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Most one-sided bowl? Check

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

December 20, 2017 12:01 AM

Lane Kiffin ran up the score, although he must not have known what the over/under was.
© USA Today Sports Images

Florida Atlantic kicks off weekday bowl action by crushing Akron. Details, plus a college football “Market Watch” and bonus basketball right now in VSiN City. 

College Bowls: Boca Raton Bowl reminds everyone that coach Lane Kiffin loves running up the score
This was likely to be the worst of the 2017-18 bowl games coming in. Maybe “Cheribundi” is French for “change the channel.” (Hope that joke wasn’t too tart.)

Florida Atlantic (-22) 50, Akron 3
Yards-per-Play: Akron 2.5, Florida Atlantic 6.8
Total Yardage: Akron 146, Florida Atlantic 582
Third Down Pct: Akron 20%, Florida Atlantic 25%
Turnovers: Akron 0, Florida Atlantic 0
Rushing Yards: Akron 69, Florida Atlantic 312
Passing Stats: Akron 10-21-0-77, Florida Atlantic 19-26-0-270
TD Drive Lengths Akron no TDs, Florida Atlantic 79-75-87-52-40-75-56

Not much handicapping help in there for future bowls. None will be this one-sided. Though, it’s probably worth remembering that coaching histories can matter in the postseason. Kiffin’s love of posting big offensive totals isn’t exactly a secret. FAU went for a two-point conversion up 34-3 in the third quarter. He didn’t have his offense take any knees in the final seconds. He had them hurry up to run one more play when everyone could have been shaking hands. Local lore has it that “Boca Raton” is more accurately translated as “inlet of thieves,” though Kiffin’s general demeanor makes the literal “mouth of a rat” seem fitting. 

FAU finishes the season 11-3 straight up, and 10-4 against the spread. Akron falls to 7-7, but did cover 9 of 14 games because they usually weren’t quite as bad as the market thought. Brutal spot for the outmanned Zips here, having to play out of climate on a loaded opponent’s home field. 

Quick reminder before we check early betting on bowl games being played Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, that our “VSiN Bowl Guide” is loaded with helpful stats and trends for all the remaining action. We’ve only just begun! More than 30 games are still ahead. Don’t forget that Brett Musburger and Steve Makinen made side and total selections in every matchup (Steve’s out to an early lead). Just $19.99 gets you this must-have digital publication. As you probably know, it’s automatic with any subscription to Point Spread Weekly. Pay $49.99 to receive that weekly through the Super Bowl. 

College Football Bowls: “Market Watch” for Frisco, Gasparilla, Bahamas, and Idaho bowls
It’s still mid-majors through the week…but we’re not likely to see any blowouts as ugly as Tuesday night’s. Let’s see how early money has hit the board in the next four games on the slate. 

Wednesday: Frisco Bowl (in Frisco, TX)
Opening Line: SMU -5.5 over Louisiana Tech, total of 70
Current Line: SMU -4 over Louisiana Tech, total of 71

SMU will have a “home crowd,” but the game itself is being played at an MLS soccer stadium not too far from campus. Smart money believed SMU was a touch overpriced at earlier numbers. Vegas shops are either at SMU -4 or -4.5 as of late Tuesday night. This line is in the dead zone between the 3 and the 7. It would be a surprise if the game veered out of that range before kickoff. Not the kind of matchup that generates intense public betting interest. 

Thursday: Gasparilla Bowl (in St. Petersburg)
Opening Line: Temple -8 over Florida International, total of 56
Current Line: Temple -7 over Florida International, total of 56

FIU gets to play in its home state. But Miami is about 250 miles across the peninsula from St. Pete, so its still a hike for fans. Smart money preferred this underdog, and came in early because there wasn’t much expectation the public would jump on the favorite in a meaningful way. Even at the key number of seven, there hasn’t been much interest on Temple from public or smart money. That’s good evidence that FIU is the “sharp side” at anything higher than seven.

Friday: Bahamas Bowl (in Nassau)
Opening Line: Ohio -7.5 over UAB, total of 57
Current Line: Ohio -7.5 over UAB, total of 58.5

The line hasn’t exactly been frozen at -7.5. Stores testing anything higher or lower see action that brings it back. You hear the South Point oddsmakers say often on VSiN programming that “sharps bet numbers” rather than teams. Looks like Ohio -7 and UAB plus 8 are the brackets for early sharp influences. The total is up a bit. The first two bowl games at this site landed on 97 and 76. But last year’s game was just a 24-20 win for Old Dominion over Eastern Michigan. 

