SabreBetrics: Week 4 Betting Guide – It’s the Climb

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Though it still feels early, one quarter of the college football season is already in the rearview mirror. Several ranked teams, including Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma, escaped with narrow victories in Week 3. Other ranked teams, such as UCLA and Virginia Tech, were not as fortunate.

After watching traditional bluebloods like Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma struggle to win against inferior opponents, it occurred to me how uncertain I felt about most of the college football landscape. Outside of Alabama and Georgia, I have doubts about every contending team. As a result, I am staying away from picking big favorites this week. I expect there to be a lot of close games as teams enter conference play.

Mailbag Question

“Could you explain how round robin bets work? Are they worth doing?” – offline

A round robin is a combination of several different parlays rolled into a single wager. In a normal parlay, you pick the teams you want to include in your wager, and all your bets must win or you lose what you have staked. Round robin bets mitigate against the “all or nothing” approach to parlays. To illustrate how these bets work, we will need to rely on our memory of combination word problems from middle school math class.

Imagine you have four teams that you really like this week: Appalachian State, Baylor, Clemson, and Duke (gross). A round robin identifies all the different combinations of parlays that could come from these four teams and separates them into distinct bets. When pairing two teams together, there are six possible combinations:

  • Appalachian State could be paired with Baylor, Clemson, or Duke (3 bets)
  • Baylor could be paired with Clemson or Duke (2 bets)
  • Clemson and Duke can also be paired together (1 bet)

However, we can could also combine our original choices into four distinct sets of three:

  • Appalachian State, Baylor, and Clemson
  • Appalachian State, Clemson, and Duke
  • Appalachian State, Baylor, and Duke
  • Baylor, Clemson, and Duke

Finally, there’s a straight-forward parlay with all four teams we initially selected.

So, in choosing the round robin format, we have created 10 separate bets instead of just one. Most sportsbooks will let you choose whether you want to bet on just the two-team parlays, just the three-team parlays, or all 10 at once. One thing to keep in mind here in determining how much you want to spend on a round robin: the amount of money you choose to wager is used for every bet. So, if you chose a $5 stake and wanted to place all 10 bets, you would be risking $50 total.

Bettors use round robins to hedge their bets. If Duke lost in the above example, you would lose the four-team parlay. However, if the other teams won, you would still win all the individual two- and three-team parlays that did not involve Duke. However, round robins can involve more than four teams. Every team you include adds to the complexity of the bet and increases the amount you end up wagering.

Round robins are a fun approach to parlays that can be less risky. However, they are usually not a sound strategy for making money. You actually lose money going 2-1 with a traditional three-team round robin. The safer strategy is just to pick these games individually against the spread. However, if you decide you want to try out a round robin, I recommend picking four or five games and starting small with your wager.

Virginia Week 4 Forecast

  • Wake Forest +4 at Virginia
  • Under 68

Surrendering nearly 700 yards of total offense is not a viable strategy for winning football games. North Carolina’s offense was an unstoppable force, both on the ground and through the air. As impressive as Brennan Armstrong was, the offense only managed 24 rushing yards. To quote Mad Men: “Not great, Bob.”

Now Virginia must face another potent offense on a short week. During his time at Virginia, Bronco Mendenhall is 0-2 against Wake Forest, including a disappointing 40-23 loss in Winston-Salem last year. Wake’s players will be intimately familiar with that game, as the Demon Deacons return 20 of 22 starters from last year’s team. The offense is led by the steady hand of Sam Hartman, an accurate passer who rarely makes mistakes (6 touchdowns to 1 interception this season). He is flanked by two skilled wide receivers in A.T. Perry and Jaquarii Robinson, who are speedy vertical threats. Virginia’s front seven also faces a stiff test in stopping the rushing attack led by Christian Beal-Smith, who averages nearly 6.0 yards per attempt. Dave Clawson has a balanced offense that uses pace and run-pass options to keep the defense guessing. Though Wake Forest does not have the raw athleticism of North Carolina, many of the same offensive concepts apply. Virginia did not look good against these concepts.

I don’t believe Virginia’s defense is as bad as it looked against UNC. Many of the blown assignments and missed tackles can be fixed with time. Unfortunately, it is not realistic for the Cavaliers to have everything addressed on a short week. The question is whether the Hoos can continue their elite offensive production to mask current defensive deficiencies. The key will be establishing more of a downhill running game to make the offense less one-dimensional.

I think this is a coin flip game that Wake Forest could easily win. I give Virginia a slight edge because of its recent success at Scott Stadium. My heart predicts a 31-30 Virginia win, but if I was forced to bet it, I would not feel comfortable laying the points.

Week 4 Best Selections:

  • Record to date: 7-9

Cincinnati and Florida took care of business in Week 3. The other four bets … not so much. I predicted that Clemson and Georgia Tech would combine for at least 52 points and that it would be the game where “Clemson’s offense finally clicks and returns to the unstoppable juggernaut we are used to seeing.” Instead, the Tigers needed a goal line stand to avoid an apocalyptic 15-14 loss to a mediocre football team. Though I’m currently underwater for the season, I remain confident in my abilities. A great philosopher once said: “Always gonna be an uphill battle. Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose. Ain’t about how fast I get there. Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.” Time to start climbing.

