Each week during the college football season, renowned Las Vegas wiseguy and Covers Expert Bruce Marshall looks at the NCAAF odds and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later, and which total to watch as the week plays out.
Spread to bet now
Connecticut Huskies at Cincinnati Bearcats (-14)
There are a handful of games each week in which the only moves in one particular direction are going to come at the outset. Such as last week’s Hawaii-UNLV game, when the “sharps” moved the initial price in the Rebels’ direction, then watched as the public gradually shoved the line the other way the rest of the week.
This week’s example of a team “only the sharps could love” is troubled and winless UConn, which surprisingly generated enough early action at +16 for this Saturday’s American clash at Cincinnati that the price quickly dipped as low as 14 at many Nevada wagering outlets.
In truth, however, the burst of early Huskies’ money was probably more of a reaction to perceived overvalue on the part of Tommy Tuberville’s Cincy, which has dropped four of its last five against the spread after opening with a lopsided win over Purdue, a result that in retrospect perhaps distorted the perception of the Bearcats.
But Cincy’s failure to cover in three straight versus teams all winless at the time (Miami-Ohio, South Florida, and Temple) has understandably soured the marketplace (and, apparently, the sharp money) on the Bearcats.
We suspect the early move on this Saturday’s game was almost completely due to the growing anti-Cincinnati sentiment among the sharps.
The public money, however, might not share the same degree of misgiving about the Bearcats, and is instead more likely to react to the negative news surrounding UConn, which has not only changed coaches in midstream (Paul Pasqualoni out, o.c. T.J. Weist promoted to interim HC), but has also switched QBs.
Indeed, Weist’s first move was benching incumbent starter Chandler Whitmer and replacing him with true frosh Tim Boyle, who proceeded to complete only 15 of his 43 pass attempts in his first start last Saturday against USF.
Series trends between these sides also heavily favor the home team, which has covered seven of the last eight meetings.
The bottom line is that we foresee no further money moves in UConn’s direction. There are enough 14s currently posted at Las Vegas books for Cincy-inclined backers to take advantage ASAP at the current reduced price before the spread inevitably moves above that key number later in the week.
Spread to wait on
Florida State Seminoles (-3) at Clemson Tigers
It has been a while since the nation has been as transfixed upon an ACC gridiron battle as it will for this Saturday’s FSU at Clemson tussle. Expect action to be brisk at the Las Vegas sports books for this clash with not only ACC, but BCS and even Heisman Trophy ramifications.
Early movement in this price was hard to detect, but it’s what we didn’t see that caught our attention. Specifically, there was not enough appetite for the Seminoles among the sharps or the first wave of public money to move the price above the key number of FSU -3. In fact, for a short while there were a few stray 2.5s popping up in the marketplace, but for the most part there has been no early movement off of the key number of 3.
All of this is illuminating, suggesting the Tigers have earned a degree of respect in the marketplace. While Clemson’s spread form has been indifferent in recent weeks, and the Tigers were involved in an unexpected scrap last Saturday vs. Boston College, most of the public money will be recalling Clemson’s rousing opener against SEC rep Georgia, a game in which the Tigers prevailed in exciting fashion. Along with the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU last New Year’s Eve, Dabo Swinney’s squad has been making a positive impression in recent high-profile games.
Indicators are that Seminole backers probably don’t have to worry about the price at Death Valley to rise above the key number of 3. But there figures to be ample opportunity to lay less than 3 as the week progresses, so we suggest that FSU backers ought to sit tight and wait for opportunities to play this game beneath a very key number later in the week.
Total to watch
Central Florida Knights at Louisville Cardinals
Though the totals market is generally a bit thinner than the straight-bet board, oddsmakers are nonetheless sensitive to those Over and Under trends as well. Most definitely, the books do not want to continue getting beat by the same totals trends, which the sharp money can ruthlessly capitalize upon.
Which is why the oddsmakers no longer waste any time with “soft totals” that can be moved quickly in one direction. The books usually have an idea in which direction the totals money is likely to flow, so they will adjust the prices almost from the outset.
Posting Oregon and Baylor totals into the stratosphere from the outset are examples this season of the books proactively protecting themselves from too much exposure on one side of the total wagers which are more likely to be exploited by sharp money.
Along that line of thought, oddsmakers know totals results patterns as well as pointspread result trends, and while we have not seen as many pronounced totals trends yet this season, a couple of the primo Under teams do get together on Friday night at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium as Louisville plays host to UCF in an American showdown.
No one needs to remind the books that the Cardinals are Under 5-1 this season, and the Knights are 4-1 to the Under as well.
Knowing that such trends can develop a quick following, don’t be surprised if the first total you see on ‘Ville-UCF is a bit lower than might be expected.