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 (1)
Recapping Week 15
This is our first year providing the NCAA Football Marketwatch, and we closed out the regular season with a 1-2 record. Army never got anything going against Navy and got shut out. Connecticut couldn’t hang with Pittsburgh, but South Florida kept it close against West Virginia to give us our lone win. Those results pushed us just below .500 for the regular season.
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Overall = 20-22-3 = 47.6%
NCAA Bowl Games (1)
We are splitting the Bowl Season into three NCAA Marketwatches. The first features games from the first full week of bowl games. The second will come from the remaining games in 2008, and the final will feature games after the New Year. We should see some good games during the first week of bowl action with teams like Notre Dame, BYU, Boise State, TCU, South Florida, and Navy taking the field. The most interesting early bowl matchup takes place in the Poinsettia Bowl, where undefeated ninth-ranked Boise State takes on No. 11 TCU. The Broncos missed out on a BCS bowl due to Utah also finishing the regular season undefeated. We should also see some fireworks when two top-20 scoring offenses square off in the Las Vegas Bowl, when No. 16 BYU takes on Arizona.
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 (1) – Games to Watch
BYU vs Arizona (12/20 8P)
BYU is appearing in its fourth-consecutive Las Vegas Bowl, and they are seeking their third-straight 11-win season. The Cougars ended their regular season with a disappointing 48-24 loss to rival Utah, which gave Utah the Mountain West Conference Championship and a BCS appearance. BYU quarterback Max Hall is looking to bounce back from a five-interception performance in the rivalry game. The Cougars are hoping the recent time off will help heal some of their walking wounded, including their bruising 1,000-yard tailback Harvey Unga. Unga has been dealing with a variety of injuries this season, including shoulder, neck and ankle problems. BYU will also need a stronger performance from its defense, which has allowed 32 or more points in four of its last six games.
Arizona is making its first bowl appearance in 10 years behind the spread offense it debuted two years ago against BYU. The Cougars defeated the Wildcats 20-7 to open the 2007 season, but Arizona has grown under offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. Dykes brought the spread offense over from Texas Tech, and increased the Wildcats’ scoring average from 16 points per game in 2007 to 37 per game this season. The offense features a 1,000-yard rusher in Nic Grigsby, and a stud tight end in Rob Gronkowski (10 TDs). Arizona’s defense is allowing only 169.8 passing yards per game this season.
Arizona opened as a 3-point favorite at Pinnacle and most books tracked by Sports Insights. The public is solidly behind the 10-win Cougars with that point spread. BYU is receiving 70% of the public spread bets and 66% of the parlay bets. Some books have seen the line drop to Arizona -2.5, but it has since returned to a 3-point spread across the marketplace. That earlier movement triggered a number of Smart Money plays on Arizona, including one at Bet Jamaica (49-37, +7.35). We’ll follow the Smart Money and take the Wildcats.
Southern Mississippi vs Troy (12/21 8:15P)
Southern Mississippi looked like they would be out of the bowl season for the first time in seven years before a four-game winning streak to end the season made them bowl-eligible. The Golden Eagles set a school single-season record with 5,220 yards of total offense with its spread offense. They feature a balanced attack that averages 238.2 yards through the air and 196.3 yards on the ground. The defense improved greatly over the final stretch of the season. The Golden Eagles had allowed an average of 26.9 points per game before allowing a total of 35 points in the final four wins. Southern Miss committed only 15 turnovers on the season, and they led Conference USA with a +13 turnover margin.
Troy is playing in the New Orleans Bowl for the second time in three seasons following an 8-4 campaign that saw them win the Sun Belt Conference. The Trojans won six of their last eight games behind an offense that averages 33 points. That offense is well-balanced behind 1,000-yard rusher DuJuan Harris and quarterback Levi Brown (14 TD, 3 INT). The defense is allowing under 320 yards per game, including 180.4 yards through the air, and they ended the season allowing a total of 12 points in their final two games.
Troy opened as 4-point favorites at Pinnacle, and line has moved between Troy -4 and -4.5. Other books have seen more fluctuation ranging from Troy -3 to -5. The Trojans are receiving 75% of public spread bets and 84% of parlay bets. Those percentages combined with the line fluctuation has triggered quite a few Betting System plays on Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have received eight Smart Money plays, including from BetOnline (34-22, +8.52 units), Bet Jamaica (49-37, +7.35), and 5Dimes (82-66, +7.96). There was also a Steam Move triggered on Southern Miss at CRIS (59-46, +7.6).
Southern Mississippi +5 (Bodog)
Florida Atlantic vs Central Michigan (12/26 7:30PM)
Florida Atlantic started out the season 1-5, but a huge turnaround saw the Owls win five of its final six to become bowl eligible. FAU finished the regular season with a 57-50 overtime win over Florida International to cap off the season turnaround. Wide receiver Cortez Gent caught three touchdowns in the victory from quarterback Rusty Smith. Senior tailback Charles Pierre is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and needs 63 yards to reach the 1,000 yard mark for the season. FAU’s defense has been up-and-down this season, and they will need to contain Central Michigan’s dual-threat quarterback Dan LeFevour.
Central Michigan was invited to a bowl game for the third-consecutive season, despite allowing more points on the season than they scored. The Chippewas are averaging 30.2 points per game on offense, but they are giving up 30.8 points per game. Quarterback Dan LeFevour is the team’s leading rusher with 536 yards on the season. CMU’s defense suffered down the stretch, and finished the season allowing 56 points to Eastern Michigan. They made just eight interceptions and forced only 7 fumbles on the season.
Central Michigan opened as a 6.5-point favorite at Pinnacle for the Motor City Bowl. The 8-4 Chippewas are receiving the majority of public support with 77% of spread bets and 89% of parlay bets. Despite those percentages, the line has fallen to Central Michigan -6 across the marketplace. That combination has triggered a series of Betting System plays on the Owls, including a pair of Steam Moves at CRIS (59-46, +7.6) and ABC (75-60, +8). We’ll follow the positive steam, and take Florida Atlantic with the points.
Florida Atlantic +6
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 (20-22-3)
Southern Mississippi +5 (Bodog)
Florida Atlantic +6
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
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