Sharp roundtable: Three pro bettors talk college football Week 7

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

October 15, 2022 06:38 AM
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Week 7 of the college football season is here and it comes with a lot of uncertainty. Quarterback injuries are impacting several teams and coaches aren’t always the most forthcoming with information. Some speak in tongues and you have to try to decipher what they’re saying.

For bettors who believe the number is everything, volatility can create value, but misleading language from a coach could also mean locking in a bad bet. I asked three sharp bettors — Brad Powers from BradPowersSports.com, Kyle Hunter from HunterSportsPicks.com and Collin Wilson from Action Network — about that topic and more heading into Week 7.

The big story this week is quarterback injuries. How do you evaluate those and will you speculate on status to try and get ahead of the market?

Brad Powers: With regard to QB injuries, it is always a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, I don't stay away or wait for confirmation. I speculate and bet. But, it usually comes down to three things for me:

1. Do I have inside information? It is very rarely the case, but last week I did have inside info on Kentucky QB Will Levis being out and obviously I fired one of my biggest bets of the year on South Carolina.

2. Usually there are leading indicators in the market. I feel like I have a good handle on what a QB is worth to the point spread and I post all of these ratings in my summer guide. Therefore, I can usually tell just by the line if the QB is probable, questionable or doubtful. Also, the market will tip its hand from time to time as limits open up throughout the week.

3. Do I have a prior position that I would like to hedge back? If this is the case, I don't stay away or wait for confirmation, I'll just fire.

Kyle Hunter: Quarterbacks have become even more important through the years as the game has evolved. I rarely speculate on the status of a quarterback unless I believe there is asymmetric risk on the number put on the game. If I already leaned toward the Under and I think a key quarterback will either miss the game or be less than 100%, I try to grab the Under early. More often than not, I will stay away from a game with a high-profile quarterback injury question mark.

Collin Wilson: With quarterback info, you have to know the specific team’s practice schedule and the beat reporters on the scene. News about Will Levis, Bryce Young and Dillon Gabriel would move the market within 15 minutes of news. The same is even happening this weekend with Illinois, where rumors about Tommy DeVito have moved the market and the line should cross 7 once confirmed.

Looks like we’ve got some wind in the Midwest for the MAC and Big Ten games, which has driven down a few totals. When do you start paying attention to the weather and how much do you factor it in relative to your projections?

Powers: Obviously, as we get toward the middle of October and head toward November, a lot of the edges start to dry up. So you're looking for new ways to attack market inefficiencies. As the weather starts to turn for the worse in the north, playing Unders on weather totals is something I do and look for quite regularly. However, I've been burned in the past on these when firing early in the week, and I usually wait until 48 hours prior to kickoff now even if I don't get the absolute best number. I'm looking for at least 15 mph wind.

Hunter: I start paying attention to the weather as soon as the lines come out the previous weekend, but I'm not going to place a bet solely because of a weather forecast that far away from kickoff. Sometimes, it will keep me off an Over or a favorite if I see the potential for bad weather. 

The problem with the marketplace now is that everyone wants to get ahead of the expected line move in "weather games" and the movement occurs so much earlier than it did even three or four years ago. In the past, you could place a bet on Wednesday for a Saturday game and you would be in before the majority of the line move. Now, if it is a major storm system and you don't bet it until Wednesday (think Hurricane Ian), you are too late and the line has already moved 6 or 8 points. 

I have made a lot of money taking windy Unders, especially in college football, through the years. When there is a combination of wind and rain or wind and snow, I am still trying to find reasons not to bet the Under in that game. 

Weather isn't a perfect science and there is no perfect science for how much a game should be adjusted due to bad weather. I do think it is important to keep in mind that teams who typically rely heavily on the passing game are going to be affected more than a team who plays a ground-and-pound type of game. The marketplace usually paints these with a broad brush rather than adjusting more for pass-heavy teams who aren't as efficient in the run game.

Wilson: Sustained winds over 20 mph have resulted in a heavy amount of Unders with more than a decade of sample size. It’s more important to know the direction of the wind. Some stadiums have wind that goes end zone to end zone, affecting more of the field-goal game. Crosswinds from sideline to sideline have an extreme effect not just on kickers, but quarterbacks with subpar passing strength.

