by Mike Norris at Sports Insights
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the NCAA Football Marketwatch. The team at Sports Insights gives sports fans unprecedented insight into the NCAA Football point-spread market. If you ever wanted to know what was really happening on the sportsbook side, you now have an all-access pass with Sports Marketplace!
Every week we speak directly with the line managers at some of the sports betting industry’s largest sportsbooks about which games the public is chasing and the Sharps are pounding. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for this week in College Football.
Sports Marketplace – NCAA Bowl Games (2)
Recapping Bowl Games Week 1
This is our first year providing the NCAA Football Marketwatch, and we finished the regular season just below .500. The Bowl Season is off to a good start at 3-0. Arizona covered the 3-point spread with a 10-point win over BYU to kick off our bowl picks. Southern Miss scored an outright win over Troy in overtime, and Florida Atlantic won outright against Central Michigan after getting six points to keep us perfect on this early bowl season.
If you enjoy the insights this column provides, please be sure to visit SportsInsights.com. We are the leader in sports betting information and statistics.
Overall = 23-22-3 = 51.1%
NCAA Bowl Games (2)
We are splitting the Bowl Season into three NCAA Marketwatches. The first featured games from the first full week of bowl games. The second is coming from the remaining games in 2008, and the final will feature games after the New Year. The second set of bowl games sees some traditional powerhouses and some up-and-coming teams in action. Some of the interesting match ups include West Virginia-North Carolina, Wisconsin-Florida State, Miami (FL)-California, Oregon-Oklahoma State, and LSU-Georgia Tech. The biggest spread in this set of games sees Missouri as 13-point favorites over Northwestern.
Warning to all new readers of the NCAA Football Sports Marketwatch column: in order to follow our selections, you’ll need ice running through your veins. Be prepared to take up meditation or acupuncture to calm the nerves. The goal of this weekly column is to highlight games that offer true “line value.” Often, if a line looks too go to be true, there is a reason. The underlining theme every week is line value. You’ll consistently need the worst teams on the board to come through. We typically buy on bad news and sell on good.
With a light schedule on the final weekend before bowl games, we’re expecting heavy action on the majority of games on the board. Visit SportsInsights.com to view wagering statistics on NCAA games from multiple online sportsbooks. Here is a trio of line value games we are keying on.
NCAA Sports MarketWatch Bowl Games (2) – Games to Watch
Wisconsin vs Florida State (12/27 4:30P)
Wisconsin comes into the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando making its fifth-consecutive trip to Florida for bowl season. The Badgers had higher hopes coming into 2008, and they looked to be reaching those expectations when they moved up to ninth in the polls. They then lost four-straight and five of six games in the middle of their season to fall completely out of the rankings. The Badgers finished the season with a three-game win streak to qualify for bowl contention. Wisconsin utilizes a veteran offensive line and a pair of stud tailbacks in P.J. Hill and John Clay to power their offense (the Badgers rank 14th nationally in rushing offense with 212.0 ypg). Junior quarterback Dustin Sherer improved down the stretch after taking over as starter for the last six games of the season, as he threw for 450 yards during the Badgers’ final two games. Wisconsin’s defense has been up-and-down this season, but they still boast a solid unit against the run. They rank 43rd nationally allowing 133.3 yards per game.
Florida State is making its 27th-consecutive bowl appearance, which is now the nation’s longest streak with Michigan failing to qualify. The Seminoles come in having lost three of their last five games behind an offense that struggled. FSU averaged 216 rush yards per game during the first six games, but that average fell to below 150 yards for the final six. Quarterback Chistian Ponder also struggled down the stretch finishing with more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12), and he was benched in the regular season finale against Florida. The Seminoles defense relies on speed and athleticism along the front seven to get in the backfield and disrupt opposing offenses. Florida State is holding opponents to 126.8 rushing yards per game, but they allowed Florida to rush for 317 yards in their regular season finale.
