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
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (+10) at UNLV Rebels
Early in the week, we often like to identify the spreads that made an initial and pronounced move in one direction immediately after posting on late Sunday night. Especially a situation where we believe all of the “sharp” money has already been invested (which is not always the case in the earliest line moves) on one of the sides in the game. Such as UNLV, which was quickly bet up from 6.5 to 9.5 or 10 at most Nevada wagering outlets for Saturday’s game against visiting Hawaii at Sam Boyd Stadium.
There is some beneath-the-surface enthusiasm developing for Bobby Hauck’s Rebels after their recent three-game win streak, the longest at the school in a decade.
But the masses, even in hometown Las Vegas, are likely to remain skeptical for a bit longer about the Rebs, who have teased their followers before. And it’s worth noting that “local money” in Clark County includes tens of thousands of Rainbow Warrior backers who have caused the area to be labeled as the “ninth island” of the Aloha State.
The bottom line is that we expect no further serious money surges in the Rebels’ direction, and suspect that any appetite for UNLV in the marketplace was satisfied by that original dump of sharp money, which in some establishments has pushed the price up to a key number of 10.
Beyond the sharps who moved the early number, it is still hard to identify a lot of pro-Rebel sentiment among the masses.
Since we doubt the spread moves any higher, we suggest Hawaii backers do their shopping ASAP and grab that double-digit price wherever it is available.
Especially since we would not be surprised to see some downward pressure on this number later in the week.
Spread to wait on
Baylor Bears at Kansas State Wildcats (+17)
Projecting late-week money moves is always a bit tricky. Sometimes, however, the marketplace reacts exactly the opposite to the scenario outlined in our Hawaii-UNLV analysis above.
Those differences are usually when “public” teams are involved in the earliest money moves. Whereas only the sharps are likely to be in love with a team like UNLV, the masses can be counted on to support the higher-profile entries.
And if one team has indeed gone “public” in the first month of the 2013 season, it is Baylor.
And after a strong surge of initial money pushed the Bears up to 17 or 17.5 for Saturday’s game at Kansas State, we suspect the increasing public infatuation with Art Briles’ team creates more buy pressure on the Bears throughout the week.
Recent precedent suggests as much.
Consider last Saturday against visiting West Virginia, when the public kept buying and buying on Baylor all week, pushing the number from an initial 27.5 all of the way through a potential key number at 28 before settling at 30.5 (and in a few locales at 31) before kickoff. It is worth noting that Baylor was also bet up from -27 to -31 for its previous game vs. ULM.
Indeed, there has been no spread movement against the Bears yet this season.
Ironically, it was not long ago that K-State was such a “public” team, but the current version of Bill Snyder’s Wildcats have already lost three games and look to do no better than a minor bowl bid this season. And in this particular matchup, the masses might recall a dominating 52-24 Baylor win last season that effectively wrecked K-State’s hopes for the BCS title game.
Granted, this is the Bears’ first road game of the season, but the wagering public is a creature of habit. And since the public has been rewarded for continuing to back Baylor, and all but a few Bears tickets were cashed last Saturday, we suspect that pattern continues throughout the week.
The public can move prices as well, and we expect buy pressure on the Baylor Bears to push this number in the vicinity of three TDs.
At some point the sharps might jump back in and back the Wildcats (especially with possible “middle” scenarios), but K-State backers might as well wait until later in the week, especially since there is a chance that the Baylor infatuation pushes this spread up to the next key number.
Total to watch
Indiana Hoosiers at Michigan State Spartans (54.5)
We love these sorts of style clashes, and there can be no more pronounced on-field fundamental differences in this season’s Big Ten than those between Indiana and Michigan State.
Whereas the defense-minded Spartans are so conservative on the attack end that they might as well have Charles Krauthammer as offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson’s Indiana offense is pure video football, utilizing an uptempo spread that looks more like it belongs in Conference USA than the Big Ten.
That sort of dichotomy presents some interesting possibilities in the total which has been initially posted at 54.5 for this game at East Lansing.
We suspect that the total movement will reflect which side the public is backing; a downward drift would likely suggest more Michigan State money, while a rise upward in the total would indicate an appetite in the marketplace for the Hoosiers.
Although there was immediate buy pressure for Michigan State that quickly moved the price to 9.5, totals often wait a bit longer to react.
And considering the fascinating style contrast between these sides, this figures to also be one of the most interesting totals developments of the week.