SabreBetrics: Week 3 Betting Guide – Never A Dull Moment

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Week 2 was not kind to many traditional college football powerhouses:

  • Ohio State lost at home to an Oregon team missing two of its best players.
  • Texas received a rude welcome from the SEC at the hands of Arkansas.
  • USC fired its coach after losing a home game to a previously dysfunctional Stanford squad.
  • Florida State paid $400,000 to get embarrassed at home against Jacksonville State.

All of this occurred during one of the least anticipated Saturdays of the football season! You might think you can get away with doing yardwork or taking your children to their soccer games without missing anything important. However, college football waits for no one. So go ahead and cancel those Saturday plans, find space on the couch, and embrace the madness.

Mailbag Question

“Talk about the risk/reward of parlays.” – hooman#1

Ah, parlays. The “white whales” of the sports betting world. For those new to gambling, a parlay combines two or more individual wagers into a single bet. To win the overall bet, each of the individual wagers must win. The more wagers you add to a parlay, the more improbable it becomes. This boosts the odds and increases the possible payout.

Parlays are fun for gamblers because you can hypothetically turn a small wager into a significant payout. Last week’s column referenced the bettor who won nearly $80,000 on a $10 parlay by correctly selecting the under total in 14 distinct games. After losing that much money, why is the sportsbook openly advertising what it had to pay out?

The short answer is that parlays are not a good bargain because the probability of you winning is lower than the implied probability of what a sportsbook is willing to pay you. Take the following example: you choose to place a three-team parlay with a standard -110 vig attached to each wager. The probability of you winning each individual bet is 50%. The probability of winning all three bets together is 12.5% (50% x 50% x 50%). However, the odds you get are +596 (this number differs between sportsbooks). This equates to an implied probability of 14.4%. Therefore, in placing this bet, you must assume more risk than the sportsbook is willing to pay you for.

This is a clear winning formula for sportsbooks. The UNLV Center for Gaming Research found that between 1989 and 2019, Nevada sportsbooks made a 30% “hold” (or profit) on parlays. By contrast, these same sportsbooks made only a 5% profit on all other football-related bets. Thus, the risk/reward is never in your favor when placing a parlay. Much like eating ice cream, placing parlays can be fun, but should only be done in moderation.

Virginia Week 3 Forecast

  • UVA at UNC -9
  • Under 66.5

Bronco Mendenhall has changed the trajectory of Virginia football in countless positive ways. In rebuilding the football program, Scott Stadium has grown into one of the most daunting places to play in the ACC. The Hoos are 19-2 at Scott Stadium since 2018.

However, that success has not translated to road contests. The Cavaliers have only won 2 of their last 11 games outside of Charlottesville, including four road losses in 2020. As good as Virginia has looked in its opening two games, I don’t think we have a clear picture of how competitive this team will be against a quality opponent.

North Carolina may not strike you as a “quality opponent” after an underwhelming season-opening loss in Blacksburg. However, I think that loss can be chalked up to early season inexperience, a hostile atmosphere, and an underrated Hokies defense. I expect the Tar Heels to be vastly improved with two games under their belts. Quarterback Sam Howell is one of the top prospects for next year’s NFL Draft. In addition to throwing for 560 yards, Howell is also the leading rusher for UNC, averaging nearly 70 yards per game. Howell’s top target in 2021 has been Josh Downs, who has ably filled the vacancies left by current NFL rookies Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown. This duo will be very difficult for UVA to slow down.

In doing research for this article, I kept coming back to something Bronco Mendenhall said during his press conference after UVA’s victory over VPISU in 2019. For most of the game, Virginia’s defense struggled because it “could not dial in when they were going to run or when they were going to throw.” This is precisely the strength of UNC’s offensive scheme. The Tar Heels put pressure on opposing defenses by getting the ball quickly to receivers outside the hashmarks. This opens up the middle of the field for the run game, putting a significant strain on the linebacking corps.

This is a winnable game for the Cavaliers, but it would not surprise me to see them struggle in their first road test of the season. This matchup becomes even more difficult if Brennan Armstrong is not at 100%. Until Virginia can consistently go on the road and get conference victories, we should remain skeptical. My prediction is a 41-27 UNC win; I would be thrilled to be wrong.

Week 3 Best Selections

  • Record to date: 5-5

After going 2-3 last week, we are back at the precipice of “Mount .500.” The worst of the losing bets was the North Carolina State/Mississippi State over which never stood a chance. The Wolfpack looked lost offensively and could not establish a consistent running game despite having two NFL-caliber backs. No one could have anticipated that NCSU would be stuck at 3 points for nearly 59 minutes. After crunching the numbers, I have found six games that will make you forget all about NC State’s fecklessness.

