SabreBetrics: Week 9 Betting Guide – Where’s The Value?

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Week 8 featured one of the weakest slates of games of the 2021 season. Still, there were several close calls that nearly upended the football landscape, as well as a thrilling nine-overtime game between Illinois and Penn State.

This weekend features several intriguing matchups, including the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” “War for the Oar” in Jacksonville and an intrastate battle of undefeated teams in East Lansing. Despite the uptick in game quality, pace yourselves this weekend; there is a lot of football to get through before Virginia even steps foot on the field.

Mailbag Question

“Sometimes on gambling shows or blogs, they refer to betting ‘units’ rather than money. What is a unit?”

In the interest of full disclosure, this question did not come from the message boards. I overheard this question at a neighboring UVA tailgate last weekend. Because the questioner did not receive an adequate response (and I did not want to insert myself into the conversation), I thought I would answer it here.

Units refer to the amount of money a gambler would normally bet on an individual wager. Professional bettors may place wagers in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, while casual bettors may be comfortable placing the occasional $5 parlay. Whatever your risk tolerance is, “the unit” represents what you are likely to put down.

Sports handicappers, columnists, and pundits use units as part of their gambling lingo for two basic reasons:

  • It allows them to provide scalable information on how well their picks are doing over the course of the season. For example, if a columnist tells you he is at “plus 5 units for the year,” you can insert your own personal value to evaluate how much money you would win if exclusively following his/her picks.
  • It allows them to highlight the confidence level of any individual bet. Betting multiple units on a game indicates a high degree of certainty about the outcome.

There was also a time, not too long ago, where it was viewed as improper to discuss betting in sports media. Though it seems impossible to imagine now given the bombardment of sports betting commercials on network television, ESPN only started encouraging its employees to openly discuss gambling issues in 2015. Discussing things in terms of units, rather than money, was seen as more socially acceptable. Fortunately, we now live in a more enlightened society … at least in terms of sports betting.

Virginia Week 9 Forecast

  • Virginia +3 at BYU
  • Over 63

In 11 seasons as the BYU head coach, Bronco Mendenhall amassed an impressive 99-43 record. He left Provo in 2015, taking several assistant coaches and staff members with him. Though his record at UVA is not quite as impressive (36-34), Mendenhall has undoubtedly changed the trajectory of the once ailing Virginia program.

After navigating through the various narratives surrounding Bronco Mendenhall returning to BYU, it figures to be a competitive contest between two Top 25-caliber teams. After starting the year 5-0, the Cougars have struggled in recent weeks, losing to Boise State and Baylor, while narrowly edging Washington State. The Cougars are most successful when they can establish a productive running game. In wins against Utah State and Washington State, sophomore tailback Tyler Allgeier amassed 218 and 191 rushing yards, respectively. In the loss to Baylor, Allgeier was held to only 33 rushing yards. Though BYU quarterback Jaren Hall is a competent passer with a rating of 79.5 for the season, taking away the run game needs to be Virginia’s top priority.

BYU has an above average defense that has given up fewer points than you might expect given the number of yards it has allowed. However, Virginia figures to have a significant advantage in the passing game. The Cougars’ defense ranks 102nd in sack percentage and 107th in completion percentage allowed. As always, if Brennan Armstrong can avoid costly interceptions, the Cavaliers have an opportunity to score plenty of points.

The game against Georgia Tech featured the highs and lows of the Virginia football program. Should we expect to see the team that quickly fell behind 13-0 and tried to give the game away in the final three minutes? Or will we see a triumphant offensive performance as we saw for the other 50 minutes of the game? After two victories on the road this year, the Hoos should have confidence traveling to Provo. Though games at elevation can sometimes pose problems for visiting teams, I think the Cavaliers’ offense continues to thrive against a struggling secondary. I predict a 38-34 UVA victory.

Week 9 Best Selections

  • Record to date: 19-21-2

I never like losing a bet. However, the best kind of losing bet is one where Virginia Tech also loses as a result. Last week, I saw a lot of value on favorites. This week, I think the value has swung in the other direction.

Wisconsin -3 vs. Iowa

When we last saw the Hawkeyes, they were outclassed at home against a middling Purdue team. Instead of forcing takeaways as the team had done all season, Iowa was repeatedly turning it over and giving the Boilermakers short fields to work with. In dispatching Purdue the following week, Wisconsin proved it can win a football game by taking the ball out of the hands of quarterback Graham Mertz. Two different running backs ran for at least 140 yards, while Mertz only attempted 8 passes. As good as Iowa’s defense has been, the Badgers may be better. Wisconsin is ranked 2nd in yards allowed per play and 1st in rushing yards allowed. This will be a low-scoring game of two run-first teams. Wisconsin is playing better football right now and will have the advantage of playing in Madison.

