For Informational Purposes Only, Tide Favored

A few years ago my traveling crowd of good friends was flying to an away game. I was reading the morning papers, one guy was in the cockpit with the pilot learning air speeds and the like, and the rest were working with their sheets – and I don’t mean they were taking naps.

From time-to-time I’d be asked for advice, even though I have told them I consider betting on college football games to be a fool’s errand. So when one said something along the lines of, “What do you think about UNLV at New Mexico State?” I answered with a question of my own: “Do you have any idea who coaches either team?”

He told me I had a good point and moved on.

I almost never look at the real lines, the ones at the sports books in the Las Vegas casinos, where gambling on college football is legal. I sometimes look at the lines posted in newspapers.

Many years ago I was having lunch in a restaurant and a Tuscaloosa bookie was nearby. One of the patrons asked him the line on that week’s Alabama game, and the bookie gave it to him. The potential gambler protested that the newspaper line was a little closer.

“Well, then,” said the bookie, “why don’t you go bet with the Tuscaloosa News?”

Once upon a time the newspapers included a disclaimer: that the published lines were for informational purposes only; meaning, I suppose, that you can’t place a bet with the Tuscaloosa News. In any event, “informational purposes only” is the premise of what we’re looking at today.

I had heard that Alabama was now the betting favorite for the 2014 national championship in the new College Football Playoff. I went onto one of the sites that provides information. Sure enough, Alabama is the favorite at 5 to 1.

Last year’s champion, Florida State, is second at 11-2. Oregon is 8-1, Auburn and Oklahoma both 9-1, and Ohio State 10-1.

The site I checked also had the opening lines and the opening over-under for the first weekend of games.

Alabama opened as a 25 1/2-point favorite over West Virginia and the line has since moved to Bama being a 26-point favorite. The over-under – the combined number of points the two teams are expected to score (one can bet that it will be more or that it will be fewer) is 55.

Suppose you bet Alabama to win by more than 26 points and you expected both teams to score more than a combined 55 points and the final score was Bama 42, West Virginia 14. Alabama would have won by 28 points and the teams would have scored 56 points, so you would have won both bets.

That’s all there is to it!

Remember, though, that the opening line is not an indicator of what the casino thinks the final margin will be. The opening line is designed to attract as many dollars as possible, split about evenly between those betting both sides. (The house collects a 10 per cent bonus from the losers, so that’s a decent return when the betting dollars are about equal.)

If more money comes in on one team, the line can be adjusted to make it more attractive to bet on the other team. For instance, Alabama opened up a 25 1/2-point favorite, but the line moved to 26. That was because more money was being bet on Bama. Now someone wanting to bet on West Virginia will get 26 points rather than the opening line of 25 1/2.

Alabama is a team that attracts a lot of gambling attention and most of those gamblers bet on the Crimson Tide, so the line is frequently set higher than might be expected.

Please remember, you can invest in gasoline for your car, groceries for your family, etc., and come out never a loser.

I was also interested in the lines of other Southeastern Conference teams for the opening weekend.

Texas A&M will be at South Carolina on Thursday, Aug. 28, in an important SEC game. The Gamecocks opened as a 13-point favorite, but more money has been bet on Texas A&M and the Aggies now are only a 10 1/2-point underdog. The over-under is 58.

Also on Aug. 28, Ole Miss is a 10-point favorite over Boise State (over-under 57) in Atlanta, and Vanderbilt is a 16-point favorite over Temple (52).

In addition to Alabama meeting West Virginia in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Aug. 30, other games involving SEC teams that Saturday are:

Arkansas at Auburn (Tigers a 21-point favorite with a 57 over-under).

Clemson will be at Georgia. The Bulldogs opened as a 9 1/2-point favorite, but the line has fallen to 7 1/2. The over-under is 58.

Florida is a 35-point favorite hosting Idaho and the over-under is 51 1/2.

Mississippi State went from a 26 1/2-point favorite over Southern Miss to a 30 1/2-point favorite. The over-under is 55 1/2.

LSU has fallen from a 6 1/2-point to a 4-point favorite over Wisconsin for a game in Houston. The over-under is 50.

Tennessee is a 7-point favorite hosting Utah State with the over-under 51.

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