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
Oklahoma Sooners at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+3.5)
Four straight non-covering efforts to begin the season have sent most of the usual Notre Dame backers at the Las Vegas sports books into temporary hiding somewhere near Lake Mead. Thus, not much initial reaction from Domer faithful when the Irish were posted as 3-point dogs for this week’s game at South Bend versus Oklahoma. In fact, more Sooner money showed up early and pushed the number up a tick to 3.5 by Monday afternoon.
Indeed, the many sharps around Vegas who bet against the Irish against Michigan State last week and pushed that number down to 4.5 or thereabouts from the original posting at 7 might be expected to again jump back in against the Domers later this week, and perhaps push the number even further in OU’s direction.
But we aren’t anticipating a repeat of the line movement from Notre Dame-Michigan State, and suspect that many OU-inclined (or anti-ND) sharps already did their business very early with this matchup.
Especially since the Sooner-Irish price quickly ticked above a key number (3) and taken some of the value away from OU backers.
Besides, a closer look at the Sooners hardly suggests go-with indicators from Bob Stoops’ troops, who have not really been tested thus far and were decidedly less than impressive in a 16-7 win over what looks like a very subpar West Virginia earlier in the month (we’re sure you noticed how awful the Mountaineers looked last Saturday against Maryland).
In fact, most Big 12 sources familiar with the OU situation believe the Sooners are still a bit of a mystery this season, with all of the tougher tests still to come.
True, big Blake Bell’s first start at QB vs. Tulsa was a doozy (four TD passes), but the rebuilt Golden Hurricane “D” looks very suspect. And Stoops has lost plenty of marquee games in recent years, including a year ago when stomped by the Irish in Norman.
Don’t forget that plenty of Notre Dame-centric money still exists in the marketplace.
With the price already having moved OU’s way for the Saturday game, we suggest that Domer-inclined backers grab the 3.5 while still available. We are not expecting another sharp line move against Notre Dame as a week ago, as oddsmakers have simply reacted a bit earlier to some of the current anti-Irish sentiment among the sharps.
Spread to wait on
Stanford Cardinal at Washington State Cougars (+10.5) (at Seattle)
Early movement in this number suggests an appetite for the Cardinal, bet up from an original posting at 9.5 and quickly through a key number at 10.
Most Las Vegas outlets now show Stanford at -10.5 over Wazzu on Saturday at the Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field, where the Cougs like to play one game per year for their many alums in the Seattle area.
Stanford’s popularity is understandable, especially after last week’s impressive win over Arizona State in the Tree’s first real test of 2013. The wagering public will also begin to digest some of the technical factors that support the Cardinal, such as its 12-2 spread mark as a visiting favorite since the 2010 season.
The fact that this price vs. Wazzu did not pause at the key number of 10, quickly bet to 10.5, suggests a further run-up in the Cardinal price is likely.
Despite some encouraging early efforts (including an upset win at Southern Cal) and spread covers in five-straight games dating to the end of last season, Mike Leach’s Cougs are still flying a bit under the radar.
The wagering masses will also realize this is not a “true” home game for Wazzu and thus unlikely to attach any sort of spread premium for the venue.
We think it’s unlikely that this price runs all of the way up to the next “key” number at 14, but we don’t anticipate the spread backsliding, either. And the easy way in which the line barged through the first key number at 10 suggests the number could rise a bit further as the week progresses. Especially since Stanford has graduated into the “public” category and can expect more support in the wagering marketplace.
Cougar backers can probably pick up a bit more value with this price if they wait until later in the week.
Total to watch
California Golden Bears at Oregon Ducks (84)
Again, it’s “how high can they go” with Oregon, as this total for Saturday’s game against Cal has already ascended into the stratosphere.
Indeed, we watched in some degree of awe as the oddsmakers dared Duck “over” money to appear by first posting this total for the game against the Golden Bears at a robust 80.
Before we knew it, the total had ballooned to 83.
Apparently the linemakers slightly undershot a resistance point for totals involving Oregon, as even the astronomical 80 did not dissuade early over money.
With the poll-conscious Ducks scoring at a point-per-minute pace and new Cal HC Sonny Dykes unlikely to have his frosh QB Jared Goff take the foot off the gas pedal for the new uptempo Bear spread, we suspect a scoreline that might more look like a basketball matchup between Dana Altman’s Webfoots and Mike Montgomery’s Cal hoopsters.
Especially since Dykes’ fast-paced offense has already contributed to combined scorelines of 74 (vs. Northwestern) and 86 (vs. Ohio State).
We’re almost on a Guinness book record watch for highest-ever “total” in this matchup; could oddsmakers move this “total” into the high 80s? Or 90, maybe? We’ll be paying attention for what is likely to end up as the highest posted “total” of the season.