College Cram Session: Getting off to a good start

Aug 27, 2009 |
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, 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,” 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, 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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