From The Farm To The Strip: Week 8

With 80 percent of public on one side of the Big Game bet, the sharps are taking the other side hard, as our man on the scene explains. Plus, a look at the latest in the sports gaming world.


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 7 Recap

The sharps sure got the Stanford-Notre Dame game right with both the under and Stanford covering the early spreads. Still, I am sure there were some nervous moments with regards to the under while the referees were reviewing the TD at the end of overtime. Meanwhile, Oregon State's backup QB led the team to an impressive 42-28 road victory against a defense that held Utah State to three points and Boise State to seven points.

For those of you who tuned into or were present at College Game Day, Lee Corso unsurprisingly picked Notre Dame to win. As for this week's game, the line for which team Corso will pick is Florida -400/South Carolina +280.

Week 8 Pac-12 Lines
ASU +8.5 vs. Oregon (25.8% implied win probability)
Stanford -2.5 at Cal (53.2%)
Arizona -7.5 vs. Washington (72.3%)
Oregon St. -10 vs. Utah (78.3%)
USC -40.5 vs. Colorado (98.5%)

Oregon scored 43 consecutive points after an early fumble allowed ASU to jump out to a 7-0 lead and the only question was whether the game would go over 68.5 points. With ASU's last-second end-zone pass falling incomplete, it was an underwhelming finish (credit Rece Davis) as the game ended 43-21 and Oregon comfortably covered the 8.5-point closing spread which the sharps had bet down from an opening of 10. It was not the best of nights for sharps as they were also all over 49ers -7, which pushed when Harbaugh declined a last-second safety in a Wilkerson-knee type of play.

Stanford opened as 1.5-point favorites at Cal and the line instantly moved to 2.5 points, where it has remained. Before last week's games, the Hilton had Stanford favored by six, but Stanford's 20-13 overtime loss at Notre Dame in a defensive struggle combined with Cal's 31-17 road win over Wazzu has changed all that. With the consensus numbers showing about 80 percent of bets on Stanford, it does not look like a very good spot for the Cardinal on the road.

Finally, still unbeaten Oregon State opened as seven-point favorites against Utah but were quickly moved to 10.5 points before dropping to 10 points Thursday. Meanwhile, the Hilton has them as 10-point underdogs (opened at 17) in the Civil War showdown against Oregon in Corvallis that may decide who plays in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

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.

While there was only a marginal uptick in the portfolio's value, it was a good week in the sense that any opposing outcome could have been disastrous. Next week will be a big one with several win totals such as UAB under 3.5, South Carolina under 9, Washington under 7.5 and Stanford over 7.5 lying in the balance. Turning to Stanford, it was not a pretty week with the loss to Notre Dame compounded by the reduced Big Game spread. My new numbers show that an eight-win season (35 percent) is still most likely but a seven-win season (33 percent) only trails slightly and a nine-win season (15 percent) is much less likely, with Stanford's projected win total at 7.5.

Over/Under BootPool 2012 Mid-Season Update

With half the season in the books, here's a look at how the most popular over/under picks are doing before Week 8's games using the scoring system of 1 point for a correct pick, 0.5 points for a pick that pushes and 0 points for an incorrect pick. Note: The expected score refers to the expected points based on the team's current win total and win probabilities for future games.

TeamSideWinsPicksExpected Score
Notre DameUnder8.5100.04
Penn State Under 780.41
Boise StateOver9.560.85
Washington Under 7.560.93
Oklahoma StateOver7.540.29
Washington StateOver5.540.01
Virginia Tech Under9.531.00

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