Thanks to the eminently reasonable minds on the U.S. Supreme Court, sports gambling is now allowed in any state that wants to pursue it, and so far New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Mississippi have joined Nevada in offering the enterprise in full. More people will be rushing to the windows as college football season gets into full swing, and we’re here to help — hopefully! — with a few things to keep in mind.
For starters, consider that trends should not be considered predictive, especially considering college football’s constant turnover, and anyone who blindly places a bet solely because of them is unlikely to come out ahead. Think of them merely as something to consider as you go about making your picks.
The point spreads you’ll see below were taken Thursday from the consensus lines at VegasInsider.com. Historical point spreads provided by Covers.com.
At this point in Nick Saban’s Alabama tenure, it’s strange to see the Crimson Tide not open the season with a neutral-site game against a Power 5 team: It has done so nine times since 2008, winning all nine. But what happens when Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa after that to play its home opener? Here’s a year-by-year breakdown:
2008: Beat Clemson, 34-10, as a four-point underdog in Atlanta in Week 1. Beat Tulane, 20-6, at home in Week 2 but didn’t cover the 29-point spread.
2009: Beat Virginia Tech, 34-24, as a six-point favorite in Atlanta in Week 1. Beat Florida International, 40-14, at home in Week 2 but didn’t cover the 33.5-point spread.
2012: Beat Michigan, 41-14, as a 13-point favorite in Irving, Texas, in Week 1. Beat Western Kentucky, 35-0, at home in Week 2 but didn’t cover the 38-point spread.
2013: Beat Virginia Tech, 35-10, as a 21.5-point favorite in Atlanta in Week 1. Three weeks later, beat Colorado State, 31-6, at home in Week 4 but didn’t cover the 40-point spread.
2014: Beat West Virginia, 33-23, as a 22-point favorite in Atlanta in Week 1 (failed to cover). Beat Florida Atlantic, 41-0, at home in Week 2 but didn’t cover the 42-point spread.
2015: Beat Wisconsin, 35-17, as a 12.5-point favorite in Irving in Week 1. Beat Middle Tennessee, 37-10, at home in Week 2 but didn’t cover the 34.5-point spread.
2016: Beat USC, 52-6, as a 13.5-point favorite in Irving in Week 1. Beat Western Kentucky, 38-10, at home in Week 2, covering the 27-point spread by one point.
2017: Beat Florida State, 24-7, as a 7.5-point favorite in Atlanta in Week 1. Beat Fresno State, 41-10, at home in Week 2 but didn’t cover the 42.5-point spread.
2018: Beat Louisville, 51-14, as a 23.5-point favorite in Orlando in Week 1. Hosts Arkansas State on Saturday in Week 2.
Add it all up, and Saban’s Alabama teams have gone 9-0 straight-up and 8-1 against the spread in Week 1 neutral-site games. In the home openers that followed, however, those Tide teams have gone 8-0 straight-up but a dismal 1-7 against the spread. Alabama has been favored by an average of 35.8 points in those games but, in the games it failed to cover the spread, the Tide fell short by an average by 8.6 points.
Alabama sits as a 36.5-point favorite on Saturday against Arkansas State, a typically garish Week 2 spread for Saban’s side. But the Red Wolves seem likely to come out firing. Oklahoma transfer Justice Hansen threw for nearly 4,000 yards last season and had 423 yards and six touchdown passes last weekend against Southeast Missouri State, and the Crimson Tide’s secondary is seen as perhaps a weak point (if such a thing exists in Tuscaloosa). A stab on the big underdog could be in order.
(H/T: ESPN’s Will Harris)
Alabama might not be alone
This one comes from the Action Network’s John Ewing: Since 2005, ranked teams that began the season on the road or at a neutral site have gone just 33-50-1 ATS in the Week 2 home game that followed, covering at just a 40 percent clip. Over the past 10 years, that ATS record dips to just 24-47-1, a 34 percent spread-covering percentage.
There are three such teams playing FBS teams at home this weekend (thus generating a point spread):
Alabama (-36.5) Arkansas State
Michigan (-28) Western Michigan
Boise State (-31) Connecticut
Gone with the wind?
It could be breezy (and rainy) at a few games this weekend as the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon advance up the gut of the country, with winds exceeding 10 mph, which is about where things such as passing and field goal kicking get tricky. Since 2005, Football Study Hall noted in June, games played under such conditions (winds 10 mph and up) have gone under the total 54.7 percent of the time, which isn’t exactly a mind-blowing trend but it’s close to the 55 percent sports-gambling profitability cutoff.
Keep tabs on the forecasts for the following games, listed below along with their over/under totals:
Duke at Northwestern (noon Eastern): 48.5
Eastern Michigan at Purdue (noon Eastern): 55.5
Iowa State at Iowa (5 p.m. Eastern): 46.5
Virginia at Indiana (7:30 p.m. Eastern): 51.5
Utah at Northern Illinois (7:30 p.m. Eastern): 47.5
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