SabreBetrics: Week 2 Betting Guide – Beware Single Data Points

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Week 1 of the 2021 college football season had something for everyone. There were unlikely upsets (Washington, UNC), ranked teams surviving early tests (Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Iowa State), and a defensive rock fight between Georgia and Clemson. There are a few interesting games on the Week 2 slate, but not as many marquee matchups. Fortunately, any game can become “must watch” when there is money on the line!

One thing to guard against this week is overgeneralizing based on a single data point. Take Saturday’s Michigan game. After watching these teams play in Week 1, Michigan would seem to be an overwhelming favorite. If the Huskies can’t beat Montana at home, how can they possibly win a game in “The Big House”? However, when the opening line came out for this game, Michigan was only favored by 6.5 points. This number should be an immediate red flag; whenever a line seems too good to be true, it usually is. It is possible that Washington was overrated in the preseason, but it is also possible that the Huskies’ offensive struggles were the result of three starting wide receivers being unavailable for the opener. It is simply too early to render a verdict on any team this early in the season.

Mailbag Question

“What do the +/- numbers represent?” -hoos73

This question was posed about a week ago on the message board and I think it is worth a deeper dive. When placing a bet in a sportsbook, you will encounter a number, either positive or negative, associated with your choice. This number is called the “vigorish” but is often referred to as the “vig” or “juice.” The vig communicates to the bettor the fee that will be taken by the sportsbook for placing each wager.

Let’s say you decide to go against my advice and want to bet on your beloved Hoos this weekend. You log into your offshore betting account and see that the line is -10 with a vig of -110. This means that you will need to place a bet of $110 dollars to make $100 in profit. The difference of $10 is how a sportsbook ensures they will make a profit regardless of the outcome. Meanwhile, a positive vig indicates that you can get paid out more than your initial bet. A $100 bet with a +110 vig equates to a $110 dollar payout.

Sportsbooks modify these numbers in real time to even out the money taken on both sides of a bet. If too much money is on one side, sportsbooks risk losing money. By changing the vig, sportsbooks can encourage betting on a given team or discourage betting when they are heavily leveraged.

Virginia Week 2 Forecast

  • Illinois at UVA -10
  • Under 55

Once Robert Anae moved past the “hand the ball off to Brennan Armstrong as a running back” pages in the offensive playbook, the Cavaliers were able to win in convincing fashion against William & Mary. Illinois will be a significantly tougher test for Virginia especially when the Illini have the ball. Bret Bielema has used an even balance of rushing and passing to score 30 points in each of Illinois’ first two games. The biggest question mark entering this game is the availability of starting quarterback Brandon Peters, who injured his shoulder against Nebraska. Back-up Artur Sitkowski played admirably in the opening game but struggled against UTSA, completing only 22 of 42 passes. Peters was cleared for contact this week, but it is uncertain whether he will play.

Virginia should have an advantage running the football against the Illinois front seven. The Illini have conceded 377 rushing yards through two games. The only thing keeping this from being a high-scoring affair might be the 11 a.m. kickoff time. I predict a 31-20 Cavalier victory.

Week 2 Best Selections

  • Record to date: 3-2

After racing out to a blazing 3-0 start, SabreBetrics selections faltered at the conclusion of the weekend. UCLA showed that LSU still has some work to do to regain its footing as a national contender. Notre Dame appeared to be in good shape with an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter before collapsing like a dying star. This left us with the worst imaginable outcome: a losing bet and a Notre Dame victory. Still, any winning weekend is a good weekend. Let’s try to keep the positive momentum going this Saturday.

Pittsburgh -3 at Tennessee

There are many reasons to be bullish on Josh Heupel’s ability to elevate Tennessee back to national prominence. However, it may take a couple years to recruit the right personnel to effectively implement his preferred “Air Raid” offense. Quarterback Joe Milton III is not an ideal fit. Though he has a cannon of an arm, the Michigan transfer is not accurate; against Bowling Green, Milton completed only 11 of 23 passes for 140 yards. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is an experienced team that will not be fazed by the noise of Neyland Stadium. Quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has seemingly been the Panthers’ starter since the 1970s, has a steady hand and makes few mistakes. Since 2018, Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi is 5-2 against the spread (ATS) as a road favorite.

