SabreBetrics: Week 8 Betting Guide – Playing Favorites

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Another weekend of football and another Top 10 team bites the dust. Iowa’s stout defense was not enough to compensate for offensive miscues and turnovers. As a result, the chaos of the season has counterintuitively led us to a College Football Playoff chase that looks awfully familiar (save for Cincinnati).

Despite significant flaws, Oklahoma and Ohio State have everything still to play for. Alabama has the potential to put an October loss in the rearview mirror and compete for another title. Only Georgia currently looks invincible, though the Bulldogs do not have the best track record for finishing strong. It should make for a fascinating few weeks as we move past the midpoint of the college football season.

Mailbag Question

“Know anything about tax withholding? Hit a parlay on a $50 bet last night, payout is $1,130. Trying to navigate the IRS site, and not 100% sure if I need to keep 24% set aside at tax time.” – Matoaca HooFan

Congratulations on winning such a significant parlay! I am not what you would call a “tax expert,” so let me preface this response by suggesting that you should verify your personal finances with a professional. With that caveat in place, this question is worth exploring especially as sports betting becomes more mainstream.

The first thing to know is that sports betting is viewed by the government as a form of income, even if you are not a professional gambler. You are expected to report your annual winnings on your personal tax return. Similarly, gambling losses over the course of the year can be claimed as deductions. This assumes that you don’t claim more than you have won and that you file using Schedule A with itemized documentation of your individual bets. If you bet a lot of money over the course of the year, I recommend maintaining a filing cabinet of your bet slips or at least an Excel document that tracks your overall progress. If you lose a negligible amount of money over 12 months, it is almost certainly not in your interest to try and file all the necessary paperwork to get a deduction.

The second thing to know is that sportsbooks are only required to report winning bets that meet these two criteria:

  • The winning amount is at least 300 times what you bet
  • The winning amount is over $600

When these criteria are met, the profits are subject to federal income tax withholding at 24%. This means you will absolutely want to include this information in your tax returns because the government already has the receipts. Some states also have additional tax withholding depending on where the money is won.

Overall, it is always better to overcommunicate with the IRS to be on the safe side. Though it is extremely unlikely that the taxman will come after you for winning a $5 bet on a couple games a month, if you find yourself on the winning end of a significant bet, you will need to report it.

Virginia Week 8 Forecast

  • Georgia Tech at Virginia -7
  • Under 62

It is always a breath of fresh air to watch Virginia dominate a conference opponent and benefit from fortunate bounces. Based on the talent of the opposition, it was the defensive unit’s best performance of the season. The Cavaliers forced four turnovers and moved the ball efficiently despite rainy conditions. The win sets up a night game against Georgia Tech with bowl eligibility on the line.

It has been an up and down year for Geoff Collins and the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech was a goal line stand away from beating Clemson in Death Valley and followed up this performance by smashing North Carolina. However, the Yellow Jackets also lost to Northern Illinois, needed a late touchdown to escape with a win against Duke, and were non-competitive against Pittsburgh. Consistency, particularly in the run game, was a major focus for Collins during Georgia Tech’s bye week.

The last few weeks, teams have stacked the box to slow down the Yellow Jackets’ rushing attack. This has limited the effectiveness of freshman quarterback Jeff Sims. Though Sims is a capable passer, he is more dangerous when he can move the pocket and keep defenses off balance with his running ability. I expect Virginia to bring pressure whenever there are clear passing downs to ensure Sims releases the ball quickly. As with the Louisville game, lane discipline and setting the edge will be crucially important for the Cavaliers.

Virginia is similarly looking for consistency on the defensive side of the ball. The defense has improved in recent weeks, but still is susceptible to big plays and missed tackles. The offensive consistency is what gives me confidence in the Cavaliers this week. In averaging 6.2 yards per play and with at least 30 points in six of seven games, Bronco Mendenhall has built the most dynamic offense of his tenure at UVA. The night game at Scott Stadium should provide an extra boost for the Cavaliers. I predict a 34-21 Cavalier victory.