Florida +14.5 vs. Georgia

It is difficult to bet against Georgia after how dominant they have looked defensively. However, the Bulldogs have not yet faced an offense as potent as Florida. The Gators rank 3rd in yards per play and average more than 34 points per game. Florida has struggled in true road tests this season (at Kentucky and at LSU) but has played well within the friendly confines of the Sunshine State. This neutral site game is in Jacksonville so the crowd should be evenly split. Both teams enter the game off a bye week, so I expect both to be well-prepared and rested. Even though I believe Georgia will ultimately win the game, it is a closer matchup than many people think.

SMU +1 at Houston

Speaking of potent offenses, Sonny Dykes’ Mustangs are a well-oiled machine. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai is putting up video game numbers this season, throwing for 29 touchdowns and 2,320 yards through seven games. The Ponies are averaging 40.5 points per game and rank 4th in yards per play. Houston has also played well for most of the season but looked shaky down the stretch against East Carolina. With a difficult win at TCU already under its belt, SMU has shown the ability to win difficult games on the road.

Mississippi State +1.5 vs. Kentucky

Mike Leach has a team as befuddling as his personality. The same team that dominated NC State and beat Texas A&M also has losses to LSU and Memphis. Despite this inconsistency, I like Mississippi State to pull off the upset at home. Starkville is a difficult place to play, and the Bulldogs Air Raid attack matches up well against the “bend but don’t break” secondary of Kentucky. If you decide to watch the game, go ahead and make an appointment with your ENT. Despite its fever-curing qualities, too much cowbell can also cause tinnitus.

Hawaii +6 at Utah State

Utah State has only one victory this season by more than the current point spread: a Week 2 victory against North Dakota. The Aggies seem to play up or down to whatever competition they currently face. Hawaii played difficult competition out of the gate, including games against UCLA and Oregon State. However, the Warriors’ offense has played more efficiently since switching to freshman quarterback Brayden Schager. Given Utah State’s inability to win games decisively, I will take the points.

Troy at Coastal Carolina Over 52 (Thursday night)

Despite losing a chance at a perfect season against Appalachian State, the Chanticleers still have one of the most potent offenses in college football. Coastal Carolina has scored at least 49 points in five of seven games this season. Given this offensive production, you only need Troy to score on a couple possessions to approach the total of 52. I expect to see an angry and motivated Coastal Carolina team in a bounce-back spot Thursday night.

Specialty Bet of the Week

  • Record to date: 3-4-1

This week we are digging deep into our bag of tricks to pull out a fun bet that can be found in most online sportsbooks. If you click into the props section of any individual game, you should be able to find a Yes/No bet for three straight scores. This bet means that you are choosing whether either team will score three times in a row during the game. It is important to note that any type of scoring play counts (touchdowns, field goals, or safeties) and the scores do not need to be on consecutive drives. If a team scores three times in a row uninterrupted by the other team scoring, that wins the “yes” bet (example: 21-0 at the end of the first half).

Because there is a lot of scoring in college football, “yes” bets tend to win more frequently than “no” bets. As a result, you can get better odds on the “no” side of the bet if you think it will be a back-and-forth game with fewer possessions and points scored. To maximize our chance of success, I have chosen a game with a close line (3) and a low point total (37) – Iowa at Wisconsin.

The bet: neither Wisconsin nor Iowa will score three straight times (+120).
I’m not convinced either team will score three times total.

Random Facts to Impress Your Fellow Tailgaters

After beating Clemson at home last week, Pittsburgh is in the driver’s seat in the ACC Coastal Division race. It was the Panthers’ second victory against Clemson since 2015. The Tigers only have three other losses to ACC teams during that timeframe: at Syracuse in 2017, at Notre Dame* in 2020, and at NC State earlier this year.

Following up on our fact from last week, Clemson remains winless against the spread this season. With Kansas and New Mexico covering last week, Missouri is the only other FBS school without a win against the spread.

*We can give the Irish partial credit here.

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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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Normally I’d have no issues with taking the Over in a CCU game, however the weather is supposed to be down right awful. This game could potentially get cancelled due to expected lightning which would work in favor of the Over. Expect heavy doses of running tonight if they play.

    1. That is a concern, which is why the total has dropped to 50 since writing this entry. I’ll take the chance.

      1. I took the over as well – called my wife and son before the game for the weather report – hope you won big.

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