Air Force -5.5 at Navy

Many professional bettors are playing the under in the game which is only 40.5. There is a logic to this system play: in the 48 games between service academies since 2005, the over has only won 9 times. The over/under line is too low for my liking, so I am picking Air Force instead. Navy’s defense struggled mightily against Marshall in Week 1, surrendering four rushing touchdowns to freshman Rasheen Ali and giving up 363 passing yards as well. The Midshipmen are still working through an unsettled quarterback situation with three different players getting playing time last week. This game will be closer than the 40-7 Falcons victory a season ago, but Air Force still has a superior roster.

Oklahoma State -13 vs. Tulsa

This game features two teams that struggled against FCS opponents in Week 1. The Cowboys were without starting quarterback Spencer Sanders in a 23-16 win against Missouri State. Meanwhile, Tulsa turned the ball over three times in a 19-17 home loss against UC Davis. Both teams are likely better than their opening performances would suggest, but Oklahoma State has a clearer path for improvement. If Sanders can return this week from the COVID list, it will be a significant boon to the Oklahoma State offense. In the last four games against Oklahoma State, Tulsa is 1-4 ATS.

Miami -8.5 vs. Appalachian State

As fun as it is to dunk on Miami’s non-competitive performance in a nationally televised opening week game, it is worth remembering that the opponent was Alabama. If it had been Virginia on that sideline instead of Miami, what would you have taken from the game? Probably not much. Though the Hurricanes are not ready to compete for the College Football Playoff title, they still have a lot of talent. Appalachian State is always a scary team to bet against, but they are not quite as dangerous with this current roster. Mountaineers quarterback Chase Brice is only a year removed from throwing 10 touchdowns and 15 interceptions as a starter at Duke. Expect to see several appearances of the turnover chain in this one.

NC State at Mississippi State Over 55

NC State played like an ACC contender in an opening week thrashing of South Florida. Quarterback Devin Leary adds a vertical passing threat to the elite running back tandem of Zonovan Knight and Rick Person Jr. Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach is known for his high-powered pass-happy offenses. In a 35-34 Week 1 win against Louisiana Tech, Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers completed 39 of 47 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns. This has the potential to be one of the more interesting games of the weekend. Take the over and watch two effective offenses battle it out.

Specialty Bet of the Week

  • Record to date: 1-0

Last week’s SEC teaser came home after impressive performances by Alabama and Florida. This week, we are going to again use teasers but in a different way. A quick review: a teaser is a type of bet that allows you to pick multiple teams against the spread. Teasers provide you with extra points for each of your bets to increase the likelihood that they will win. In exchange for these points, you sacrifice some of the value that you would get from a parlay bet. Additionally, all your individual bets must win or you lose the overall wager. For most standard teaser bets, the payout is equivalent to what you would get if you were betting a single game against the spread.

Last week, we used a teaser to reduce the number of points big favorites needed to cover. This week, we are going to do the opposite. The strategy is to select two underdogs and give each one an extra touchdown to work with.

Iowa (+4.5 –> +11.5) at Iowa State

Iowa had one of the most impressive performances in Week 1, holding an experienced Indiana team to only 6 points. Meanwhile, Iowa State struggled to beat Northern Iowa 16-10. So, when the line for the Cy-Hawk rivalry opened at -4.5 for the Cyclones, I was alarmed. As with the Michigan line referenced earlier, was an Iowa bet too obvious? For this reason, I’m adding some extra breathing room in case the Cyclones right themselves in Week 2. Matt Campbell has yet to beat Kirk Ferentz in five attempts.

North Texas (+22.5 –> +29.5) at SMU

SMU is the better team, but North Texas is no pushover. Mean Green running back DeAndre Torrey put up 244 yards and three touchdowns in an opening week win over Northwestern State. I expect North Texas to try and maintain time of possession to counteract the high-powered Mustangs offense. SMU should win comfortably, but not by four touchdowns.

Random Fact to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

You may have seen the viral news story about the WynnBET bettor who turned $10 into nearly $80,000 by hitting a 14-leg parlay by choosing all unders. This is incredibly improbable and something I would not recommend trying to replicate. However, if there was ever a time to bet the under, it was in Week 1. So far in the 2021 season, unders have won in 56 of the 88 games played (63.6%). One plausible theory is that offensive units are still coalescing after a disjointed 2020 season with an active transfer portal. It is also possible that it is simply a statistical anomaly that will revert to the mean in subsequent weeks.

The SabreBetrics column is written by a Virginia graduate and long-time fan of The Sabre. The opinions expressed in this article are not directly associated with and are intended for recreational use only.

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