College Football Betting: Top Sportsbook Posts Lines for Games of the Year
by Trevor Whenham - 8/1/2014
Sportsbook.ag has posted literally dozens of college football lines weeks before the first games are played and months before some of the games posted get here. They have called them the College Football Games of the Year, though many of the games challenge the definition of games of this or any year (I'm looking at you, San Diego State -5 at New Mexico). There likely aren't a whole lot of good reasons to bet games more than a day or two in advance, never mind a month or four. Still, it's interesting to look at the numbers and to spot the ones that just don't make a whole lot of sense from where I am sitting and how I see this season setting up. Here are seven that stand out above the crowd:
Michigan State (+14) at Oregon, September 6, 2014: I'm not sure any member of the public that would bet on this line watched either team play last year. Oregon has some high-profile offensive stars, but it is hard to have full faith that they will perform to their potential given their struggles in the second half of last year. That's especially true against a relentless and fierce defense like Michigan State has. There are two biases at play here - a public love of the Ducks and a widespread bias against the Big Ten. Neither is appropriate here. There is good value on the Spartans.
BYU (+3.5) at Texas, September 6, 2014: Texas is a wildly-public team, and this line is a clear sign of that. It just doesn't make sense. BYU crushed Texas last year, and they have a truly excellent QB - running back duo. Texas has to deal with a rare coaching change, has questions everywhere, has kicked basically everyone off the team in a tumultuous and surely distracting offseason, and has been as mentally weak as a team can be the last couple of years. The Cougars deserve more respect - a trend we are going to see in lots of situations this year as teams outside the Power 5 conferences get even less respect than usual thanks to the new reality of the playoff system.
UCLA (-8) at Texas, September 13, 2014: Another Texas line that doesn't make any sense at this point. UCLA is a very talented, balanced team with a Heisman contender at QB. They are among the elite of the Pac-12 - a much better conference than the Big 12 this year. Texas still has the same problems I mentioned in the last paragraph and they are very likely outclassed here. This appears to be a gift for Bruins' bettors at this point.
Kansas State (+7.5) vs. Auburn, September 18, 2014: I understand that Auburn is coming off a huge and surprising year and that they have excellent coaching and good talent. I just don't think they deserve as much respect as they are getting at Kansas State here. The Wildcats have an excellent quarterback, strong offensive weapons, and a good line. They need to get some help defensively, but they have invested heavily in juco players, and if some of that pays off - as it often has for the team - they will be fine. This is too many points.
Stanford (pick'em) at Washington, September 27, 2014: I like the Chris Petersen hire as much as anyone, and think it is a massive upgrade over the horribly-overrated and underachieving Steve Sarkisian. Stanford likely isn't quite as good as they have been, either. Still, this line is just too much to ask from Washington at this point. The QB situation is unclear for the Huskies, and there are a lot of systems and attitudes that will take time to change. Stanford gets the value nod here.
Missouri (+7.5) at Florida, October 18, 2014: I fully understand that Missouri has lost a whole lot of talent to the NFL and all, but this is ridiculous. They still won their division last year, and are still well-coached and full of the kind of overachieving talent that they have done well with in recent years. To buy into this line at this point would require you to have faith that Will Muschamp can finally on track and show that he can coach - something I highly doubt. They have had real issues, and I am not willing to trust them and assume that they are a different team this far in advance. This isn't an opinion in favor of Missouri but rather one clearly against the Gators.
Oklahoma (-6) vs. Baylor, November 8, 2014: Baylor won the Big 12 last year and has a good deal of talent returning - and the same excellent coaching staff largely intact. They are going to be a good team - again. Oklahoma should be good too, but that requires some speculation. They had only two really good offensive showings last year. Those were their final two games, though, and included an impressive win over Alabama, so hype is rampant. I have no problem with Oklahoma being favored at home here, but to give them twice the typical home-field advantage seems a bit too much before either team plays a game.
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