From The Farm To The Strip: Week 7

We now project Stanford to win 8.1 games, with Oregon State the biggest unknown thanks to an uncertain quarterback situation. Plus, where is the smart money riding on the Notre Dame-Stanford game?


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 6 Recap

The UCLA-California game was a welcome result for the books with the public pressing their wins / chasing their losses on UCLA in the late 7 p.m. game. As I wrote last week, "UCLA at Cal feels like the classic trap bet where anyone who follows college football would expect UCLA to be favored by more than a measly 2.5-points. UCLA (4-1) beat Colorado convincingly on the road (42-14) while Cal (1-4) dropped a home game to ASU (17-27)." In true trap-game fashion, the public fell for it as Cal proceeded to blow out UCLA 43-17. Granted there are trap games where the public is right, but in the long run, the books know what they are doing.

Meanwhile, Stanford failed to cover the nine-point spread and was pretty fortunate to win outright versus Arizona. If anything, the game showed that the offense was capable of covering a nine-point spread if they got some help from the defense which performed below expectations.

For those of you who tuned into College Game Day, Lee Corso picked South Carolina to win. As for this week's game, the line for which team Corso will pick is Notre Dame -1050 / Stanford +550.

Week 7 Pac-12 Lines
Colorado +22 vs. Arizona State (8.4% implied win probability)
Stanford +7 at Notre Dame (29.1%)
Oregon State +5.5 at BYU (35.1%)
UCLA -9 vs. Utah (76.1%)
Washington State +7 vs. Cal (29.1%)
Washington +13 at USC (16.8%)

ASU blew open a close game by scoring 31 unanswered points in a second-half shutout of Colorado to win 51-17. While beating Colorado is not anything to write home about, ASU's showdown with Oregon in Tempe next Thursday should be pretty interesting. The Hilton had Oregon favored by 13.5-points earlier this week and I could see the line moving down a point or two given ASU's dominating performance.

Stanford opened as 10-point dogs to Notre Dame but that line has been steadily bet down to 7. Before last week's games, the Hilton had Notre Dame favored by six points and the initial line seemed like a classic overreaction to Notre Dame's trouncing of Miami (41-3) and Stanford's struggles against Arizona (54-48). With rain in the forecast, a low-scoring game is also expected with the total opening at 49 and being bet down to 44. It is not surprising that with the amount of national attention the Irish are getting, the wise guys are all over Stanford.

Finally, Oregon State, which crept into the top 10 of the AP rankings, opened as four-point dogs at BYU. It dropped to 2.5 points shortly after but was taken off the board when it was revealed that both Oregon State's and BYU's starting QBs would not be playing. The line is currently at 5.5 with the capabilities of Oregon State's backup quarterback a huge question mark.

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.

With Sagarin predictor ratings finally being "well-connected", I have substituted out my pre-season power ratings and while certain teams have shown marked shifts in value, there has been no overall change in my portfolio's value which is at an 11% ROI. Turning to Stanford, while they got the homecoming win, their struggles affected some future spreads, although the Oregon State game is now anyone's guess. My new numbers show that an eight-win season (37%) is most likely and a nine-win season (28%) more likely than a seven-win season (21%), with Stanford's projected win total at 8.1.

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