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 Week 15
Recapping Week 14
This is our first year providing the NCAA Football Marketwatch, and we went 2-0-1 with an easy win and two close games last week. That result brought us back to the brink of .500 heading into the weekend featuring the final regular season match ups and conference championship games. Colorado easily beat the 18-point spread against Nebraska for a win on Friday. Louisiana Tech blew a lead to Nevada and lost by 4, but that kept us within the five-point spread for our second win. Maryland almost gave us a loss with a pick-six in the final two minutes against Boston College, but quarterback Chris Turner drove the Terps down the field and completed a fourth down touchdown pass to give us a push.
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Overall = 19-20-3 = 48.7%
NCAA WEEK 15
The conference championship games take place this weekend, and two have huge implications on the BCS Championship Game. No.1 and undefeated Alabama takes on No. 4 Florida in the SEC Championship game in what pretty much amounts to a national semifinal. In the Big XII the controversy is still raging about No. 2 Oklahoma appearing in the championship game over No. 3 Texas. If the Sooners can beat No. 20 Missouri, they are likely to make an appearance in the BCS Championship Game. No. 12 Ball State will look to stay undefeated when they face off against Buffalo in the MAC Championship on Friday night. A win for No. 5 USC over UCLA gets the Trojans a Rose Bowl berth. In the ACC, an Orange Bowl berth is on the line when No. 17 Boston College takes on No. 25 Virginia Tech. And we can’t forget the annual armed forces showdown between Army and Navy in Philadelphia.
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 Week 15 – Games to Watch
Navy vs Army (12/6 12P)
This match up transcends the normal college football rivalry. It is special to more people in this country than any other college match up is. Throw in the thousands of military personnel watching around the world and it adds up to one of the most watched games of the season. President Bush will also be on hand at Lincoln Financial Field for his final Army-Navy showdown as Commander-In-Chief. This is the 109th academy game, and Navy is seeking its sixth straight win over Army and its sixth straight Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.
Navy comes in at 7-4 and is headed to the EagleBank Bowl in Washington D.C. on December 20th to play an undecided ACC opponent. Also undecided is the Midshipmen’s quarterback position. Senior Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada looks ready to return from a hamstring injury, but sophomore Ricky Dobbs has sparked the Navy offense since stepping in. The two quarterbacks have split time in practice this week, and they are likely to see a time-share on Saturday. The Midshipmen are the top rushing team in the NCAA with 292 yards per game on the ground, and they can gain their fourth straight NCAA rushing title with a solid effort against the Black Knights. Navy is fifth in the country in turnover margin.
Army comes into the rivalry game with a three-game losing streak, and looking squarely in the eyes of its third consecutive 3-9 season. The Black Knights switched to the triple-option offense this past off-season, and it has proven effective as they come into the game as the ninth-ranked rushing attack (254.1 yards per game.) The problem has been holding onto the ball while gaining those yards. Army has lost 23 of 34 fumbles this season, and they rank 114th in the NCAA in turnover margin. Fullback Collin Mooney needs only 54 yards to break the Black Knights’ single-season rushing mark. Starting quarterback Chip Bowden sprained his ankle in practice earlier in the week and is questionable for the game. The Army defense hasn’t allowed a team to rush for more than 184 yards this season, but this match up will make for their toughest test.
At Pinnacle, Navy opened as 10.5-point favorites on the neutral field, and they are receiving heavy backing from the public. That’s not surprising due their recent domination of the series and their better record. The Midshipmen are garnering 79% of the public spread bets and a staggering 91% of the parlay bets. Despite this support the line currently sits at Navy -10.5 at Pinnacle. Movement at many of the books tracked by Sports Insights triggered multiple Smart Money plays on the Black Knights, including at BetOnline (32-20, +8.72 units) and 5Dimes (76-64, +7.26). We’ll take Army and the points.
South Florida vs West Virginia (12/6 8P)
South Florida is coming off an open date as they look to gain some momentum heading into bowl season, where they will likely be play in the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl. The Bulls are also looking for a third consecutive win against West Virginia. USF beat UConn in its previous game despite a lackluster offensive day in which they were limited to only 247 total yards. Junior quarterback Matt Grothe led the team in rushing with 51 yards, but only threw for 124 yards. Tailback Jamar Taylor gained 25 on his 38 yards on the game-winning touchdown run. The Bulls’ defense held UConn’s Donald Brown, the nation’s leading rusher, to 96 yards on 28 carries. USF ranks eighth in the nation in rushing defense.
Senior quarterback Pat White holds 16 of West Virginia’s offensive records and will play his final home game in Morgantown. He is also the NCAA’s all-time rushing leader for quarterbacks. This season, he was asked to do more throwing the ball, which led to some struggles for the Mountaineers’ offense. That has also been a key to USF’s strategy against West Virginia the last couple of seasons. The Bulls like to put their corners in man-coverage against the Mountaineers. WVU’s defense has been a pleasant surprise this season after losing eight players from last year and suffering key injuries this season (five different starting middle linebackers.) The Mountaineers have only allowed two teams to score more than 21 points this season, and one required overtime to reach the mark.
West Virginia opened as 7-point favorites at Pinnacle, and only the money behind the spread has changed there. There was some fluctuation between WVU -7 and -7.5 at other books tracked by Sports Insights. West Virginia is receiving 73% of public spread bets and 83% of parlay bets. That movement combined with strong public backing for the Mountaineers triggered multiple Smart Money plays on South Florida, including at BetOnline (32-20, +8.72) and 5Dimes (79-64, +7.26). We see a close game, so we’ll follow the Smart Money and take the Bulls and the points.
South Florida +7.5 (Bodog)
Pittsburgh vs Connecticut (12/6 12PM)
Pittsburgh earned an exciting win over West Virginia with a final-minute touchdown from tailback LeSean McCoy. McCoy had a career-best 183 yards on 33 carries. Much of the talk around Pittsburgh this week has been about the possibility of McCoy declaring for the NFL Draft as a draft-eligible sophomore (McCoy spent one year in prep school before attending Pitt.) McCoy and the efficiency of quarterback Bill Stull leads to a solid ball-control offense, which ranks 17th nationally in time of possession. The Panthers will have to stop the nation’s leading rusher in UConn’s Donald Brown. If they can do that, their strong pass rush will give the Huskies some trouble.
Connecticut has a chance to finish the season tied for second in the Big East if things go their way. That would help the Huskies standing with bowl selection committees. There’s no doubt that the central focus of UConn’s offense is the nation’s leading rusher Donald Brown. The passing game has been underwhelming all season while dealing with injuries and switches. The return of original starter Tyler Lorenzen against Syracuse hasn’t done much to spark the air attack. On defense, the Huskies must limit the damage from Panthers’ tailback LeSean McCoy. UConn’s defense is allowing an average of 119.6 rush yards per game.
Connecticut opened as 2.5-point home favorites at Pinnacle, and only the money behind the spread has changed. The line has seen movement between UConn -2 and -3 at other books tracked by Sports Insights. The 23rd ranked Panthers are receiving 66% of the public spread bets and 77% of parlay bets. The line fluctuation and heavy Pitt backing triggered multiple Smart Money plays on the Huskies, including one at 5Dimes (79-64, +7.26). A Steam Move was also triggered for UConn at Bet Jamaica (122-95, +15.7) when the line moved to UConn -3. We like those numbers, so we’ll take the Huskies at home.
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 (19-20-3)
South Florida +7.5 (Bodog)
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