Florida State opened as a 5.5-point favorite at 5Dimes. Since then, the line has fluctuated between FSU -4.5 and -6. The public is solidly behind the Seminoles, with them receiving 78% of spread bets and 78% of parlay bets. The combination of movement and percentages triggered Smart Money plays at multiple books, all with records of at least .500. Among the books triggering plays for Wisconsin were Bodog (17-7, +8.40 units), BetOnline (35-22, +9.4), and 5Dimes (83-66, +8.86). We’ll follow the sharps and take the power running game of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin +6 (Bodog)
N.C. State vs Rutgers (12/29 3P)
North Carolina State comes into the Papajohns.com Bowl having won four straight, including two against nationally-ranked opponents. The Wolfpack surged behind the strong late-season play of quarterback Russell Wilson, who was named ACC rookie of the year and a first-team conference selection. After winning a deep quarterback battle, Wilson finished the season having thrown for 1,769 yards and 16 touchdowns with only one interception in 252 attempts. He also rushed for 342 yards and four scores. Wilson enjoys throwing deep to wide receiver Owen Spencer and short to tight end Anthony Hill. NCSU’s defense improved during the four-game winning streak, as they allowed more than 20 points only once during that stretch. The month between the Wolfpack’s season finale and bowl game should be a huge help as they will be able to heal some key injuries.
NCSU may be the ACC’s hottest team heading into Bowl Season, but Rutgers was even hotter coming out of the Big East. The Scarlet Knights won their final six behind a streaking offense led by its passing attack. Quarterback Mike Teel closed his senior season on a high note throwing to the talented trio of wide receivers Kenny Britt, Tiquan Underwood, and Tim Brown. Rutgers running attack utilizes another trio of players, but coach Greg Schiano tends to play the hot hand instead of a rotation. The Scarlet Knights defense has played well all season with the exception of a 44-12 loss against another ACC foe, North Carolina.
Rutgers opened as 6.5-point favorites at Pinnacle, and they have been as heavy as 9.5-point favorites during the time leading up to the game. The public was backing Rutgers earlier in the week, but the percentages have evened out as each team is currently receiving 50% of the public spread bets. The Scarlet Knights are receiving slightly stronger backing in the parlay category with 60% of the public’s bets. Despite the line fluctuation there haven’t been many Betting System plays triggered for either team. In this battle of two surging teams, we like the one receiving a touchdown in the spread.
N.C. State +7
Oregon vs Oklahoma State (12/30 8PM)
Oregon closed the regular season with a huge 65-38 win that knocked rival Oregon State out of a Rose Bowl berth. The Ducks come into the Holiday Bowl with a 9-3 record, and they will be seeking their second 10-win season in the past seven. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli took over behind center down the stretch and finished the regular season with 1,487 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. The strength of the Oregon offense is on the ground with tailbacks Jeremiah Johnson (1,082 yards, 12 TD) and LeGarrette Blount (928 yards, 16 TD) leading the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing attack. The Ducks finished with an average of 41.9 points per game, which was seventh in the nation. The Ducks’ main weakness is its passing defense, which ranked 108th in the nation.
Oklahoma State is seeking to tie a school record with 10 wins on the season, as head coach Mike Gundy returns to a special place from his past. In the Cowboys’ only other Holiday Bowl appearance, Gundy completied 20 of 24 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns in OSU’s 62-14 victory over Wyoming in 1988. The Cowboys come into the bowl ranked seventh nationally in total yards, seventh in rushing offense, and eighth in scoring offense. The trio of quarterback Zac Robinson, tailback Kendall Hunter, and wide receiver Dez Bryant has made the Cowboys’ spread offense very dangerous. OSU had trouble putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks (13 sacks on the season), which is one reason they rank 110th nationally against the pass.
The Holiday Bowl should be an offensive shootout, and defense will probably decide the victor. Both teams rely on rushing attacks, so the key could be stopping the run. Oklahoma State opened as a 3.5-point favorite at 5Dimes, and the line saw some movement to OSU -4 early. Since then, we have seen movement in the opposite direction, despite the Cowboys receiving 60% of spread bets and 73% of parlay bets. This caused a few Smart Money plays to be triggered, including at 5Dimes (83-66, +8.86) and The Pig (127-111, +3.30). We’ll follow the sharps and take the Ducks getting a field goal.
So, here’s a wrap-up of SportsInsights.com analysis for this week’s Games to Watch for NCAA Football Week 15.
Games to Watch (23-22-3)
Wisconsin +6 (Bodog)
N.C. State +7
It should be another exciting week for NCAA Football. Keep Sports Marketplace Games to Watch picks handy and your browser pointed to SportsInsights.com for the latest real-time updates, using our exclusive Sports Investing tools. Also check out our new feature Campus Reports for NCAA Football information you won’t find anywhere else. We’ll be back next Friday with the new edition of the NCAA Football Sports Marketwatch.
Enjoy the games!
Mike Norris at Sports Insights