open: Central Michigan -5.0
Current: Indiana -2.0
I'd have to say that this is one of the most significant line movements that I've seen in the college ranks this season. Startling really. Although I haven't heard any projections this early in the week, this line suggests that Kellen Lewis will be suiting up for the Hoosiers. If not, this line makes zero sense. Central Michigan is 28-10-3 ATS overall, but the Hoosiers are 9-3-2 ATS against the MAC. CMU lost by a touchdown at Purdue this year while IU was rocked by Ball State.
Air Force at Army (Noon, Saturday, Nov. 1)
Open: Air Force -7.0
Current: Air Force -10.0
Tracking: Air Force
Army has been on a tear recently, winning three of four games and covering five straight. However, nearly 80 percent of the early action is on the Falcons. Air Force has won nine of 10 meetings outright, is 5-0 ATS in their last five road trips to Army, and is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings. Basically, Air Force is an absolute ATM machine, turning out a 12-3 ATS mark in its last 15 games. Play against them at your own risk.
Iowa at Illinois (3:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1)
Open: Illinois -5.0
Current: Illinois -1.5
Ahh, Zook. Ronny Boy has done a marvelous job of running this team into the ground - with plenty of help from sketchy quarterback Juice Williams. The Illini have lost to the only quality teams they have played this year (Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin) while beating up on a bunch of bottom feeders. Iowa, on the other hand, has either won via blowout (avg. margin of victory: 28.0 points) or played very tough in their losses (avg. margin of defeat: 3.0 points). Tough to give a scrappy team like that too many points. Even if it doesn't have a quarterback.
Duke at Wake Forest (3:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1)
Open: Wake Forest -11.5
Current: Wake Forest -7.5
Duke's impressive win at Vanderbilt clearly is turning some heads. And Wake Forest is - and I know this sounds ridiculous - still struggling offensively without kicker Sam Swank in the fold. You can see what the loss of their All-American kicker has done to the confidence of their offense. Further, the Deacons have been a terrible home favorite, going just 6-17-1 ATS as a home chalk over the last eight years (1-2 ATS this season).
Fresno State at Louisiana Tech (Noon, Saturday, Nov. 1)
Open: Fresno State -7.0
Current: Fresno State -4.5
Tracking: Louisiana Tech
This is not a heavy line movement, but it is a curious one. Fresno State has been a media darling this year and its only losses have come against Hawaii and Wisconsin, and both by three points. I assumed every square with some cash would be backing the Bulldogs - even if they are just 9-25 ATS over the last several years. But La. Tech has covered four straight in this series and is playing just its second home game in six weeks. This may be one to stay away from.
Tulane at Louisiana State (8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1)
Open: LSU -30.0
Current: LSU -25.5
LSU is left to lick its wounds after getting slapped around by Georgia last week, and they have a critical game against No. 2 Alabama coming up next week. This is a classic letdown/look ahead situation, and it comes against an inferior in-state school that looks at this game like it's the Super Bowl every year. Tulane is beat up on both sides of the ball and has lost three straight - including ugly losses to Army and Rice - and they should not compete in this game. But stranger things have happened.
Rice at Texas-El Paso (9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 1)
Current: Rice -2.5
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Baltimore at Cleveland (1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2)
Open: Cleveland -3.0
Current: Cleveland -1.5
After the ass kicking that the Ravens dealt the Browns when they met in Baltimore earlier this year I'm actually a bit surprised that the Ravens aren't favored here. Cleveland has certainly been playing better over its last three games and is coming off a solid upset at Jacksonville, a tough loss at Washington, and a blowout of the Giants. Cleveland gets four of their next five at home and this really is a key game to get if they want to build some momentum. But Baltimore's defense smothered them in the first meeting and I'm not sure if we shouldn't expect the same this time around.
Miami at Denver (1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2)
Open: Denver -6.0
Current: Denver -3.0
This is pure knee-jerk reaction to the last time we saw each of these teams. Miami just thumped Buffalo at home on Sunday, while when we last left Denver they were lying, near death, at the side of the road following a beating in New England at Monday Night Football. This is one of the most significant line movements of the NFL season, and it's very rare to see this type of adjustment on a game that doesn't feature a key injury. Denver is coming off a week of rest, and Miami, although it has been playing well, is still a very inconsistent wager.
New York Jets at Buffalo (1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 2)
Open: Buffalo -4.5
Current: Buffalo -6.0
This is really a key matchup in the AFC East and it looks like the early bettors have already chosen a side. The sharps were dead-on with their play on Miami over Buffalo last week. Will they make it two-for-two? Buffalo is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings overall in this matchup, have won three straight, and five of seven. Further, the home team is 7-3 SU in the last 10 meetings. The Bills have been exceptional at home this year, while the Jets have been less-than-impressive no matter where they've lined up.
Last year we tracked the opening steam movements of lines in both college football and the NFL. The idea was to see if the "sharp" money was really that, or if the idea of trailing these severe early line movements was merely a myth.
Here is the basic methodology. If a line starts as Penn State (-1) and moves to Penn State (-4) then we're going to track Penn State as our side, because the Lions are getting all of the money and driving the spread up. If the line starts as Penn State (-4) and then moves to Penn State (-2) we're going to track the opponent because they are taking the heavy action and it's moving the line lower.