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 4
Recapping Week 3
This is our first year providing the NCAA Football Marketwatch, and we have suffered our first losing week. We started out 5-1 for the first two weeks, but dropped two of three games last week to bring our overall record to 6-3. We took a close loss last Friday with South Florida blowing a 14-point lead in the final 10 minutes, only to have them win by three when we were laying 3.5. Saturday’s BYU pick was a win before halftime, as the Cougars went up 42-0, while only laying 7.5 points to UCLA. Our third Game to Watch looked good at halftime, but Rice couldn’t stay with Vandy in the second half causing our first losing week. All in all, we’re still up on the season, and are looking to bounce back with a winning record in week 4.
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Overall = 6-3 = 66.6%
NCAA WEEK 3
Heading into Week 3, the top-5 match up between Ohio State and Southern Cal was drawing the majority of the media’s attention. That game wasn’t nearly as entertaining as many of the weekend’s other clashes, such as Kansas versus South Florida and Georgia versus South Carolina. This week only features two match ups with a pair of top-25 teams, and one of those comes from the lowly ACC. No. 18 Wake Forest travels to Tallahassee to take on No. 24 Florida State. The other top-25 showdown takes place in the SEC, with LSU traveling to take on Auburn (more on this game later.) Even without the marquis top-25 matchups of last week, there are some interesting market moves taking place. We’re glad to have the college teams back battling on the way to the BCS Championship Game in Miami.
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.
We’re expecting lots of action on the top-25 face-offs, as well as the Florida-Tennessee and Alabama-Arkansas SEC battles. Visit SportsInsights.com to view wagering statistics on NCAA games from multiple online sportsbooks. Here are a trio of line value games we are keying on.
NCAA Sports MarketWatch Week 4 – Games to Watch
Vanderbilt vs Mississippi (9/20 7P)
Vanderbilt is a small surprise early in the season with a 3-0 record, including a home upset of then No.24 ranked South Carolina. The Commodores have an offense dominated by the running game. Quarterback Chris Nickson has more rushing attempts (49) and rushing yards (268) than pass attempts (45) and passing yards (252). He has also rushed for 5 touchdowns, while only tossing two TDs to his receivers. Senior Sean Walker leads all receivers with six catches for 93 yards. Running back Jared Hawkins is Vandy’s second-leading rusher with 242 yards on 50 carries, including 107 yards last week in a win over Rice. The Commodores defense isn’t the strength of the team, as they are allowing over 350 yards of total offense per game.
Mississippi is off to a good start in Head Coach Houston Nutt’s first season. Two easy wins and a road loss to No. 18 Wake Forest on a last-second field goal, have the Rebels feeling pretty good as they seek their first SEC win since November of 2006. The Rebels are putting up points with Nutt’s unorthodox offensive system that likes to spread the ball and confuse defenses. Texas transfer Javon Snead has looked good, but not great, behind center, and he is coming off his worst performance for Ole Miss after throwing no TDs and two interceptions against Samford. The Rebels are averaging over 400 yards of offense per game.
This game features two teams that have made previous appearances in this column and a pretty big line movement since opening as Mississippi -5 at Pinnacle. The Rebels are currently laying 7 points to the Commodores across the board, even with Vandy garnering 60% of the public bets. That kind of movement with the public backing the underdog indicates the Sharps are giving up the points to take the home team. We tend to follow those guys here at Sports Marketwatch, so why change now? We’ll go against Vandy for a second straight week, and hope Ole Miss comes through for us again.
Mississippi –6.5 (Sports Interaction)
LSU vs Arkansas (9/20 7:45PM)
LSU has dominated two underdogs by scoring 41 points in both of its first two games. They will get a much stiffer test as the open SEC play traveling to Auburn. The Bayou Bengals individual numbers don’t look that impressive until you notice how many players are making contributions on offense. They are averaging 445 yards per game on offense, including 241 on the ground. The defense is a strength for this team. They’ve limited opponents from putting points on the board, but they only created one turnover against lesser teams Appalachian State and North Texas. LSU will be without defensive cornerstone LB Darry Beckwith after he suffered a knee injury last week. The Bayou Bengals have also committed 14 penalties in their two contests in 2008.
Auburn is coming off one of the lowest scoring games in the history of college football, a 3-2 win against Mississippi State last Saturday. The Tigers have only given up 15 points in their three games this season; two coming from last week’s safety and seven from a Southern Mississippi touchdown following an Auburn turnover. That leaves six points that can be placed on the defense’s shoulder through tree games. They are allowing only 53 rushing yards per game to opponents. Auburn is still adjusting to the spread offense implemented during the off-season, and it showed during last week’s sloppy performance against the Bulldogs. The Tigers feature a pair of talented running backs in Ben Tate and Brad Lester.
Early action from the public loves defending champ LSU, who are receiving 84% of bets. The line has moved from an opening of LSU -1.5 to -2.5 at Pinnacle. Their combination of offense and defense makes them attractive against what looks like a one-sided Auburn team. Well, here at the Marketwatch, we like going against the public and this game has some history on that side. The home team has won this matchup eight consecutive times, and 11 of the previous 18 games have been decided by a touchdown or less, including the last four. We’re thinking this one will be nail-biter, so we’re taking the home team with the points.
Auburn +3 (Sports Interaction)
Florida vs Tennessee (9/20 3:30P)
Florida came into the season as a championship contender, and the Gators have done nothing to show otherwise so far in 2008. Led by returning Heisman winner Tim Tebow, Florida has stormed out of the gate scoring 82 points in its first two games, while allowing only 13 points to Hawaii and Miami (FL). They come off a bye week, giving them extra time before opening SEC play on the road. This is a team in the spotlight, and they tend to put up lots of points, which draws the public’s interest.
Tennessee bounced back from the UCLA upset with a 35-3 win over Alabama-Birmingham last week. The Volunteers put up 548 yards of total offense, including 266 on the ground. Stud running back Adrian Foster only ran the ball 12 times for 100 yards against the Blazers, a sign of good health for the Tennessee running game overall. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton also looked more comfortable against the UAB than he did in the season opener, completing 19 of 31 pass attempts for 240 yards. The Volunteers defense also made three interceptions last week to give them seven through two games.
Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer hasn’t beaten Florida since Urban Meyer took over in Gainseville, and many people think this is a make-or-break season for Fulmer. He gets the No. 4 Gators at home as a chance to make a statement. Florida’s flash has the public backing them with 80% of bets, but the line has jumped back-and-forth from Florida -7.5 and -7 since opening at Pinnacle. We’ll go against the public and take the home team getting 7.5 points.
So, here’s a wrap-up of SportsInsights.com analysis for this week’s Games to Watch for NCAA Football Week 4.
Games to Watch (6-3)
Mississippi –6.5 (Sports Interaction)
Auburn +3 (Sports Interaction)
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