From the Farm to the Strip: Week 2

This is for the hardcore fan only. We check out how Week 1 has affected the season win totals for teams across the country, including for your Stanford Cardinal. Plus, follow along as "CardinalManiac08" tracks his performance on his 50+ bets.


I moved to Las Vegas one year ago to work as a financial analyst at Mandalay Bay. Thankfully, I have managed to keep up with Stanford football and now that I have developed a greater understanding of sports betting, I thought I would write a column which combines my love for football with Vegas odds. I would like to stress that the intent of this column is not to advocate gambling but rather use the betting markets to gain a better understanding of win probabilities, "surprise" teams, and the likelihood of various scenarios. Finally, I acknowledge that the betting markets include public perception and are not always efficient, but I think we can all agree that they provide a good starting point.

Note: Standard disclaimers apply: This is for entertainment purposes only. Any money you wager is at your own risk. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Coffee may be hot. Etc.

Week 1 Recap

In the games that I highlighted last week, Vanderbilt covered and might have beaten South Carolina outright. However, to be fair, they benefited from SC starting QB Connor Shaw being out for a couple of series with a bum arm. Troy won by 10 (covering the six-point spread) even though UAB clawed it back to 23-25 in the fourth quarter after being down 0-17 early. Ohio won outright as underdogs to Penn State thanks to a strong second half. Arizona was taken to overtime when their kicker missed a 25-yard chip shot field goal as time ran out in regulation and could not cover the 10-point spread. Luckily for Rich Rod, despite Toledo having the proverbial momentum from the missed kick, Arizona prevailed in the first overtime period even after losing the coin toss and having to start on offense.

Week 2 Pac-12 Lines
Stanford -15 vs. Duke (85.8% implied win probability)
Arizona +10.5 vs. Oklahoma St (20.7%)
ASU -4 vs. Illinois (60.2%)
Oregon State +7 vs. Wisconsin (29.1%)
Oregon -35 vs. Fresno St (96.9%)
UCLA +5.5 vs. Nebraska (35.1%)
USC -26 vs. Syracuse (93.7%)
Utah -7 at Utah St (70.9%)
California -30 vs. Southern Utah (95.3%)
Colorado -22 vs. Sacramento St (91.6%)
WSU -10.5 vs. E. Washington (79.3%)

There are a couple of Week 2 lines which have deviated significantly from preseason expectations. Unsurprisingly, Stanford is one of them thanks to a lackluster performance against San Jose State coupled with Duke's domination of FIU (won 46-26 as 2.5-point favorites). While there weren't any official pre-season lines for the game, I estimate that it went from 23 points (92%) to an opening line of 14 points (85%), after which it was bet up to Stanford -15. Washington State is another team where a dismal showing at BYU combined with Eastern Washington upsetting Idaho caused a projected line of 25 to drop to 10.5!

Elsewhere, Arizona was listed as a 9.5-point underdog (24%) in one of The Golden Nugget's Games of the Year (released in June). After their narrow OT win against Toledo (24-17) and Oklahoma State's demolition of Savannah (84-0), they opened as 13.5-point dogs (16%). One could argue that nothing had changed in terms of both team's relative strengths and I suspect sharps felt that way too, as the line is currently 10.5. Moving to the SEC, Texas A&M did not play in Week 1 thanks to Hurricane Isaac while Florida and its two QB approach struggled to put away Bowling Green. Florida opened as 2.5-point dogs to Texas A&M after being listed as five-point favorites in Golden Nugget's pre-season Games of the Year, but are currently one-point favorites with heavy action on Florida today. As you can see, lines can move around quite a bit.

On the opposite side of the coin, Houston perhaps suffered the most extreme line change. Despite graduating four-year starter Casey Keenum and losing head coach Kevin Summerlin, expectations were high, with a juice-adjusted season wins total of 8.5 wins. They opened as a pick'em against UCLA in Las Vegas Hilton's Games of the Year, moved to three-point dogs by season's start and after being blown out by Texas State as 35.5-point favorites are currently 12-point dogs to UCLA in their Week 3 matchup!

The Cardinalmaniac08 Win Totals Index (CWTI) Fund

Note: I bet only on season win totals, as I believe there is the most value there. Therefore, instead of tallying against-the-spread wins and losses on individual games throughout the season, I am tracking my projected return on the 50-plus season win totals I bet preseason, which I have combined into a "fund".

My preseason projected ROI for the fund is 30 percent, and I will be the first to admit that seems very high. The upside, however, is that my projections can be off and still result in a reasonable return. I will use my preseason projections as the starting point of CWTI's value since I will be using the same methodology to value it going forward.

With that caveat out of the way, it was a bumpy first week for the CWTI with a four percent loss. The loss is calculated based on Week 1 results, Week 2's lines, updated Games of the Year future lines and their implications on all other future lines. For example, while the biggest gain of the week for my 50-plus holdings was Cal under 6.5 wins, thanks to their loss as 11-point favorites to Nevada, another big gainer was UCLA. UCLA's win at Rice as 16.5-point favorites was not too surprising (87% win probability) but Houston's disastrous showing had significant implications for the Houston at UCLA game in Week 3 as discussed above, and thus UCLA's season win total.

Other big gainers were Penn State, Colorado, NC State and Clemson, while losers include Washington State, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Georgia Tech. If Vandy could have pulled off the upset against South Carolina or Georgia Tech had held on against Virginia Tech, it would have been a good weekend but nonetheless, I'm not too worried. There is going to be a lot of volatility in the first few weeks of the season with each game providing a lot more information about how good or bad teams are.

As one might expect, Stanford's value went down as they went from four-point favorites at Washington to 1.5-point favorites, 3.5-point favorites at Cal to one-point favorites and 14-point dogs at Oregon to 18-point dogs. I now project Stanford to open as 14-point underdogs to USC. All told, my new numbers show that a seven-win season (28%) is more likely than an eight-win season (27%), with our projected win total dropping from 7.8 wins to 7.4 wins over the past week.

Over/Under BootPool 2012 Analysis

Weekly updated standings will be posted on the BootPool board but here's a look at the most popular picks from the 17 participants with the closing line of the bet:

Notre DameUnder8.510-240
Penn StateUnder78-270
Boise StateOver9.56-160
Oklahoma StateOver7.54-425
Washington StateOver5.54+125
Virginia TechUnder9.53-145

If you recall last week's column, you'll notice that opening lines were used for the contest and it really shows why there is so much value in betting opening lines. As for my picks, I decided to choose some less popular options. While it is important to make selections with high probabilities of success, you also do not want to make the same picks as everyone else.

Ole MissUnder5.5-425
Arkansas StateUnder8.5-270
Fresno StateUnder7.5-280
Oklahoma StateOver7.5-425
New Mexico StateUnder5.5-260

I guess we'll see whether I can back up all this talk at the end of this season!

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with (sign-up)!

The Bootleg Top Stories