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World Cup goes from long shot to no shot for U.S.

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

October 11, 2017 12:01 AM

Unbelievable soccer shocker! Plus, Tuesday’s rain is Wednesday’s gain as baseball fans can bet a crucial playoff doubleheader in divisional action. 

Soccer Shocker: USA eliminated from World Cup qualifying with 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago

There are upsets…and then there are UPSETS!

The USA was favored by 1.5 goals (with an additional -115 vig in the Asian handicap) Tuesday night on the road in its final matchup in CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 World Cup to be held next summer in Russia. It’s not that uncommon for favorites of that size to lose (US favored at roughly -385 to win on the three-way market). But the ramifications of the USA’s 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago are staggering. 

THE USA WON’T BE PLAYING IN THE 2018 WORLD CUP

This despite playing in a region where qualifying should be automatic. The USA and Mexico should have a cakewalk. Costa Rica is usually the best of the rest, while often being right up there with the two main powers. Costa Rica and Mexico are heading to Russia. The USA is not, for the first time since 1986. Los Ticos and El Tri will be joined in Russia by Panama. Honduras also has a chance to qualify if it wins an elimination game with Australia next month. 

Heading into the day, the USA was priced anywhere from 80/1 to 150/1 to win the 2018 World Cup. They weren’t seen as a serious contender, particularly with their recent form. Mexico is currently 66/1 at many offshore sites…probably representing a peak of what the USA might have reached had they qualified and shown improvement in pre-Cup friendlies. 

An interesting side note courtesy of VSiN City’s international sharp soccer sources. The exact trio of Tuesday results needed to knock the USA out…Panama defeating Costa Rica (by a score of 2-1), Honduras defeating Mexico (3-2), and T&T defeating the USA (2-1)…would have paid just under 75/1 in a three-team parlay at Pinnacle. Roughly the same odds as the USA winning in Russia. The Tuesday night sequence that eliminated the US was as unlikely as the US becoming World Champions. 

This will likely be a big blow to TV ratings for FOX. Darren Rovell tweeted Tuesday night that FOX had paid $200 million for English language rights to the 2018 World Cup. Games involving the US usually draw very high domestic numbers in that quadrennial event. Nevada sports books will also be disappointed. While the World Cup will still be a summer attraction during normally quiet months (June 14 through July 15), foot traffic will be hurt by the absence of the US team. 

MLB Playoffs: Game 4 of Nats/Cubs, followed by Game 5 of Yankees/Indians on wild Wednesday

This was supposed to be a day off in the National League brackets. Either the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs were to be travelling back to the nation’s capital for a deciding fifth game…or the Cubs would be on their way to Los Angeles to start the NLSC against the Dodgers.

Foul weather spoiled the schedule. The teams will be back at it Wednesday.

Washington at the Chicago Cubs (4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT on TBS)

  • Money line: Chicago Cubs -160, Washington plus 150
  • Over/Under: 7.5 (Under -115)

As of late Tuesday, no pitching changes. Dusty Baker has said he was still going with Tanner Roark because Stephen Strasburg wasn’t feeling well. Strasburg would start Game 5 if the series goes that far. Game 3 starter Max Scherzer is available for a Game 4 relief appearance thanks to the weather delay. A quick recap of our pitching preview stats. 

  • Roark (Nats): 4.67 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
  • Arrieta (Cubs): 3.53 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

You’ll recall that Arrieta looked more impressive in the classic stats, but the “three true outcome” stats were very tight. 

  • Roark (Nats): 4.15 xFIP, 21.4 K%, 8.3 BB%, 1.14 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Arrieta (Cubs): 4.11 xFIP, 23.1K%, 7.8 BB%, 1.23 HR’s per 9 IP

Fangraphs (our source for all analytics stats) posted an article Tuesday remarking on the similarities between Roark and Arrieta. You can read that by clicking here.

On Tuesday, sharp and public influences had pushed an early line of Cubs -150 up to -160. That’s why the new opener started there when the game went back up on the board after the confirmation of Roark as a starter. 

It’s been a pitchers’ series so far based on these “offensive bases” counts (total bases plus walks earned).

Game 1: Chicago 9, Washington 5

Game 2: Washington 18, Chicago 16

Game 3: Chicago 9, Washington 5

The market is expecting another low scoring game with that run total of 7.5 (Under -115), based on forecast wind conditions, potential visibility issues at that unique starting time, and the fact that quality starters could be used in relief if needed. 

NY Yankees at Cleveland (8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on FS1)

  • Money line: Cleveland -180, NY Yankees plus 165
  • Over/Under: 7.5 

Teams battle down the stretch during the regular season so they can earn home field advantage in games like this. The best-of-five finale will be played in Cleveland, in an exact rematch of the pitching matchup from Game 2 on this field this past Friday. 