Wisconsin -6 vs. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have been playing with fire for several weeks now. An overtime win against Florida State looks considerably worse than it did three weeks ago. Notre Dame followed this up with a nail-biter against Toledo and three mediocre quarters against unranked Purdue. Wisconsin is considerably better than any of these opponents and is coming off a bye week. The Badgers are very familiar with Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan, who transferred away from Wisconsin after sitting in 2020 with a foot injury. It’s fitting that this game will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago, as I expect both teams to play a smashmouth style of football that would make Mike Ditka proud. Wisconsin has the better ground game, averaging 263 rushing yards per game.

Army -8.5 vs. Miami-OH

This one is pretty straightforward: Army ranks third in the nation in total rushing yards. Miami-OH ranks 79th in rushing defense. Still not convinced? Allow me to introduce you to the Black Knights’ passing game! Through its first three games, Army quarterbacks are 11-13 for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns. Talk about efficiency! Jeff Monken currently has a well-oiled offensive machine that can score quickly or maintain possession depending on what the situation requires.

Nebraska +5 at Michigan State

Michigan State is coming off an impressive three touchdown win at Miami. The Spartans are now 3-0 and returning home to face a Nebraska team that is under the microscope after early season losses to Illinois and Oklahoma. Unsurprisingly, the public has seen this information and is heavily betting on the Spartans; currently, 82% of bets favor Michigan State. However, this short line raises a red flag for me. It seems too obvious. I would expect Michigan State to be favored by at least a touchdown in this position when playing at home. My philosophy is: when a line stinks this much, you should run to the smell. Nebraska was competitive at Oklahoma last week and might have won if not for ineffective placekicking. After an emotional road victory, Michigan State is in a classic let-down spot.

Washington -7 vs. California

The Huskies finally broke out of their offensive funk in Week 3, blasting Arkansas State 52-3. At least some of Washington’s early season troubles can be attributed to injuries with the receiving corps. Returning for his first game of the season, wideout Jalen McMillan made an immediate impact, catching 10 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. Despite a 1-2 record, Washington has an elite defensive unit that allows fewer than 300 total yards per game. By contrast, California’s defense just conceded 30 points to Sacramento State. Entering conference play, the Huskies have an opportunity to regroup after an ignominious start to the season and finally play up to their potential.

Kansas State +6.5 at Oklahoma State

Though Oklahoma State is 3-0, the Cowboys have not looked particularly impressive. In three games against Missouri State, Tulsa, and Boise State, the Pokes have won by a combined 13 points. Oklahoma State has been decimated by injuries to start the year, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas State has two workhorse running backs (Deuce Vaughn and Joe Irvin) and an offensive line that has only allowed 3 sacks this year. I expect the Wildcats to get some traction on the ground against an ailing front seven. Last year’s game was a 20-18 Cowboys win. I expect something similar on Saturday, so I will take the points.

Specialty Bet of the Week

  • Record to date: 2-1

After two successful weeks of doing teasers, I tried something new and lost with UCLA. Lesson learned. For my specialty bet this week, I have returned to teasers, but will be using three teams instead of two. In a three-team teaser, most sportsbooks will give you up to 10 points to use on your preferred side. I will use these points to reduce the number of points three favorites will need to cover.

Maryland -14.5 vs. Kent State –> -4.5: The Terps are playing inspired football in Mike Locksley’s third season as head coach. Taulia Tagovailoa has completed 75% of his passes, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

Iowa -23.5 vs. Colorado State –> -13.5: The Hawkeyes have an impressive defense that has only allowed 3 touchdowns in three games. Colorado State is 1-2 with losses to Vanderbilt and South Dakota State. Iowa should be able to win by at least two touchdowns at home.

North Carolina -12.5 at Georgia Tech –> -2.5: Quarterback Sam Howell now has successive games with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. Only one other Power 5 quarterback has accomplished this feat in the last decade: Lamar Jackson.

Random Facts to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

There are many unfortunate statistics that came out of the loss to North Carolina. However, I think it is important to take a moment and appreciate the amazing progression we have seen from quarterback Brennan Armstrong. His 554 passing yards against the Tar Heels is the highest single game total for a quarterback in Virginia football history, smashing the previous mark set by Kurt Benkert (455 vs. UConn in 2017) by nearly 100 yards. Armstrong’s statistics through the first three games put him in elite company. In the last decade, there is only one other college quarterback who accumulated 13 touchdowns, 1,300 yards passing, a 70% completion rate, and fewer than 3 turnovers through the opening three games: Patrick Mahomes.

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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1 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Armstrong may be playing himself into the draft this year
    I think our line stinks. It should be no more than 3 ( and probably less) Using your smell theory, take the Hoos to cover.

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