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Cowboys back--or are they?

Jeff Fogle
VSiN City newsletter

December 1, 2017 12:59 AM

We close out the week with a recap of Dallas over Washington in the NFL, then both stat and market analysis for Championship Weekend in college football. Let’s get to it!

Thursday NFL: Dallas back from the dead with misleading 38-14 rout of Washington
If you didn’t watch the game (understandable given a matchup of losing teams), the Dallas Cowboys didn’t play nearly as well as the final score makes it look. But, they played well enough to win if you focus on the key fundamental stats like turnovers, third down conversions, and the rushing game. 

Dallas (plus 1.5) 38 Washington 14 
Yards-per-Play: Washington 4.7, Dallas 4.2
Total Yards: Washington 275, Dallas 280
Third Down Pct: Washington 43%, Dallas 50%
Rushing Yards: Washington 56, Dallas 182
Passing Stats: Washington 26-37-2-224, Dallas 11-22-0-93
Turnovers: Washington 4, Dallas 0
Touchdown Drive Lengths: Washington 75-87, Dallas 59-84-75-11

Tough to win a blowout when your quarterback only passes for 93 yards! Dallas was helped by a punt return TD, and that 11-yard drive off a late Washington turnover. 

Washington had injury issues on the offensive line coming in, that were exacerbated as the game went on. That limited the amount of time Kirk Cousins had to throw. He was sacked four times. It’s like Washington dug an early hole…and kept shoveling faster to try to get out. By the end of the night, you couldn’t even see their heads.

Dallas is back to .500 with a 6-6 record. You can’t feel optimistic about a surge to 10-6 given the weak stats above. Opponents won’t keep gifting them that many turnovers from this point forward. Plus, three of the last four games are on the road. Washington is 5-7. Feels like they’re still hungover from the heartbreaking loss at New Orleans three games ago. Not a lot of spark vs. either the Giants or Cowboys since then. Tough to spark with offensive line issues.

College Football: Championship Stat Briefs
Too many big games this weekend for us to dive in deep with our stat previews (all stats from cfbstats.com). We’ve compiled a quickie version that still focuses on yards-per-play and Jeff Sagarin’s strength of schedule rankings from USA Today. We tossed in turnover differential because that number usually adds important context. Teams close to net zero are either turning the ball over too much on offense, or not forcing enough high impact plays on defense. Ironically, teams with high differentials in the mid double digits were probably catching some breaks that won’t continue. Turnover counts are a mix of skill sets and luck. 

MAJOR CONFERENCES
Yards-per-Play/Turnover Differential/Sagarin Strength of Schedule
USC: 6.6 on offense, 5.7 on defense, plus 2, vs. the #26 schedule
Stanford: 6.6 on offense, 5.8 on defense, plus 14, vs. the #16 schedule

Auburn: 6.5 on offense, 4.4 on defense, plus 3, vs. the #15 schedule
Georgia: 6.8 on offense, 4.5 on defense, plus 3, vs. the #48 schedule

Clemson: 6.1 on offense, 4.3 on defense, plus 3, vs. the #11 schedule
Miami: 6.4 on offense, 4.8 on defense, plus 17, vs. the #40 schedule

Ohio State: 7.0 on offense, 4.4 on defense, plus 3, vs. the #42 schedule
Wisconsin: 6.4 on offense, 4.0 on defense, plus 2, vs. the #61 schedule

OU: 8.6 on offense, 5.7 on defense, plus 3, vs. the #36 schedule
TCU: 6.1 on offense, 4.8 on defense, plus 6, vs. the #46 schedule

Current-day betting markets are so analytics-driven that you’re not going to find something obvious in the numbers that everyone else missed. But, that indicator data is good to review. And, if you HAVEN’T been thinking much about stats…what you see above might help you cull one or two coin flips out of an over-aggressive portfolio.

Should you lay such a big number with Clemson when its offense can be mistake-prone under pressure...against a Miami defense that creates disruption? Do you really want to take a shot on Wisconsin when they’re the least battle-tested team on the major slate? 

For those of you who like considering intangibles and classic angles…

  • Revenge teams: Stanford, Georgia, and TCU
  • Defensive dogs: Georgia, Miami, Wisconsin, and TCU

We haven’t talked numbers much for the mid-majors who will be playing for titles Saturday. Let’s take a peek at that data. Be prepared for some horrible schedule strengths!