Cincinnati -4 at Indiana

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was one of the primary reasons for Indiana’s success in 2020. He led the Big Ten in passing yards before tearing his ACL in November. It was the third time in his short career that Penix faced a recovery from a season-ending injury. This cumulative wear and tear may be impacting his play. Through two games, Penix is 25-47 for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Indiana will need to score points to keep up with Cincinnati’s dynamic offense led by Desmond Ridder, the winningest quarterback in Bearcats’ history. Look for Cincinnati to add a third straight game with more than 40 points scored.

Florida +15 vs. Alabama

As much success as Florida head coach Dan Mullen has had against the rest of the SEC, he remains winless (0-10) against Nick Saban. Mullen came within striking distance during last year’s SEC Championship Game, a 52-46 shootout loss against one of the best offenses in college football history. This year, the Gators get to play Alabama on their own turf in front of 90,000 screaming fans. Florida has enough offensive tools to keep this game interesting. Back-up quarterback Anthony Richardson has been one of the most dynamic players in the SEC this season, averaging a staggering 25 yards per carry. I expect this to be a high-scoring affair and one of the best games of the day.

San Jose State -6.5 at Hawai’i

The Hawai’i defense has been a mess through three games. That’s understandable when playing against a ranked UCLA squad. It’s much more troubling to give up 35 and 45 points, respectively, to Portland State and Oregon State. Despite what the score might suggest, San Jose State played well against USC, throwing for 300 yards and matching the Trojans on yards per play. The Spartans have the experience of winning a 35-24 game at Hawai’i last season; I expect a similar result this weekend.

Ohio State -24.5 vs. Tulsa

Ohio State’s disappointing loss to Oregon last week masked another elite performance from freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud. He is currently No. 4 in the country in passing yards and has already thrown 7 touchdown passes. The Buckeyes are loaded with skill players on the offensive side of the ball. The issue has been the defense (more on that later). Fortunately, Tulsa’s offense is mediocre. Golden Hurricane quarterback Davis Brin has yet to throw a touchdown pass and struggled mightily against UC Davis two weeks ago. After a brutal week of practices, expect Ohio State to play angry and channel its frustration on Tulsa.

Georgia Tech at Clemson Over 52

The last three games between Clemson and Georgia Tech have been high-scoring blowouts. All three easily cleared the 52-point threshold. This line is lower than you might expect because of two dominant performances from Clemson’s defense, which has yet to allow a touchdown. Georgia Tech is competent offensively and should be able to get at least two scores. However, most of the work toward the over will be shouldered by Clemson. Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei started playing up to his potential last week against South Carolina State (it helps when you aren’t running for your life from Georgia’s defensive line). This is the week Clemson’s offense finally clicks and returns to the unstoppable juggernaut we are used to seeing.

Tulane at Mississippi Under 76

Everyone expected the Mississippi offense to thrive with Lane Kiffin calling plays. However, the Rebels’ defense has been much better than expected as well. Mississippi has forced four turnovers in two games, and completely shut down the electric Malik Cunningham for the first half in the opener against Louisville. Tulane is capable of scoring, but it has yet to face an SEC-caliber defense. Even the Green Wave’s high-scoring shootout vs. Oklahoma only reached a total of 75 points. This is simply too many points.

Specialty Bet of the Week

  • Record to date: 2-0

One of the most frustrating occurrences in sports betting is losing a bet with a “backdoor cover.” Imagine that you pick a highly ranked favorite. The team races out to a sizeable first half lead over inferior competition. In the fourth quarter with the game well in hand, your team begins sitting its starters. The opponent scores a couple touchdowns late to make the game seem more respectable even though the outcome was never in doubt. Suddenly, you find yourself on the losing side of a bet that seemed like a sure thing.

One way to avoid this scenario is to bet on a first half line. Most sportsbooks allow you to bet on games by halves or quarters. This week, we are picking UCLA -6.5 in the first half against Fresno State. The line for the entire game is UCLA -11.5, and Fresno State is dangerous enough offensively to make this a scary proposition late. In their opening week game against Oregon, the Bulldogs trailed by 8 at halftime, but started the second half by scoring 11 straight points. This led to a much tenser ending than many Oregon fans would have expected at halftime. The Bruins are coming off a bye week and should be rested and prepared for a winning first half.

Random Fact to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

Speaking of Oregon, the Ducks moved the ball at will against Ohio State last week, leading to a surprising 35-28 upset. Though Ohio State remains loaded with offensive talent, the Buckeyes defense is still a work in progress.

Dating back to last year’s National Championship game, Ohio State has now allowed 52, 31, and 35 points, respectively, in its last three contests. The last time Ohio State conceded 118 points over a three-game stretch was in 1891 during the team’s second year of organized football. Keep in mind, the first forward pass was not attempted in a collegiate game until 1906. If Tulsa manages to score 30 against Ohio State this weekend, defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs may be out of a job.

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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