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 (3)
Recapping Bowl Games Week 2
This is our first year providing the NCAA Football Marketwatch, and we finished the regular season just below .500. We got off to a good start in the bowl games with a 3-0 first week, which we followed up with a 2-1 record in our second set of games. Wisconsin was embarrassed by Florida State to give us our first loss of the bowl season. N.C. State almost blew it late, but lost by six to finish within the seven-point spread for another win. Oregon won outright over Oklahoma State for our second win of the week.
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Overall = 25-23-3 = 52.1%
NCAA Bowl Games (3)
We are splitting the Bowl Season into three NCAA Marketwatches. The first featured games from the first full week of bowl games. The second came from the remaining games in 2008, and this final set features games after the New Year. The third set of bowl games sees the big-time teams and BCS bowls taking place. Things get kicked off with nine games in the first two days, including the granddaddy of bowl games the Rose Bowl on January 1st. Also on the first we get a showdown between two of the nation’s top tailbacks in the Capital One Bowl, with Georgia’s Knowshown Moreno going head-to-head with Michigan State’s Javon Ringer. Of course the big one takes place on January 8th in the BCS Championship Game between Florida and Oklahoma.
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.
It’s the final set of games until next fall, so we’re expecting lots of action on all the remaining games, especially the BCS Bowls. 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 (3) – Games to Watch
Michigan State vs Georgia (1/1 1P)
Michigan State doesn’t want the bad taste from their regular season finale loss to Penn State to linger in their mouth all off-season. The Spartans offensive star feels like it is his role to make that happen. Tailback Javon Ringer rushed for 1,590 yards on the season, but only 42 yards against the Nittany Lions with the Big Ten title on the line. The MSU passing attack has had problems keeping defenses honest this season, as quarterback Brian Hoyer barely completed 50% of his passes on the season. The Spartans will get their best wideout Mark Dell back after the sophomore missed time at the end of the season. Michigan State’s defense has had problems stopping elite running backs this season, and that could be a problem in the Capital One Bowl as they face Georgia’s Knowshown Moreno.
When the season kicked off, Georgia was hoping to appear in Florida for a January bowl game. The Capital One Bowl wasn’t what they had in mind when they were ranked No. 1 in the pre-season. They are also coming off a disappointing 45-42 loss to in-state rival Georgia Tech, in which they allowed 409 rushing yards. The Bulldogs defense had been solid against the run, as they finished the season allowing an average of 129.9 yards per game including the effort against the Yellow Jackets. The offense features one of the most talented groups of position players in the country in quarterback Matthew Stafford, tailback Knowshown Moreno, and wide receiver A.J. Green. The Bulldogs are averaging 32.1 points per game.
The Bulldogs opened as 5.5-point favorites at 5Dimes and many other books tracked by Sports Insights. They are receiving huge backing with 81% of the public spread bets. That huge backing mage the line jump to Georgia -8 a few days later. Since then the line has dipped back down to Georgia -7.5 at 5Dimes. It also saw this later dip and many other books. That triggered a few Smart Money plays on the Spartans, including at BetOnline (37-23, +10.22 units) and 5Dimes (85-69, +7.71 units). We’re following the Smart Money and looking for some favorable underdog lines like the Michigan State +8.5 at Bodog.
Michigan State +8.5 (Bodog)
Penn State vs Southern Cal (1/1 5P)
Penn State comes into the Rose Bowl as Big Ten Champions in what many people consider a down year for the conference. That doesn’t mean Penn State isn’t one of the top teams in the country, as they dominate on both sides of the ball. The rushing attack is led by sophomore tailback Evan Royster, who rushed for over 1,200 yards on the season. Quarterback Daryll Clark completed over 60% of his passes while throwing to a talented trio of senior wide receivers. Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood combined to make 121 receptions. The Nittany Lions defense is also strong, allowing only 12.4 points per game, while giving up an average of 263.9 yards.
As good as Penn State is, Southern Cal is slightly better on the stat sheet. The Trojans rank first nationally in four defensive categories, including scoring defense (7.8 points per game) and total defense (206.1 yards per game). The Trojans utilize a traditional pro-style offense led by quarterback Mark Sanchez, who threw for 30 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. USC uses a trio of running backs to complement Sanchez, highlighted by sophomore Joe McKnight. The Trojans will be without versatile fullback Stanley Havili, and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian left before The Rose Bowl to take the head coach position at the University of Washington.
Southern Cal opened as double-digit favorites at most books tracked by Sports Insights, including USC -10.5 at Pinnacle. The Trojans are receiving almost two-thirds of the public spread bets at 64%. Despite this backing, the line has moved in the other direction to USC -8 at Pinnacle. There is still some variation in the line across the marketplace, ranging from an 8-point spread to a 10-point spread. Leading up to the game a Steam Move was triggered at Bet Jamaica (125-100, +13.3 units) on the Nittany Lions. We think these two teams are pretty evenly matched, so we think getting either team with 10 points is the way to go. We’ll take Joe Pa and Penn State with the points.
Penn State +10 (Bodog)
Utah vs Alabama (1/2 8:15P)
Utah comes into the Sugar Bowl with the nation’s longest active winning streak at 13 games. They have that designation thanks to Alabama’s loss in the SEC Championship Game, which ended the Crimson Tide’s own 13-game winning streak. The Utes are the first non-BCS conference school to reach two BCS bowls, having won the 2005 Fiesta Bowl against Pittsburgh. That win is part of a seven-game bowl winning streak for Utah. Quarterback Brian Johnson spread the ball around to his receivers while throwing for 24 touchdowns on the season; five receivers caught at least 23 passes and 3 touchdowns. The Utes defense is allowing only 104.8 yards rushing per game.
Alabama came within one quarter of playing in the BCS Championship Game, but they were handed their first loss after giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns to Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide are lead by a strong rushing attack, which averages 196.5 yards per game, and an efficient passing attack. That combination lives on ball control, but they also average 31 points per game. Alabama can play against any type of offense, as it has utilized a 3-4 base defense, but also used nickel, dime, and zone blitz packages much of the year. The Tide defense allowed an average of 78.8 rushing yards per game, while giving up a total of 19 touchdowns in 13 games.
It’s no surprise that Alabama opened as double-digit favorites against the Mountain West Champions, and it’s not surprising they are receiving the majority of bets from the public. The Crimson Tide are receiving 77% of the public spread bets. Despite this overwhelming majority of support, the line has moved from an opening at Pinnacle of Alabama -11 to -9. The line has seem quite a bit of fluctuation between those numbers, and the game has received over 15 Betting System triggers from Sports Insights. All except one are on Utah, including Smart Money plays at Bodog (17-8, +7.40 units) and BetOnline (37-23, +10.22) and a Steam Move at Bet Jamaica (125-100, +13.3). We’re not sure if the Utes can finish off another undefeated season against ‘Bama, but we think they can stay within single digits. We’re taking Utah with the points.
Utah +10 (BetPhoenix)
So, here’s a wrap-up of SportsInsights.com analysis for this week’s Games to Watch for NCAA Football Bowls (3).
Games to Watch (25-23-3)
Michigan State +8.5 (Bodog)
Penn State +10 (Bodog)
Utah +10 (BetPhoenix)
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