MID MAJOR CONFERENCES
Yards-per-Play/Turnover Differential/ Sagarin Strength of Schedule
N. Texas: 6.4 on offense, 5.7 on defense, minus 7, vs. the #115 schedule
Fla-Atl: 6.6 on offense, 5.3 on defense, plus 12, vs. the #108 schedule

Memphis: 7.4 on offense, 5.6 on defense, plus 12, vs. the #84 schedule
Cent. Fla: 7.4 on offense, 5.5 on defense, plus 17, vs. the #83 schedule

Toledo: 7.1 on offense, 5.6 on defense, plus 8, vs. the #98 schedule
Akron: 5.0 on offense, 5.8 on defense, plus 7, vs. the #88 schedule

Fresno State: 5.9 on offense, 4.8 on defense, plus 9, vs. the #95 schedule
Boise State: 5.9 on offense, 4.9 on defense, plus 11, vs. the #74 schedule

Some surprisingly close stat lines in three of the four, considering the point spreads in those games. North Texas might be able to hang with FAU if they can avoid turnovers (big if considering their minus 7 differential this season). Memphis may have a real chance to end all the talk about UCF deserving more respect in the Playoff Poll. Fresno State and Boise State are almost virtual clones too, but the Broncos did face a slightly tougher schedule. 

College Football “Market Watch”: Championship Weekend Showdowns
Finishing our day-to-day coverage of the betting markets for all the college football conference championship games. We start with the Power 5, then finish out with the Mid-Majors. 

Pac 12 Championship: USC vs. Stanford in Santa Clara, CA
Opener: USC by 3, total of 57
Tuesday morning: USC by 3.5, total of 59
Wednesday morning: USC by 3.5, total of 58.5 
Thursday morning: USC by 4, total of 58.5
Friday morning: USC by 3.5, total of 58

This will be played Friday night (the rest Saturday). A drop back down off the apex of USC -4. Telling that some sharps decided plus four was likely the best they could get before kickoff. Another tick Under too. Not weather related based on the current forecast for Santa Clara. You’ve often heard Vinny Magliulo and other odds making experts on VSiN say that sharps bet numbers, not teams. Looks like some sharps are on USC -3, others on Stanford plus 4. To a lesser degree, same with Over 57 and Under 59 or 58.5.

(Quick aside…if you use the Don Best website to get college weather, remember that their system auto-reports for the second team listed even if the game is on a neutral field. That’s why you see the weather for Auburn, Alabama even though the SEC Championship game is in a dome in Atlanta, or why you see the weather for Norman, Oklahoma even though the game is in a dome in Dallas). 

SEC Championship: Auburn vs. Georgia in Atlanta, GA
Opener: Auburn by 3, total of 51
Tuesday morning: Auburn by 2.5, total of 49
Wednesday morning: Auburn by 2.5, total of 49
Thursday morning: Auburn by 2.5, total of 48
Friday morning: Auburn by 2, total of 48

The line here is now down to Auburn -2 at many shops. Obviously, sharps couldn’t like the favorite if the line is moving in that fashion away from the key number of three. Monitor the markets up until kickoff to see if any Auburn support shows up. For now, Georgia is the sharp side, and pro bettors would be ecstatic if the public hit Auburn enough to bring Georgia plus 3 back into play.

ACC Championship: Clemson vs. Miami in Charlotte, NC
Opener: Clemson by 7.5, total of 48
Tuesday morning: Clemson by 9.5, total of 47.5
Wednesday morning: Clemson by 9, total of 47.5
Thursday morning: Clemson by 9.5, total of 46.5
Friday morning: Clemson by 9.5, total of 46.5. 

No change since the initial adjustment after Miami’s most recent injury news. Safe to assume a rise to the key number of 10 would bring in sharp underdog interest. Will the public lay this many points, or leave the game alone? 

Big Ten Championship: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin in Indianapolis, IN
Opener: Ohio State by 5.5, total of 53.5
Tuesday morning: Ohio State by 6, total of 53
Wednesday morning: Ohio State by 6.5, total of 52
Thursday morning: Ohio State by 6.5, total of 52.5
Friday morning: Ohio State by 6, total of 51

Wisconsin money started coming in Thursday when delayed news broke that Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett underwent knee surgery Sunday to remove part of his torn meniscus. Some stores are back to the opener of Ohio State by only 5.5. There was always dog interest lurking here. News of the surgery made it much less likely the public would drive the game all the way to the key number of seven. Those interested in the dog jumped on plus 6.5, and some are still taking plus 6. The total dropped 1.5 points on the news, and is now down 2.5 points from the opener.

Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma vs. TCU in Arlington, TX
Opener: Oklahoma by 7, total of 61.5
Tuesday morning: Oklahoma by 7, total of 63.5
Wednesday morning: Oklahoma by 7, total of 63.5
Thursday morning: Oklahoma by 7, total of 63.5
Friday morning: Oklahoma by 7, total of 63.5

Still quiet on the Southwestern front. Would still anticipate lurking dog interest from sharps to express itself at some point. It’s waiting to see of plus 7.5 shows up. 