Friday: Idaho Potato Bowl (in Boise)
Opening Line: Wyoming -1 over Central Michigan, total of 45
Current Line: Wyoming -3 over Central Michigan, total of 46

It’s going to be a sub-freezing afternoon based on current forecasts. But these are cold weather teams who aren’t likely to be affected. You can tell that sharps liked Wyoming at anything below a field goal. The Cowboys played on the fabled blue turf back in mid-October, losing 24-14. Quarterback Josh Allen is “aiming” to play in the game according to media reports, as he continues to recover from a late-season shoulder injury. That early market support seems to be expressing optimism. Allen is on the 2018 NFL draft watch list for many pro franchises. 

NFL News: Aaron Rodgers put back on injured reserve with Packers eliminated
Not a surprise that the Green Bay Packers have put Aaron Rodgers back on the shelf as he recovers from a collarbone injury. They were eliminated from playoff contention Monday night when Atlanta defeated Tampa Bay. Las Vegas sportsbooks have Minnesota as a 9-point road favorite Saturday evening at Lambeau against backup quarterback Brett Hundley. 

On our estimated “market” Power Rating scale, that will put Minnesota at 85, Green Bay at 73 (accounting for GB’s home field advantage). The Packers were trending a bit higher than that in Hundley’s last two starts against Cleveland (-3 on the road) and Tampa Bay (-3 at home). Minnesota might be getting some line respect for “need” because they’re still trying to win the #1 seed in the NFC, while Green Bay has nothing to play for.  

Tutorial: Do sharps win by “fading the public?”
You’ve probably heard variations of “fade the public” for years if you’ve been following sports betting. It’s becoming more of a mantra of late because new media entities are covering the field in anticipation of legalized sports betting. It’s much easier to emphasize “fade the public” as a theme than it is to tell your audience “work 60 hours a week studying stats and skill sets so you have a chance to be slightly better than the market.” 

The more mainstream media outlets jump into this pool…the more the most simplified storylines are going to float. If sports betting becomes legal everywhere, even your local news channels will suddenly have “experts” spouting. 

While its true that professional wagerers do often find themselves in opposition to the public on a game, that isn’t because they’ve embraced a “fade the public” strategy. It’s not like…oddsmakers post the opening line…and all the sharps say “OK guys, let’s wait to see who the public bets so we can fade it!” 

If sharps have an initial grading to a favorite, they bet BEFORE the public to maximize their line value. Say, the New England Patriots open -7, and quants and other “wise guys” think -8 is the better number. They don’t wait to see if the public pushes the game to -9 so they can “fade the public” and bet the dog. Sharps jump right in on the Pats at -7 because that’s a key number. The line will move to -7.5 or maybe even -8 before the public even has a chance to bet. Now, if the line does go all the way to -9 or higher, some syndicates might then take the dog for value. Sharps bet numbers, not teams. 

What’s more common is that sharps are either close to the opener themselves, or get an early grading to the dog…but want to wait to let the public’s love of betting favorites move the line higher. This money waits for line moves to happen…then either bets on the value that’s created by the move, or bets bigger on well-positioned dogs

Imagine a football favorite opens at -2.5. Sharp modeling shows the game as a true pick-em. A coin flip. They could bet plus 2.5 right away. But 1 and 2 aren’t very common finishing margins, while getting plus 3 would be nice insurance (losing by three is now a push instead of a loss). Sharps will wait to see if public interest on the favorite pushes the game to the magic number. 

Technically, that is “fading the public.” It’s about the NUMBER, not the team though. If, in that example, the public surprisingly liked the dog, and the line came down to “favorite -1,” sharps wouldn’t jump on the favorite to “fade the public.” They made the game pick-em themselves. It’s a pass. 

How sharps bet the market can be summarized like this:

  • If sharps have a grading on the FAVORITE at the opening price, they bet quickly in advance of the public.
  • If sharps have a grading on the DOG, they’ll wait to see if they can get a higher number unless they’re convinced the public won’t bet that favorite (maybe it’s an ugly NFL team laying points, or a mid-major college team in a bowl that won’t drive public betting). 
  • If sharps have a grading that matches the opening line, they leave the game alone unless a subsequent line move based on public betting creates new value. 

It’s true that sharps are often in opposition to the public. But they’re not waiting to see who the public likes so they can fade them. Sharps have their own number in mind before oddsmakers post the openers. They’re ready to bet those openers if needed. If your personal strategy is to “fade the public,” you’re missing out on those early opportunities. 