Which touchdown-or-more underdog has the best chance at an upset this week (and why)?

Powers: Kent State + 7.5 (+ 250 ML) over Toledo. The Golden Flashes have played a tough schedule that includes Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia. Their stats aren't that bad considering they are only -2.5 points per game, -5.5 yards per game and -0.2 yards per play. They've been better than the final in their conference games so far, especially the Ohio game. Meanwhile, Toledo is off a very fortunate win. The Rockets were + 4 in turnovers versus Northern Illinois and got a pair of defensive TDs. I'm not sure that can replicate itself here.

Hunter: I'm going to take Duke as an underdog in the + 220 moneyline range that has a shot to win outright. I know going into this that there is a chance North Carolina runs away and hides in this game. At the same time, North Carolina ranks 125th out of 131 teams in success rate allowed on defense. That type of defense can keep the opposition in the game. Duke is coming off a humbling loss to Georgia Tech, and I think the Duke coaching staff is the superior staff in this matchup. There are a lot of potential outcomes here, but the reward is worth the risk in my opinion.

Wilson: Bowling Green (+ 7, + 220 ML), who throws more on standard downs than about any other team in the MAC. Miami of Ohio has been stellar against ground attacks, but the pass defense is outside the top 100 in coverage and pass rush.

What’s your favorite bet of the week (and why)?

Powers: Favorite side bet I made was San Jose State -4 (now -8.5) versus Fresno State. Favorite total bet I made was Colorado State/Utah State Under 54 (Circa opener; now 45.5).

At the current lines, my favorite bet is Western Michigan + 1. I don't understand the love for Ohio. Western Michigan's defense allows 1.2 fewer YPP, 176 fewer YPG and 10 fewer PPG than Ohio, and that's with playing a tougher schedule. Defensive home underdogs are typically a favorite type of bet for me in conference play.

Hunter: Iowa State (got + 17 but looks like 16.5 most places now). The Texas Longhorns are a really good team. I rate them highly and will bet on them in future spots this season, but this is a really tough situational spot for the Longhorns. They just throttled Oklahoma 49-0, and they go to Stillwater to take on a good Oklahoma State team next weekend. If there was a game they might overlook and just get out with a win, it would be this one against Iowa State. Matt Campbell is 28-14 ATS as an underdog of three points or more. This is a lot of points to be catching with a low total as well.

Wilson: Alabama (currently -7) with Bryce Young, or Under (currently 65.5) if Jalen Milroe plays. Tennessee is near dead last in coverage grading on defense against a schedule of two MAC teams, a backup at Pitt and Anthony Richardson’s arm (Florida). 

If Young cannot go, the Tennessee defense has been excellent against the rush, which will create stops against Milroe. On the other side, the Alabama defense has stepped up. Will Anderson had 10 pressures last week against the Texas A&M offensive line. Their corners and safeties are some of the highest-graded lockdown defenders, with enough depth to shut down Tennessee’s wideouts.

The regular season is halfway done after this week. Are there any good bets out there for the College Football Playoff?

Powers: The only playoff bet I'd consider making right now is Ohio State at 2-1 or better to win it all at Circa. The defensive improvements are legitimate for the Buckeyes under new DC Jim Knowles. They should be getting healthier at the skill positions, including the return of WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba and RB TreVeyon Henderson, two of the best players in the country at their respective positions. I already think the Buckeyes are the best offense in the country without them. They have the Heisman favorite at QB, the best offensive coach in Ryan Day and a schedule that should see them a double-digit favorite in every game.

Hunter: I haven't personally bet a single team to win the title yet this year. The fact that there are three teams who are clearly the cream of the crop makes it more difficult to find value in my opinion. If I were going to place a wager on a future now, I would take a small flier on Clemson since their schedule is so much weaker than most of the other top teams the rest of the way.

Wilson: Clemson has the easiest remaining schedule in comparison to Michigan and others looking to make the playoff. The Tigers are on upset alert against the Seminoles, but a loss will have zero impact on their ability to win the ACC as a one-loss team. Clemson is an immediate buy if they lose to FSU.

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