Moving to the mid-majors…

Conference USA Championship: North Texas at Florida Atlantic
Opener: Florida Atlantic by 10, total of 74.5
Wednesday morning: Florida Atlantic by 10.5, total of 74
Thursday morning: Florida Atlantic by 11, total of 74
Friday morning: Florida Atlantic by 11, total of 74

To the degree there’s variance in the market, it’s some stores posting FAU by 11.5, and some totals sitting at 73.5. Probably won’t be a heavily bet game from the public…but will draw some interest just because the schedule’s so light. 

American Athletic Championship: Memphis at Central Florida
Opener: UCF by 7, total of 81
Wednesday morning: UCF by 7, total of 82
Thursday morning: UCF by 7, total of 83
Friday morning: UCF by 7, total of 81

Total has come back down. Still sitting on the seven. We should mention that the winner of this game wins a berth in a “New Year’s 6” bowl game, (likely the Chick-Fil-A Bowl). Still parallel to TCU/OU in that dog money is waiting to see if it can grab a hook. 

Mid-American Championship: Toledo vs. Akron in Detroit, MI
Opener: Toledo by 18.5, total of 54
Wednesday morning: Toledo by 21.5, total of 57.5
Thursday morning: Toledo by 21.5, total of 57.5
Friday morning: Toledo by 21.5, total of 58.5 

Total jumped a point in the last day, with that 58.5 fairly solid across the spectrum. 

Mountain West Championship: Fresno State at Boise State
Opener: Boise State by 8.5, total of 48
Wednesday morning: Boise State by 8.5, total of 49
Thursday morning: Boise State by 8.5, total of 50
Friday morning: Boise State by 9, total of 50

Now a solid nine everywhere, with a few stores testing Boise State -9.5. Some are also posting 50.5 for the total. Plenty of time for public interest to push the line to the key number of 10. Sharps would come in pretty hard on the dog should that happen. Not much of a Fresno constituency showing itself yet. 

Be sure you watch VSiN programming Friday and Saturday for all the latest developments behind the counter and out in the field. A great array of special guests are on tap. We hope you enjoyed our monitoring of the markets through Championship Week here in VSiN City. Best of luck in the games!

Thursday College Basketball: Michigan State saves face for Big Ten in challenge victory over Notre Dame of the ACC
We promised to run the numbers from this game to wrap up this week’s inter-conference challenge. The Big Ten got waxed overall by the ACC (11-3 straight up, 9-4-1 ATS for the ACC). But, the BEST team in the Big Ten still looked like Final Four material. Notre Dame, on the other hand, reminded everyone why softness inside often takes down Mike Brey coached teams in spotlight showdowns.  

#3 Michigan State (-6.5) 81, #5 Notre Dame 63
Two-Point Pct: Notre Dame 44%, Michigan State 56%
Three-Pointers: Notre Dame 8/18, Michigan State 9/21
Free Throws: Notre Dame 7/10, Michigan State 10/14
Rebounds: Notre Dame 21, Michigan State 42
Turnovers: Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 13

Wow…a 2-1 rebounding advantage in a major college game! Sparty owned the paint and the glass in dominant fashion. Notre Dame shot a respectable 44% on treys (the same as 66% on deuces), yet still lost by almost 20 points. 

Michigan State just crushed North Carolina in Portland last weekend. Its only loss in a 6-1 start to the season was to #1 Duke on a neutral floor in a game that was nip and tuck until the final few minutes. Coach Izzo’s squad is already legit, and his teams have a history of improving throughout a season. A lot to love about this collection of talent.

Notre Dame had great trip to Maui, coming from way behind to shock powerful Wichita State in the tournament finals. They are capable of great things when everything clicks. But, Coach Brey teams are prone to being bullied by quality. That was certainly on display in East Lansing. 

Michigan State moves to 5-2 against the spread, despite entering the season as a projected superpower. Sometimes the market overprices the most hyped teams. Not the case with either Michigan State or #1 Duke. Those two are a combined 10-2 ATS when not playing each other.

Notre Dame falls to 3-2 ATS. Will be interesting to see how the “market” Power Ratings settle in the ACC once all those good teams start playing each other. 

Another week in the books.

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Follow the latest from VSiN this weekend by downloading our app, and by following us on twitter. If you have any comments or questions about anything in the VSiN universe, please drop us a note or post your thoughts in the Facebook widget below. 

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