Week 8 Best Selections

  • Record to date: 17-18-2

Another 2-2-1 week keeps us just below the break-even point. On the positive side, I was able to watch Fresno State cover with relative ease from the comfort of a local brewery. On the minus side, I had to explain to the owner why I wanted to dedicate a television to a Wyoming game on Fox Sports 2 as everyone else in the place was trying to watch the Virginia Tech game. At least my game was interesting in the second half. Speaking of the Hokies …

VPISU -3 vs. Syracuse

Pittsburgh’s defense was stifling last week, holding Virginia Tech to a season-low 225 yards of offense. Though Hokies’ quarterback Braxton Burmeister was “full go” after suffering an injury against Notre Dame, he did not look comfortable at all. I suspect that he will have a dramatically better game against the Orange. Syracuse is heavily reliant on rushing the ball with more than 60% of offensive plays being runs. The Orange are significantly less effective passing the ball; the 53.6% completion percentage ranks 112th among FBS teams. It is very difficult to beat the Hokies, especially in Blacksburg, when you are this one-dimensional on offense. This is a must-win game for Justin Fuente.

Wake Forest -3 at Army

The Black Knights struggled to move the ball against Wisconsin’s defense for most of the first half, before finally gaining traction late in the game. It was the second consecutive game where Army’s offense looked stagnant for large portions of the game. The Demon Deacons benefit from having two weeks to prepare for Army’s triple-option attack. Wake Forest also has a much more capable offense than the Badgers. The Deacs rank 10th nationally in points per game and have a 92% scoring rate in the red zone this season. Dave Clawson gets his team to 7-0 at West Point.

Iowa State -6.5 vs. Oklahoma State

After starting the season as a Top 10 team, Iowa State disappeared from the national spotlight. Both Cyclones losses, against rival Iowa and Baylor, could have easily gone the other way; Iowa State dramatically outgained the opposition in both games. Last week against Kansas State, the Cyclones started to play up to the preseason hype. Running back Breece Hall rushed for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns, while quarterback Brock Purdy completed 22 of 25 passes for 208 yards and no interceptions. As well as Oklahoma State defense has played this season, its offense has been below average. The Cowboys rush the ball on 65% of their offensive plays; Iowa State ranks 11th nationally in allowing only 3 yards per rushing attempt.

Ohio State -20 at Indiana

The Buckeyes appear to be back. After a slow start, Ryan Day’s squad now leads the nation in points per game (48.5) and yards per game (562.7). The Buckeyes’ average of 8.4 yards per play is better than that of last year’s juggernaut Alabama team or the Joe Burrow-led LSU National Championship team a year prior. Expect the Hoosiers to enter this game with an emotional hangover from a close loss at home to ranked Michigan State.

Utah -3 at Oregon State

The Utes used a 28-point burst to surge ahead of Arizona State last Saturday. Since losing two close contests to BYU and San Diego, Utah has played great football. Beavers’ quarterback Chance Nolan has seen his numbers go in the opposite direction. After starting the year with elite passing numbers, Nolan has only managed to complete 18 of 40 passes with no touchdowns and 3 interceptions in his last two starts. Stick with the hot hand and take Utah to cover on the road.

Specialty Bet of the Week

  • Record to date: 3-4

With my specialty bet this week, I am focusing on live betting. Most sportsbook apps provide updated lines throughout the game based on what has occurred. Live betting allows you to use the information you have seen within a game to make more informed decisions about what is likely to happen next. For example, if a heavy favorite falls behind early, it can drive down the line to something more manageable. Additionally, if an important player goes down with an injury, it can drastically change the outlook of the game and influence the betting line.

Obviously, I cannot provide a live bet for a game that has not started. Thus, I will be posting my “Official Live Bet Pick” on the message board at some point during the Saturday slate of games. Keep your eyes peeled!

Random Fact to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

Most college teams have played six or seven games to this point. Not a single FBS school has beaten the spread in every contest. However, there are several teams that continue to underperform Vegas expectations. The following four teams are winless against the spread:

  • Clemson
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico

This is certainly not the “list of four teams” I expected to see Clemson on to start the season.

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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