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.
Keep in mind 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.
Trend vs. Trend
Penn State-Michigan State on Saturday afternoon gives us two pretty good trends, one that would seem to favor each side.
The No. 8 Nittany Lions, a 13.5-point favorite, are coming off a bye week that followed their 27-26 loss to Ohio State on Sept. 29, which is usually a good spot for ranked teams. As noted by the Action Network’s John Ewing, ranked teams coming off their bye are 180-152-0 against the spread since 2005, a pretty good 54.2 percent rate. But that’s not all:
— Ranked teams playing at home following a bye have gone 103-72-6 ATS since 2005, covering at a nearly 59 percent clip.
— Ranked teams coming off a bye who lost their previous game have gone 22-10-2 ATS since 2005 (64.7 percent).
(Elsewhere, No. 17 Oregon fits two of those three parameters in its home game against 17th-ranked Washington, the only difference being the Ducks won their game heading into the bye.)
But wait! Standing across the field from Penn State is Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio, whose teams have thrived in this particular situation: With Dantonio at the helm, the Spartans are 11-3 ATS as an underdog of at least a touchdown in Big Ten play, winning five of those games outright (though two of those ATS losses have come in the previous two seasons):
|Date||Game||Final score||Michigan State cover?|
|11-11-17||Michigan State (+17.5) at Ohio State||Ohio State 48, Michigan State 3||No|
|11-4-17||Michigan State (+9.5) vs. Penn State||Michigan State 27, Penn State 24||Yes|
|10-7-17||Michigan State (+13) at Michigan||Michigan State 14, Michigan 10||Yes|
|11-26-16||Michigan State (+11) at Penn State||Penn State 45, Michigan State 12||No|
|11-19-16||Michigan State (+20.5) vs. Ohio State||Ohio State 17, Michigan State 16||Yes|
|10-29-16||Michigan State (+24.5) vs. Michigan||Michigan 32, Michigan State 23||Yes|
|11-21-15||Michigan State (+14.5) at Ohio State||Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14||Yes|
|10-17-15||Michigan State (+7) at Michigan||Michigan State 27, Michigan 23||Yes|
|10-20-12||Michigan State (+8.5) at Michigan||Michigan 12, Michigan State 10||Yes|
|12-3-11||Michigan State (+9.5) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten title game)||Wisconsin 42, Michigan State 39||Yes|
|10-22-11||Michigan State (+7) vs. Wisconsin||Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31||Yes|
|11-22-08||Michigan State (+16.5) at Penn State||Penn State 49, Michigan State 18||No|
|10-20-07||Michigan State (+17) at Ohio State||Ohio State 24, Michigan State 17||Yes|
|9-29-07||Michigan State (+7) at Wisconsin||Wisconsin 37, Michigan State 34||Yes|
At your service, Part II
Last week, we told you about how games between the service academies — Navy, Army and Air Force — tend to stay under the total, and that proved the case again on Saturday: Air Force defeated Navy, 35-7, going under the total of 47. It was the 21st time over the past 25 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy games that the under has hit.
Let’s look at another aspect of this three-headed rivalry, namely how these three teams do against the spread in the games after they play one another. Considering the uniqueness of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy — the three teams literally are the only ones that compete for this particular award — the games between Navy, Army and Air Force tend to take on outsize importance, with the teams gearing up for them perhaps more ardently than the other games on their schedules. Thus, one would think that a letdown might follow in the game against a non-service academy opponent that comes after.
That would seem to be the case. Here’s how Air Force, Navy and Army have fared ATS in the games immediately following a Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy contest this decade. For our purposes, we’re only looking at the games that have followed either Air Force-Navy or Air Force-Army, considering that the Army-Navy game traditionally closes the college football regular season, perhaps leaving only a bowl game to follow after a long break.
Air Force: 2-14 ATS
Navy: 2-5-1 ATS
Army: 4-4 ATS
Combined: 8-23-1 ATS
As of Thursday morning, Air Force was an 11-point underdog at San Diego State on Friday night and Navy was a seven-point home underdog against Temple on Saturday (for what it’s worth, the Mids have been a home underdog under Coach Ken Niumatalolo only 10 times since he took over in 2007, going 5-4-1 ATS). The predictions compiled by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly, which are based on his S&P+ metric and are hitting on a fairly solid 55.5 percent ATS clip this season, have both the Falcons and Mids failing to cover the spread this weekend.
Army hosts Air Force on Nov. 3.
David Cutcliffe, option Kryptonite
Speaking of teams that run the option, Georgia Tech is a three-point home favorite against Duke on Saturday afternoon. But be wary of backing the favorite, because Coach David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils teams have been quite stout against option teams like the Yellow Jackets: They’re 8-2 ATS against such teams since 2013. Duke also has covered four straight games against the Yellow Jackets — all of them as an underdog — winning three of them outright.
|Date||Game||Final score||Duke cover?|
|8-31-18||Duke (-14) vs. Army||Duke 34, Army 14||Yes|
|11-18-17||Duke (+6.5) vs. Georgia Tech||Duke 43, Georgia Tech 20||Yes|
|11-11-17||Duke (-3.5) at Army||Army 21, Duke 16||No|
|10-29-16||Duke (+6.5) at Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech 38, Duke 35||Yes|
|10-8-16||Duke (-5.5) vs. Army||Duke 13, Army 6||Yes|
|10-10-15||Duke (-13.5) at Army||Duke 44, Army 3||Yes|
|9-26-15||Duke (+7.5) vs. Georgia Tech||Duke 34, Georgia Tech 20||Yes|
|10-11-14||Duke (+3.5) at Georgia Tech||Duke 31, Georgia Tech 25||Yes|
|10-12-13||Duke (-4) vs. Navy||Duke 35, Navy 7||Yes|
|9-14-13||Duke (+8.5) vs. Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech 38, Duke 14||No|
There are a few situational aspects to this game that make Duke look even more appealing on Saturday. For one, the Blue Devils already have vanquished an option team this season and are coming off a bye, giving Cutcliffe’s coaching staff even more time to prepare for Georgia Tech’s trickery. For another, Georgia Tech’s defense has been mostly abysmal this season, ranking 102nd nationally in S&P+. For even another, the Yellow Jackets' three wins this season have come against FCS Alcorn State along with Bowling Green and Louisville, two of the worst teams in FBS this season.
The Blue Devils also are 20-10-1 ATS as an underdog over the past six years.
Here are a few games where the weather could affect scoring, along with the listed over/under total for each. Keep tabs on the forecasts to see if they firm up as game time approaches.
Southern Miss at North Texas, 2 p.m. Saturday (wind, possibly heavy rain/storms): 57.
Baylor at Texas, 3:30 p.m. Saturday (wind, possibly heavy rain/storms): 60.5.
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