  • Sabathia (Yankees): 3.69 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
  • Kluber (Cleveland): 2.25 ERA, 0.87 WHIP

Those are regular season stats. Kluber’s big edge in the numbers didn’t matter much because he got rocked! You’ll recall that was the game the Yankees led 8-3 before Cleveland rallied to win 9-8 in 13 innings. The Indians are a big market favorite Wednesday night because of Kluber’s dominance in the “controlling his own destiny” analytics stats.

  • Sabathia (Yankees): 4.11 xFIP, 19.3 K%, 8.0 BB%, 1.27 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Kluber (Cleveland): 2.52 xFIP, 34.1 K%, 4.6 BB%, 0.93 HR’s per 9 IP

Can Kluber have two bad games in a row? Can the Cleveland team that seemed so indestructible down the stretch lose three in a row to fall out of the playoffs? Anything can happen in baseball! The Yankees offense has certainly carried its share of the load so far (again, using “offensive bases”).

  • Game 1: Cleveland 15, NY Yankees 7
  • Game 2: NY Yankees 26, Cleveland 21 (Indians won anyway)
  • Game 3: NY Yankees 13, Cleveland 9
  • Game 4: NY Yankees 20, Cleveland 13

College Football: Updating our estimated “market” Power Ratings for Power 5 conferences

We’ll devote Wednesdays all autumn to trying to pin down estimated “market” Power Ratings in the five major TV conferences. Feels like we’re getting closer to a solid match with each passing week. Though, the superpowers are still seeing inflation in a way that would blow the scale if we tried to create too perfect a match. Better to anticipate that now than scramble haphazardly come bowl time.

First, major independent Notre Dame is off this week. We have them at 81.

SEC West: Alabama ???, Auburn 85, LSU 75, Mississippi State 74, Texas A&M 74, Arkansas 72, Ole Miss 67.

SEC East: Georgia ??, Florida 74, South Carolina 70, Tennessee 69, Kentucky 69, Vanderbilt 66, Missouri 65.

Last week the market had Alabama priced at around 103, which blows the scale, because they wouldn’t be double digits against other the national superpowers that you’ll soon see below. Alabama missed the spread by a mile at Texas A&M. This week, the Tide is laying -30.5 at home to Arkansas, which grades out around 99. They’re more likely around 92-93ish based on early estimates for “Final Four” matchups against other contenders (an oddsmaker guest on VSiN programming last week had them at -6 over Clemson…who we have at 87). Handicappers must try to gauge when the “run up the score” performances are going to be. 

Georgia’s also been assigned stiff chalk on their recent run. They’re laying -30.5 at home to awful Missouri this week…which would grade out around 92-ish. They’re more reasonably in the mid to high 80’s on this scale, but may continue to run up victory margins in this disappointing conference. 

LSU and Florida provided an interesting wrinkle last week. Late respected money hit LSU hard at Florida on game day, making a team that just lost to Troy under an embattled head coach a road favorite in the swamp! LSU did win a nailbiter. This week LSU is plus 7 at home against Auburn, which makes them 10 worse than the resurgent Tigers. Florida is -3 vs. Texas A&M, creating a dead heat with the Aggies. We can’t really “get there from here” in terms of LSU’s road favorite status last week unless we launch Auburn up into Ohio State territory (which would pull LSU to a seemingly unrealistic 77), or drop both Florida and Texas A&M down to 71…which doesn’t make any sense given how the Aggies just played vs. ‘Bama. We’ll keep monitoring those teams and penciling in unhappy mediums.

Big 10 East: Ohio State 89, Penn State 87, Michigan 81, Michigan State 75, Indiana 72, Maryland 63, Rutgers 59.

Big 10 West: Wisconsin 84, Iowa 73, Purdue 70, Northwestern 69, Nebraska 69, Minnesota 68, Illinois 58.

The numbers we posted last week were very close to this week’s lines outside of Ohio State…which is a great sign for pinning down this conference. OSU is like Alabama and Georgia in that their pointspreads vs. weaklings blow the scale. Laying -24 at Nebraska this week would grade out to 96. We’re confident that 89 is a good spot in terms of where they’ll rate once the top teams start running into each other. Otherwise, everyone in the Big 10 was within a smidge. That’s worth noting for Michigan/Indiana…because some have expressed the sentiment that the market posted a “correction” for Michigan after the loss to Michigan State. Last week, we had Michigan 82, Indiana 72. That would have suggested a line of Michigan -7 in Bloomington. The current line is -6.5. Not really much of a correction. We knocked UM down to 81 to respect that they’re below a key number. Important to remember that the market wasn’t pricing Michigan as equal to Penn State or Ohio State, even though many in the media were mentally linking them together in a “big three” in the East. Michigan hasn’t had the offense of a superpower at any point this season. 

Big 12: Oklahoma 84, Oklahoma State 83, TCU 82, Texas 76, Kansas State 74, West Virginia 74, Texas Tech 73, Iowa State 66, Baylor 60, Kansas 48.

