From The Farm To The Strip: Week 4

Our wild man "CardinalManiac08" travels the Wild West, racking up tales of fast money, fast women and football. We can tell two of those three stories here, so follow along as our resident catches some high-quality football in person, as his portfolio enjoys a picture-perfect week.


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 3 Recap

In the games that I highlighted last week, Stanford saw an influx of smart money on game day for the second straight week and closed as 7.5-point dogs at several offshore books. Arizona State closed as four-point dogs after news came out that the Missouri starting quarterback James Franklin was not playing. Arizona State was down 7-24 going into the fourth quarter but made a game of it by scoring 13 straight points. Their comeback was cut short, however, when Taylor Kelly's end zone toss was picked off with less than a minute left in the game as they fell 24-20. Meanwhile, in a game where Washington State and Texas Tech fans outnumbered their UNLV counterparts, WSU hung on to beat UNLV by eight points despite some poor end-of-game clock management by Mike Leach which gave UNLV one last gasp drive. The line for that game closed at 9 after yoyo-ing between 8 and 9.5 on game day. Finally, UCLA put up 30 straight points before Houston broke off an 86-yard touchdown run. The final score was 38-6 and UCLA covered the 17-point spread with ease.

For those of you who tuned into College Game Day, it probably was not too much of a surprise when Lee Corso picked Tennessee to win the game. This week's feature game is Florida State vs. Clemson. I have yet to see a line on which team Corso will pick so I'll leave you with the updated line for the new Heisman favorite Geno Smith (West Virginia QB) who is +250/-350 to carry home the trophy.

Week 4 Pac-12 Lines
ASU -7 vs. Utah (70.9% implied win probability)
Oregon -21.5 vs. Arizona (91.2%)
UCLA -7 vs. Oregon State (70.9%)
USC -16.5 vs. Cal (87.0%)
WSU -20 vs. Colorado (90.3%)

Oregon State is the only FBS team to have played one game thanks to their home opener against Nicholls State being postponed and a scheduled bye week. The jury is still out on how good their 10-7 home win over a struggling Wisconsin team was, but the sharps seem to think they are being underestimated. The UCLA-Oregon State line opened at 11 and has been bet all the way down to seven – even after UCLA comfortably covered the spread against Houston.

The WSU-Colorado game has also seen pretty substantial line movement, as it opened at 14.5 and is now 20. Colorado has no doubt looked terrible with losses to Colorado State, Sacramento State and a 63-14 drubbing at potentially underrated Fresno State, but it might also have to do with increased confidence in WSU's QB situation. Connor Halliday filled in admirably for an injured Jeff Tuel against UNLV last week, although Leach remains tight-lipped on who will get the start against Colorado.

Finally, USC was slated as 24-point favorites over Cal before the season started but after their stumble at Stanford, opened as 16-point favorites to a Cal team that should have beaten Ohio State outright as 17-point dogs if not for some questionable play-calling by Tedford. It is always nice to have a bad coach in your pocket when you are betting the under on a team.

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 wins and losses on individual games throughout the season, I am tracking my projected return on the 50-plus season win totals bets I made before the season started, which comprise the "fund".

My preseason projected ROI for the fund is 30 percent, and I will be the first to admit that it 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.

The CWTI experienced an 11 percent gain in a breakthrough week with almost every decision going my way. It started off with wins by Rutgers (+7.5) and WSU (-9) in weeknight games and then snowballed with Georgia Tech (-10), Toledo (-3), ECU (+7) and Stanford (+7.5) winning, and Virginia (+10), Marshall (+5.5), Southern Miss (-7) and Kentucky (-7) losing. The latter is one of my bigger bets and former Stanford RB coach and current Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart deserves full credit for going for two on a lateral to the wide-receiver followed by a toss back to the QB in their one-point OT victory over Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Stanford has soared with their upset of USC. My new numbers show that a nine- win season (32%) is most likely and an eight-win season (26%) is more likely than a ten-win season(21%). Stanford's projected win total jumped from 8.0 wins to 8.8 wins over the past week. Perhaps the bye week will reduce the overreaction to Stanford's triumph over the Trojans, but I suspect that the sharps will end up on Washington next Thursday.

Bye Week Travels

This column is brought to you from Boise, Idaho, where I took advantage of the bye week to take in some Thursday night BYU-Boise Smurf Turf action in a game that the sharps had bet down from 7.5 to 6.5 by game time. Former Stanford commit Taysom Hill looked solid once he stopped underthrowing receivers and his offensive line stopped committing false start penalties. I question BYU's decision to go for two with 3:37 on the clock and no timeouts left, especially since their defense had stifled Boise State all night, including an impressive goal line stand at the one-yard line.

The sharps were no doubt relieved that overtime was not in play after suffering multiple heart attacks during the ending of the Utah-BYU Holy War game last week where they had the under on a total of 46. The score was 23-20 in the final seconds of the game when, pun not intended, all hell broke loose. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'd encourage you to look it up.

While there is never a dull moment in one-score games and I can definitely appreciate a 7-6 defensive struggle, hopefully there will be a little more offense on Saturday evening in Norman, where I'll catch Oklahoma and Kansas State.

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