Tuesday College Basketball: Sharps pound Northern Kentucky at Texas A&M
We had this game on our radar anyway because Northern Kentucky got close to putting on a glass slipper in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. In a #15 vs. #2 matchup against Kentucky, the Norse (you remember that nickname, don’t you!) only trailed by seven points with two minutes to go as a 20-point underdog.

A chance to make headlines again here against another SEC team. An opening line of Texas A&M -14.5 was bet all the way down to -11.5. The public doesn’t influence mid-December weeknight point spreads much in this sport (particularly by betting unheralded underdogs in games that aren’t nationally televised). It’s mostly “oddsmakers vs. sharps.” Score one for the sharps. 

#8 Texas A&M (-11.5) 64, Northern Kentucky 58
Two-Point Pct: N. Kentucky 46% Texas A&M 50%
Three Pointers: N. Kentucky 7/28, Texas A&M 2/20
Free Throws: N. Kentucky 5/12, Texas A&M 16/23
Rebounds: N. Kentucky 39, Texas A&M 48
Turnovers: N. Kentucky 9, Texas A&M 12
Kenpom/Sagarin/BPI Rankings: N. Kentucky 86-90-85, Texas A&M 4-10-18

Before we get to the stats, you can see that Norther Kentucky is in the top 100 according to all three of the computer ratings we monitor. That’s in the range that can do damage as a dog in the Dance if the Norse can earn a return trip. Texas A&M was as high as #4 in the eyes of Ken Pomeroy. The Aggies didn’t play that way Tuesday.

The key stat was three-pointers, even though neither team shot well. Northern Kentucky was plus 15 points from behind the arc because the Aggies couldn’t throw it in the Brazos from long range. That means A&M was plus 21 points on everything else, while also winning the battle of the boards fairly handily. Perhaps some home cooking helped juice those free throw counts. 

Other close college basketball results worth mentioning from Tuesday night...

#9 Xavier (-19) only beat Marshall 81-77
#11 Wichita State (-29) only beat Arkansas State 89-80
Notre Dame (-27) only beat Dartmouth 97-87
UCLA (-7.5) only beat South Dakota 85-82
Alabama (-8) only beat Mercer 80-79
Missouri (-13.5) only beat Stephen F. Austin 82-81

Wichita State was coming off a poor defensive game over the weekend, and allowed 50 first half points to a huge underdog! The Shockers have failed to cover three of their last four, missing the market in the last two by 15 and 20. 

Notre Dame keeps showing up on our lists of underachievers. The Irish are 1-4 ATS their last five boarded games, including outright losses to Ball State and disappointing Indiana. Maybe ND and Wichita State both caught something in Hawaii when they faced each other in the Maui finals. 

UCLA is 3-8 ATS this season (though it would have been 4-7 ATS if not for overtime at Michigan). The best form of the Bruins may still be riding back on a slow boat from China. 

Tuesday NBA: Milwaukee Bucks end 5-game losing streak to Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James outscored the Greek Freak 39-27. But James only had one rebound (!) while turning the ball over seven times. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 14 rebounds and only three giveaways as the Bucks held off the Cavs as a home underdog. 

Milwaukee (plus 1) 119 Cleveland 116 
Two-Point Pct: Cleveland 62%, Milwaukee 60%
Three Pointers: Cleveland 16/41, Milwaukee 11/29
Free Throws: Cleveland 20/24, Milwaukee 22/27
Rebounds: Cleveland 37, Milwaukee 41
Turnovers: Cleveland 14, Milwaukee 14

Not a lot of inside defense. Milwaukee won “made two-pointers” 32-24, which is why they got the win. Cleveland had the slightly higher inside percentage…but wasn’t able to get open looks inside as often (which you can deduce from its 41 three-point attempts!).

Cleveland falls to 23-9 (11-20-1 against the spread). Milwaukee is 16-13 (12-13-4 ATS). 

Also in the NBA Tuesday:
Washington (-2) beat New Orleans 116-106 (ending a skid of five straight non-covers)
Sacramento (plus 8.5) upset Philadelphia 101-95 (Sixers now 1-6-1 ATS their last eight)

That’s it for Wednesday. Back with you Thursday to recap the key stats from the Frisco Bowl matching SMU and Louisiana Tech. We’ll also get caught up with our estimated “market” Power Ratings in the NBA. Don’t forget that VSiN City will run seven-days-a-week through the bowls…which means special Saturday and Sunday editions this coming holiday weekend. 

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