Somebody important loves TCU…because the Horned Frogs are laying -5 at Kansas State despite not playing to inflated market expectations vs. West Virginia last week. Last week we guessed TCU 80 and West Virginia 70 for a line of -12.5 that didn’t really make any sense in terms of team skill sets and prior expectations. West Virginia seems well clear of 70…so we’ve tinkered this week to make it all fit. Let’s see how TCU performs in Manhattan. Oklahoma blew the scale at -31 last week vs. Iowa State…and played well below that market inflation in the stunning loss to the Cyclones. 

ACC Atlantic: Clemson 87, Louisville 79, NC State 78, Florida State 77, Wake Forest 68, Syracuse 65, Boston College 61.

ACC Coastal: Miami 82, Georgia Tech 79, Virginia Tech 76, Virginia 71, Duke 67, North Carolina 64, Pittsburgh 63.

Market is “freshening up” to the improved play of teams like NC State and Georgia Tech in recent weeks. Clemson blows the scale a bit this week at Syracuse, where they’d grade out to a 90. They didn’t play quite to expectations vs. Wake Forest last Saturday. Georgia Tech at Miami should be fun, as we’re running low on regular season meetings between divisional powers already in this league.

Pac 12 North: Washington 86, Stanford 82, Washington State 82, Oregon 75 (QB injuries), California 65, Oregon State 56.

Pac 12 South: USC 84, UCLA 75, Utah 75, Colorado 70, Arizona 70, Arizona State 66.

The market looks to have launched Washington State into the low 80s after their impressive wins over USC and Oregon. The relative lack of connectivity between the Pac 12 powers and good teams from other conferences makes it harder to get a true read here. It’s possible everyone’s a smidge better (as Chris Petersen would want you to believe). It’s possible everyone’s 1-3 points worse as well…given USC’s overtime challenge at home vs. Texas, and Washington State’s overtime challenge at home vs. Boise State! UCLA lost a road coin flip to the Memphis team that lost 40-13 to Central Florida too. 

Petersen has been complaining about how West Coast start times have prevented his team from getting enough national media exposure. Somebody should point out to him that everyone who cared about college football last season saw his Huskies lose as 10-point home favorites to USC 26-13 (getting outgained 400-276), and as 12-point underdogs on a neutral field to Alabama 24-7 (getting outgained 326-194). At roughly a net pick-em vs. highly regarded opponents, with no pure road games, Washington lost scoreboard 50-20 and yardage 726-470. Seems like the lack of close scrutiny is helping rather than hurting. 

Wednesday Tutorial: Understanding the reality of “sharp” betting influences 

If you’re relatively new to VSiN programming since the start of football, you’ve been hearing a lot of reference to “the sharps” or who “the sharps are betting.” Jimmy Vaccaro often calls them “the smarts,” which is another term for the same thing. 

The sharps are a very influential part of the market, even if their money is significantly outweighed by the public. There are a lot more public bettors than there are sharp bettors! Even though the typical sharp bet is larger than the typical public bet…the sheer volume of public money is much higher. As Gill Alexander would say, it’s a numbers game!

What we want to focus on today is the fact that sharps typically aim for something in the neighborhood of a 53-54% win rate on a high volume of bets. Hearing that a bet is a “sharp play” doesn’t make it a “lock” or anything remotely automatic. It’s in the mix of professional bettors who have proven that they win over the long haul.

You’ve probably watched poker on TV. It’s always helpful to see the win probabilities down at the bottom of the screen. Professional poker players usually get their money in with the best of it. They don’t win every hand! Sometimes their 55-45% edge gets chased down. Sometimes an 67-33% edge loses to an unlucky river card. Sometimes a high pocket pair that’s around 80% pre-flop in a two-person showdown will get cracked. But over the long haul, the percentages rule and pros win money. Poker sharps.

Unfortunately, you’ll rarely seen anything like an 80/20 edge in a sports betting proposition. The sportsbooks just don’t deal out pocket aces to customers. If they did…sharps would race to the counter (or their apps) and take the edge away in seconds anyway. If you’re serious about beating the market with your own bets, it will serve you well to monitor sharp betting tendencies in terms of timing the market, and with regard to possibly finding “take” or “go against” teams in future action.

Sometimes a mainstream media guest on a VSiN program will use the term “so-called sharps” when referencing after-the-fact a line move that turned out not to win. Again, sharps don’t win every bet. Some of their Regular Season Win bets in college and pro football from this past summer will lose. Some of their bets last week lost. They’ll be wrong about several teams this coming weekend. Unavoidable. But sharps are the most respected influences in the market because they get their money in with the best of it more often than not. How many mainstream media members do you think could make big money as bettors? 

They wouldn’t call Daniel Negreanu a “so-called poker pro” because his aces got cracked. 

You’re not smarter than the sharps. Learn from the sharps so you can get smarter. 

Back Thursday to recap Wednesday baseball, and to preview what could be a great Thursday night game in the NFL matching the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers.

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