College Cram Session: Getting off to a good start

Oddsmakers admit they're off. Sportsbooks admit they're vulnerable.

Welcome to the first two weeks of the schedule - the most wonderful time of the year to bet college football.

"It's a real craps-shoot these first two weeks," said Pete Korner, oddsmaker and owner of the Sports Club. "It's all opinion, yours against ours with no statistics to bear one or the other out. We’re going to be (and are) off on a few games"

Without any current stats to plug into their fancy computer programs, oddsmakers are forced to throw out September lines based on information from the same preseason publications we all read: Phil Steele, The Sporting News, David Payne articles on Covers.com, etc.

It won’t last long, but right now, we know just as much as the people setting the line.

That makes books sweat, especially knowing what happens at the beginning of every college football season.

“The sharp bettors come out betting heavy during the start of the season,” betED.com sportsbook manager Randy Scott said. “Most books know it’s coming and usually put their guard up early.”

To combat this rush on early lines, books often lower limits, move lines rapidly without action and even restrict certain types of bets early in the season.

"Sportsbooks try their best to get through this period with as little damage as possible," Scott added.

How to take advantage

Covers Expert Larry Ness says the preseason polls could hold the secret to early success.

Ness points out that more than half (13) of last year’s preseason top 25 ended up unranked.

“Not only that, but six of those 13 teams ended up with losing records,” Ness added. “Obviously, oddsmakers aren’t just looking at polls. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have an influence on them. If a team’s ranked 13th in the preseason poll, you don’t expect them to finish 5-7 for the season.”

Like oddsmakers, the members of the media and coaches who vote in the polls have no concrete information to decide where to rank teams in the preseason. They check out the number and talent of the returning starters, just like we all do. But after that, they’re stuck with a program’s reputation and results from last year.

That’s why a team like Michigan, which had obvious question marks entering last season, winds up ranked in the preseason polls.

Francis Doyle, a betting analyst for Sportsinteraction.com, says this type of undeserved hype for big-name programs can torment oddsmakers and be a gold mine for bettors.

For example, even if oddsmakers realized Michigan was going to struggle last year, Doyle says they couldn’t afford to throw out a number that might get hammered by the Wolverines’ huge fan base.

Ranked teams that won’t finish that way

Over the last four years, approximately 40 percent of teams that were ranked in the preseason polls did not finish the season ranked.

Here are the eight teams in this year’s preseason polls that won’t be there in the end:

No. 9 Oklahoma State
No. 13 Georgia
No. 14 Boise State
No. 15 Georgia Tech
No. 16 Oregon
No. 18 Florida State
No. 19 Utah
No. 20 Brigham Young
No. 21 North Carolina

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Posted by THEMUGG
5 years ago

The point to the article was that there is good value to be found in the 1st couple weeks of the season. The fact that a few of the teams ranked in the T25 in preseason may not be there at the end of the season explains only a small portion. What about the other 100+ teams? Is there no value to be found anywhere outside the T25?
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Posted by Droxside
5 years ago

I do think it is pertinent. The fact is that the lines in early games are more likely to be off and it is good to explain it. That was the point to the article.
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Posted by THEMUGG
5 years ago

LOL, no you didn't...... I like the article but not sure how pertinent it is to early season betting. Sure, you can guess who won't be T25 in the end...........many teams are overrated early just on their names............but you're not going to have a clear grasp on the pretenders until probably after week 5. There are many of us here that do diligent work in determining early line value...........& I doubt preseason rankings are much of a barometer for any of us. We've all got a pretty good idea of who should be in the top 10 & after that it really doesn't matter To complete your article, it would be interesting to hear what teams you think are going to replace the ones that you say won't finish ranked.
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Posted by David_Payne
5 years ago

Drox ... Fair point. This is supposed to be a weekly column, which often will include my humble/worthless opinion ... I need to do a better job of explaining that, like you mentioned. I'm big on Nevada this season, so I'm thinking they knock off Boise State, and road trips to Tulsa and Louisiana Tech could be troublesome. Thanks for the input and I'll do a better job of showing what is my opinion next week ... if there's anything you'd like to see included, PM me ... DP
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Posted by Droxside
5 years ago

