College Football Betting: Houston, Pittsburgh Take Early Money for Week 3
Every week during the college football season I like analyze some of the early point spread moves by the betting markets. It’s a great game of cat and mouse as oddsmakers post openers and are quick to adjust to what some bettors see as soft lines. By watching as well as partaking, I’m able to better understand how certain teams are viewed by both oddsmakers and bettors while taking advantage of any patterns, and over- and under-reactions that commonly occur. Let’s take a look at some of Week 3’s significant line moves.
Syracuse at Pittsburgh
CRIS Opener: Pittsburgh -20.5
CRIS Current: Pittsburgh -22.5
Analysis: While we’ll never know exactly what this line would have been had both teams met in Week 1 (probably not -22.5), we do know that Pitt was -3.5 at Syracuse last season and went on to win 27-20. It’s hard however to call this an overreaction when you take a closer look at Syracuse. For one, reading about the Orange throughout the summer, it comes off as if they didn’t think there would be a season. There were issues with players not feeling comfortable about the COVID testing policies. The offensive line, which was horrible last season and in Week 1, is still missing a few pieces. There’s also two new coordinators trying to install their systems on the fly. And in Week 1, they were outgained by 261 yards by North Carolina. Had it not been for a +2 turnover margin, the margin of defeat could have easily been 40 points. Oh, and Pitt beat Austin Peay, 55-0, despite missing six starters. This one very well may close north of -24.
Liberty at Western Kentucky
CRIS Opener: Western Kentucky -13
CRIS Current: Western Kentucky -14
Analysis: Bettors love to bet against low returning production teams and Liberty fits the bill with the nation’s fourth-lowest percentage. Of that lost was quarterback Stephen Calvery (3,600 yards, 28-7 TD-to-INT ratio), a 1,000-yard rusher, and wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden (1,400 yards) who was a fourth round draft pick. Yes, it’s a system-y as it gets with Huge Freeze but that’s a lot of talent. Former Auburn quarterback Malik Willis steps in and will be able to add more of a multi-dimensional look via running the football. Meanwhile Western Kentucky returned as many as 16 starters but were outgained by over 200 yards in last week’s 35-21 loss at Louisville. Not all that alarming of a result as most are very high on the Cardinals. But slightly alarming was the play of Tyrrell Pigrome who has a reputation as being a run-first, low percentage completion quarterback. He was 10-of-23 for 129 yards vs. Louisville. Last year, former Arkansas signal caller, Ty Storey, completed 70% of his passes and was an integral part of WKU’s 9-4 record. This was an anti-Liberty move that likely would have been more severe had the Hilltoppers showed better.
Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss
CRIS Opener: Southern Miss -3.5
CRIS Current: Southern Miss -5
Analysis: I’m surprised this move wasn’t bigger but there’s still questions surrounding who from Louisiana Tech will be able to play after last week’s outbreak forced them to cancel their opener vs. Baylor. There’s also the bet on following a head coach’s dismissal angle at play with Southern Miss’ Jay Hopson abruptly resigning following a Week 1 loss to South Alabama. Depending on who LT has available, this line could climb to -7 by kickoff.
Texas State at UL-Monroe
CRIS Opener: Texas State -1
CRIS Current: Texas State -5
Analysis: Here’s another, “what’s this line Week 1” situation. Texas State surely wouldn’t have been -5 road chalk. The Bobcats look improved, particularly on offense (72 points in two games), but they also found a way to lose to UTSA. Quarterback Brady McBride was ruled out of that game due to COVID but is reportedly back at practice. His backup, Tyler Vitt, actually looked pretty good with 346 yards and four touchdowns in the loss to the Roadrunners. That said, this line move has much more to do with UL-Monroe. The Warhawks had their Week 1 game canceled due to COVID, got hit by Hurricane Laura, and saw their defensive coordinator resign right before the start of the season. To make matters worse, ULM was thrown to the wolves with a game vs. Army which ended just as bad as the 37-7 final indicated. Note that Monroe closed -3.5 and won 24-14 at Texas State last season. Welcome to college football 2020, where a team who hasn’t won a game by more than a field goal vs. FBS competition since November of 2018 is laying -5 on the road.
Tulsa at Oklahoma State
CRIS Opener: Oklahoma State -20.5
CRIS Current: Oklahoma State -23.5
Analysis: This one is weird. The line move itself isn’t surprising as Oklahoma State looks really good on paper. But what is was the fact that oddsmakers originally opened this game -20.5 and it was bet to around -22.5 before it was postponed. The game was taken off the board and bets were obviously refunded. When oddsmakers re-posted the game, they, for whatever reason, used the -20.5 again! Either they are really confident in that number or weren’t paying attention as bettors once again loaded up on the Cowboys with the number now as high as -23.5. CRIS essentially got a free roll with the market helping shape an early season line but apparently chose to ignore it.
Houston at Baylor
CRIS Opener: Baylor -7.5
CRIS Current: Baylor -4.5
Analysis: Multiple factors in play with this move. For starters, Baylor had zero spring practice, has a brand new coaching staff, and the defensive was gutted during the offseason. Houston meanwhile returns virtual everyone and added a slew of potential impact transfers. Remember, Dana Holgorsen essentially took a knee last season in order to build for 2020. And don’t think bettors didn’t notice Kansas State and Iowa State losing outright at home to non-Power 5 opponents last week. Both KSU and ISU didn’t sound fully prepared and neither does Baylor.