NCAAF Game of the Week: LSU vs. Arkansas
Every week in this space, I examine one college football game that’s offering contrarian value to bettors. By using the tools available to Sportsbook Insider members, I have pinpointed the factors driving line movement and highlighted some of the best sharp money indicators.
My Games of the Week have provided solid value so far this season, and I’ll look to build on that success this week. You can view all my past analysis below:
- Wake Forest +5 at Duke
- Oklahoma +1.5 vs. Ohio State
- Ole Miss +11 vs. Alabama
- Wisconsin +5 at Michigan State
- Clemson +1.5 vs. Louisville
- NC State -2.5 vs. Notre Dame
- West Virginia -1.5 at Texas Tech
- Auburn -9.5 vs. Arkansas
- TCU -9.5 vs. Texas Tech
- NC State +6 vs. Florida State
This week’s research indicates there’s tremendous value in Saturday’s SEC showdown between the 24th-ranked LSU Tigers (5-4, 3-2 SEC) and the 25th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (6-3, 2-3 SEC). This is arguably the most compelling game of the weekend, but there’s also an excellent opportunity for contrarian bettors.
The Tigers opened as 6.5-point favorites at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook and, according to our public betting trends, have received just 29% of spread tickets. Despite this lack of public support, they have moved from -6.5 to -7. That reverse line movement is a strong indicator that sharp money likes the road chalk.
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As you can see from the line chart, most spread bettors are taking Arkansas, but a slight majority of spread money (53%) is taking LSU. This information indicates there have been several large bets placed on LSU, which is validated by the Pinnacle steam move on LSU -6.5, which was triggered by our Bet Signals shortly after the line opened.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of valuable information can be ascertained by comparing the individual betting percentages from our seven contributing sportsbooks. Although Arkansas is getting hammered at the square books we track, public betting has been far more evenly split at our sharper sportsbooks (5Dimes and BetDSI).
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It’s rare to see the majority of public bettors taking the underdog, but it falls in line with past research which found bettors are far more likely to back the ‘dog when two ranked teams play each other. Casual bettors place far too much value on the AP Top 25, and they seem to believe the best course of action is simply taking the points and hoping for a competitive game when two ranked teams play each other. That has been a highly-flawed strategy.
Since the start of the 2005 season, the favorite has gone 281-234 ATS (54.6%) in regular season games featuring two ranked teams. When they’re a small favorite (7-points or less) that record improves to 181-145 ATS (55.5%). This trend involving small favorites can also be applied to our contrarian strategies.
Over the past few months, I’ve spoken at length about the value of fading (betting against) trendy underdogs. This strategy involves taking favorites that are being ignored by a majority of bettors — especially in the most heavily bet games where public money is more likely to artificially inflate the spread. This season college football favorites have gone just 292-325 ATS (47.3%) including a 146-194 ATS (42.9%) record since the start October. When they’re receiving the minority of spread bets, those numbers increase substantially.
This season, favorites have gone 67-53 ATS (55.8%) when receiving less than 50% of spread tickets. When we focus on the most heavily bet games — where public money is more likely to influence line movement — that record improves to 41-25 ATS (62.1%). When we look at more extreme levels of public betting, those numbers show even more profitable returns.
Since 2005, favorites receiving less than 35% of spread tickets have gone 113-91 ATS (54.1%). That record improves to 71-46 ATS (60.7%) when we focus solely on heavily bet games. Going one step further, we find that small favorites fitting these criteria have been significantly more profitable than large favorites.
We always encourage bettors to buy on bad news and sell on good news in order to capitalize on market overreactions. My research found that teams coming off a win against a top-10 opponent have gone just 119-140 ATS (45.9%), which indicates bettors should consider fading Arkansas after last week’s 21-point win against Florida.
We should also note that parlay percentage is an excellent indicator of square money. You won’t find many sharps betting parlays since they’re usually a losing proposition. At the time of publication, 61% of bettors who parlayed or teased this game had taken Arkansas.
This looks like the quintessential example of “Sharps vs. Squares” with casual bettors taking Arkansas and sharp bettors taking LSU. In one of this weekend’s most heavily bet games, I love the value on LSU as a small contrarian favorite. Most books are currently offering LSU -7, but there are a few square books still hanging LSU -6.5. This once again highlights the value of shopping for the best line before placing a wager.
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