David, Let me say again that this was a very good and informative article and I for one appreciate articles that help out and this one does. I think the end just caught everyone's attention...Thanks again and keep writing articles like this that do help because the information is pertinent...
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Posted by Droxside
5 years ago

Very nice article and informative write-up, nice job. Just one question though...How in the world did you determine the exact amount of teams and exactly who they are that will not stay in the top 25 when your whole article is based on it is a crap shoot until they actually play. You could of at least said that it was your or someone's opinion and not state it as fact. I see at least 6 and possible all that could be in the top 25 in that list. Other than possible Oregon(and they are favored here) and their bowl game, who is going to beat Boise St to knock them out of the top 25? Just asking...
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Posted by David_Payne
5 years ago

Mugg ... did I fail?
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Posted by THEMUGG
5 years ago

Without any current stats to plug into their fancy computer programs, oddsmakers are forced to throw out September lines based on information from the same preseason publications we all read: Phil Steele, The Sporting News, David Payne articles on Covers.com, etc. Was this a tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor?
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Posted by David_Payne
5 years ago

Bigbadbeck ... Remember on average, almost 40 percent of the teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 have not finished there over the last four years ... so, if you don't agree with my teams, which eight or nine squads do you think won't be there? I'm sure everyone thought No. 13 Wisconsin, No. 10 Auburn, No. 9 Clemson, No. 15 Arizona State, No. 18 Tennessee weren't going to end up in the Top 25 by the end of last year .. Thanks for reading guys ... I'll be with you throughout the college football season, so if you can think of any certain kind of information I can provide that will better prepare you for each week's slate, don't hesitate to yell at me ... DP
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Posted by Godfather16
5 years ago

at least half of those teams will be in the top 25, other ranked teams will fall out, it is just simple math.
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Posted by thebigbadbeck
5 years ago

David Payne has lost alot of credibity with me. The finishing top 25 with out Georgia Tech, Ok St or Boise St? Where did they find this guy.
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Posted by DOC86
5 years ago

this guy is nuts
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Posted by spinseeker
5 years ago

Utah won't be top 25 either at the end of the year.
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Posted by spinseeker
5 years ago

Here are the eight teams in this year’s preseason polls that won’t be there in the end: No. 9 Oklahoma State No. 13 Georgia No. 14 Boise State No. 15 Georgia Tech No. 16 Oregon No. 18 Florida State No. 19 Utah No. 20 Brigham Young No. 21 North Carolina You sound pretty confident. No maybe's or probably's. These 8, huh? I would switch out Oregon, Oklahoma State, Boise, and either FSU or Tech. Replace with Bama & Notre Dame.
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Posted by w123082
5 years ago

UGA schedule is killer but cant count out Richt...if they beat Okie St, they will be there all season. Tech has to hope that LSU tape isnt a blueprint for 09 opponents; but Johnson is smart and they are loaded plus ACC is down this year...UGA and Tech game could be a classic finale...on UNC: we will see if Davis really can coach.
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Posted by Logica1
5 years ago

Strongly agree with you on georgia and unc not being in there...But you can scratch GT off that list...Tech will finish in the top ten. I am quite certain of that.
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Posted by w123082
5 years ago

this is the week for those of us who do our homework: Auburn, Kentucky, and UAB as favs; Central Mich, VaTech, Wash as dogs....and it would take a week for Ohio/UConn to score 47 points...maybe 2 for Wisky and NoIll to get 51...respect the lines but yes, Vegas should be holding its breath...
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Posted by David_Payne
5 years ago

Thanks, NC .... I actually think Boise beats the Ducks, but loses to Nevada in the WAC ... Prentice ... My feeling is that Iowa, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Kansas (Nos. 22-25) will have good enough seasons to remain ranked, although I'm cooling on the 'Huskers a little bit.
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Posted by PrenticeGT
5 years ago

So numbers 22-25 will be there? Huh? How do you figure?
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Posted by nc1capper
5 years ago

nice write up David - any, or all of those teams out of top 25 would not suprise me a bit, boise has that somewhat soft sch. so that could help, but ducks rock the boat in the opener
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Top Response

Posted by nc1capper
5 years ago

"nice write up David - any, or all of those teams out of top 25 would not suprise me a bit, boise has that somewhat soft sch. so that could help, but ducks rock the boat in the opener"