November can be nasty.
It is notorious for its tightening lines and enticing mid-week TV games. It can suck profit out of any bankroll, especially fat ones that are drooling after an early-season feast.
Greed, my betting friends, is one of the seven deadly sins. For those of you who are up, it’s time to protect your winnings like it’s your last bottle of hooch. For those of you in my boat who are down, November is not the time to play catch-up. Let’s survive the season’s most difficult month and then make some during bowl season.
But how? How do we survive a nasty November?
The answer may lie in the under-appreciated middle.
Who’s playing middles?
For you newbies, middling is simply placing a bet on both sides of a game before and after a significant line move. For example, you bet the favorite at -6.5 and, if the line jumps to 7.5, you take the underdog.
You’re risking just the juice in hopes of the game ending with the favorite winning by seven; therefore, making both of your tickets winners.
Odds are you’ll win one side, lose the other and end up down the juice.
That’s why books aren’t overly concerned with middles.
Professional handicappers like Covers Expert Marc Lawrence don’t expend much effort trying to middle games, either.
“The games that I do end up with middles on are those where injuries or line movements caused me to get off of a game,” Lawrence said. “Most professionals do not look to middle games. Instead, they look to find the best number to their handicap.”
Michael Perry, a bookmanager at Logan’s.com, points out that, because lines get tighter as the season progresses, there are fewer significant line moves in November compared to September.
“I think towards the end of the football season, we see a lot more middle opportunities with totals than on sides, largely because of the weather,” added Perry.
But, to me, betting college football in November is all about minimizing risk, not necessarily advancement.
Cutting back on the number of your wagers is also a good idea, but it’s not nearly as fun.
That’s why middles make more sense to me right now.
Attempting to middle a few games each week allows me to get the amount of action I crave while only risking the juice. At -110 juice, I only need to hit one middle in 19 attempts to make a profit.
That’s easier said than done, for sure, but there are a few ways to increase your chances of nailing a middle.
Plus, if lines truly get tighter in November, games should start ending up with final scores closer to the pointspread. And that’s exactly what we’re hoping for when playing middles.
What games are the best to middle?
Lawrence and Perry agree – November’s tighter lines equal less line movements.
But there are still plenty of games that will cross key numbers and have middle potential in the coming month.
Obviously, we’re looking for games with middles that include key numbers like 3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, etc. If we can get on both sides of one of those numbers, our odds increase greatly.
According to Covers.com’s live odds, nine games on this week’s card had already moved across a key number as of Wednesday. That number will certainly grow by Saturday.
The key is getting a good read on which way a line is going to move.
Usually taking a popular favorite like USC, Florida or Alabama early in the week will produce a middle opportunity, after the public bets up the line. But that wasn’t the case in last week’s Tennessee-Alabama game. The Crimson Tide opened as a 16.5-point favorite but was quickly bet down to 14.
“The situation surrounding big favorites is a critical factor in trying to determine line movement,” explained Lawrence. “In Alabama's case, they were facing a defensively staunch conference rival and the Tide had struggles the game before against South Carolina. There was no need for the money to heavily support Alabama. It's when popular public teams are coming off impressive wins (and covers) that the support begins.”
Let’s try it …
Throughout November editions of Cram Session, I will point out games on the following week’s schedule that could provide a middling opportunity. I will add my middle plays to Payneful Picks below and we will see if I can hit a minimum of one out of 19 plays.
Next week, I am expecting a middle opportunity in the game involving the winner of the USC-Oregon game.
The Ducks are at Arizona State and USC is at Stanford next Saturday.
If you’ve got middle suggestions or just want to tell me this is a ridiculous strategy, feel free to post in the comment sections.
Best and worst November ATS teams for last five years
(courtesy of Pete Dunbrack, the Database Dude)
Virginia Tech – 13-5
Boise State – 13-5-2
Utah – 12-4
Rice – 13-6
Purdue – 12-5
Florida – 12-5
Southern Cal – 12-5
Indiana – 4-11-1
Wyoming – 5-12
Washington – 5-12
UTEP – 6-13
Maryland – 6-12
Oklahoma St. – 6-12
Interested in gaining access to the Covers’ database? Click here.
How the early money’s doing
We’re tracking big early line moves this season to pinpoint what most experts say is sharp money.
Season: Sharps 12, Books 15
Last week: Sharps 2, Books 2 (1 push)
Open: Louisiana Tech (-1.5) at Utah State. Wednesday line: Utah State -2. Final score: Utah State 23, La. Tech 21.
Open: Oregon (-7) at Washington. Wednesday line: Oregon -10. Final score: Oregon 43, Washington 19.
Open: Idaho at Nevada (-12.5). Wednesday line: Nevada -15.5. Final score: Nevada 70, Idaho 45.
Open Auburn at LSU (-11). Wednesday line: LSU -7.5. Final score: LSU 31, Auburn 10.
Open: UNLV (-4.5) at New Mexico. Wednesday line: New Mexico -1. Final score: UNLV 34, New Mexico 17.
Open: New Mexico State at Ohio State (-39.5). Wednesday line: Ohio State (-45).
Open: San Jose State at Boise State (-32). Wednesday line: Boise State (-35).
Open: Eastern Michigan at Arkansas (-35). Wednesday line: Arkansas (-38).
Open: Kansas State at Oklahoma (-24.5). Wednesday line: Oklahoma (-28).
Last week: 2-2
Season: 13-17-3 (Sigh).
New Mexico at San Diego State (-16)
Pick: San Diego State -16
Ohio (-6.5) at Ball State
Pick: Ohio -6.5
Western Michigan at Ken State (-2.5)
Pick: WMU +2.5
Washington State at Notre Dame (-27.5)
Pick: Notre Dame -27.5
Best of luck everyone. You can follow me on Twitter at Payne_Covers.