|Phil Steele Blog • July 06, 2015|
Team Over/Under Wins
As many of you know, I write a series of articles throughout the year for ESPN.com as a part of its “Insider” page, which includes daily articles by various experts on college football and other major sports. At $8.95 per month, $3.33 per month with a 1 year subscription or $2.50 per month with a 2 year subscription, ESPN Insider is a great value for sports fans who are looking for fresh insights from leading analysts. Likewise, you can always enjoy original college football articles that are produced frequently and posted at PhilSteele.com for free as a part of our blog series.
At the start of June, I wrote the following article on ESPN Insider, in which I analyzed the team Over/Under totals released by 5Dimes offshore sports book. Even if you read this article already on Insider, you will want to scroll to the bottom of the article to see how the lines have moved since I wrote the article. Enjoy!
It is the start of June and all the major magazines are out at the bookstores (Sporting News, Lindy’s, Athlon) or on their way to the bookstores (ESPN, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview). Five years ago towards the end of the month of June there used to be a casino or two in Las Vegas that put up Over Under Win totals for the season for 20 or 25 of the top teams in College Football Teams. Things are a lot faster now a days and an offshore sports book (5 Dimes) already has odds out for College Football Win totals on ALL 128 college Football teams (yes, even Appalachian St and Georgia St!).
The fine folks at ESPN Insider have asked me to look over these numbers and come up with some value plays for 2015. I do think by doing the article right now BEFORE my magazine becomes public I will be able to exploit some numbers before the lines are adjusted. I will not give away all the secrets in the magazine in this article but if you read between the lines you may discover some of my Most Improved and some of my Surprise Teams from the magazine as well as teams that just have line value!
Let me give you an idea of the line value. In the original Over Under win totals last year TCU opened up at 6.5. That meant you would play Over if you thought they could win 7 or more games and Under if you thought they would win 6 or less games. I had TCU as my #1 Most Improved team in the Country last year and even had them my #4 Surprise team meaning I thought the Frogs that had been just 4-8 in 2013 actually had a shot at making the playoffs in 2014! After my magazine came out the line shot up to 8 or 8.5. While it did not make a difference as TCU went 13-1 and nearly made the playoffs, the value would have been much better at 6’.
One final note on these lines for those of you who are not familiar with money line wagering and how it works. The standard odds in Las Vegas when wagering on a game is -110. This means you put up $110 to win $100. College Football Over Under Win totals have a much greater Money Line to deal with. As an example this year Kansas has an Over Under total of 1.5 wins for the season. That means just 2 wins gets you a winning ticket. That Over 1.5 play does come with a price tag of -260. That means to play the Over you have to put down $260 dollars and then wait until the end of the season and IF they get to 2 wins or more you win the grand total of $100.
Here are my early 2015 Value Plays:
San Diego St OVER 7.5 wins (-120) – If you check out philsteele.com, you see I am having a Top 40 countdown and I have San Diego St listed #38 and if you read the Phil’s Forecast, I gave them a shot at their first double digit win season since 1971. While that does include the MWC title game and the bowl they would still have to be over 7.5 in the regular season to get there. They look like the best team in the Mountain and avoid Boise and I have them favored in 9 regular season games and pick ‘em in another.
Miami Florida OVER 5.5 wins (-170). Miami has topped that total 7 straight years and this is Al Golden’s 5th year and he has a veteran QB in Brad Kaaya who played well as a true frosh and was not even in for the spring last year. Over 6 at a cheaper money line (like -110 or -120) would be a solid play as well and probably preferred. I know my magazine is not out yet but I have a sneaking suspicion that this one could jump to 7.5 wins shortly after it is released (wink, wink). Get it now.
Buffalo UNDER 5.5 wins (-155) – You are probably surprised to see Buffalo here for a couple of reasons. First of all they are a MAC team. Secondly had their home game against Kent St last year not got cancelled (and they were favored to win) they would have had 6 wins last year and they return their 4 year starting QB, 1400 yard RB and 9 of their top 10 receivers. I look beyond the obvious and see just 2 starters back on the Offensive line and 4 overall on defense plus a new head coach. They played 2 FCS foes last year and I have them favored in 1 game and pick em in 3 others. To top 5.5 wins they must be bowl eligible and I have 4 or 5 other teams in the East getting to bowls.
Penn St OVER 7.5 wins (-160) – Last year Penn St had a poor offensive line and was in James Franklin’s first year with just 12 returning starters. This year they have 15 returning starters and I look for Christian Hackenberg to look like the probable high first round pick he will be in 2016. I think Penn St has a chance to be favored in as many as 9 or 10 games this year. Last year was probably the year most affected by the sanctions so this will be a much better team in Franklin’s 2nd year.
USC OVER 8.5 wins (-150) – With a total of 8.5 wins for the total, a team can afford to lose THREE games and still go over the total. I don’t want to give too much away but my projected AP Top Ten right now on philsteele.com has USC at #7 and that would mean I expect double digit wins. QB Cody Kessler has a great supporting cast including a veteran and top notch offensive line. They have the best depth they have had since the sanctions hit and that should mean less wilting in the 4Q which cost them some wins last year. I think USC is one of the top teams in the country and 8.5 wins supplies us with a lot of value.
Colorado St UNDER 7.5 (-120) – I think Jim McElwain did a great job building up this Colorado St team and he does not leave them in bad shape as they return 15 starters from a 10 win team in 2014 and also the 3rd highest % of lettermen returning. I am still picking the under here. Usually in a coaching change the first year has a learning curve with the new coaches having to learn to the players strengths and weaknesses and the players having to learn new schemes. The Rams do lose QB Garrett Grayson and LT Ty Sambrallo to the NFL as well as RB Dee Hart (1275, 6.6). Prior to last years 10 win total they had not topped 7.5 wins in the regular season since 2002 (11 seasons) and they have a tough schedule with Minnesota, a much improved Colorado, Boise St, Utah St, San Diego St all on it as well as a road game at Fresno St not to mention their rivalry game vs Wyoming.
LSU OVER 8 (-125) – So the LSU program is sliding back to the pack after going 13-0 to open up 2011. They lost the national title game to Alabama in 2011 then went just 10-3 each of the next two years and crashed down to 8-5 last year. Interestingly in the last 14 years they have won LESS than 8 games in a season ONCE so you have to feel pretty comfortable here with ties being a push. Last year LSU was replacing a 3,000 yard passer, two 1,000 yard receivers and a 1,000 yard rusher and had just 12 returning starters. This year all the top skill players are back and they have 15 returning starters. They lost 18 players to the NFL draft in ’13 & ’14 combined including a ton of underclassmen but this year had just 4 players drafted (only 1 in first two rounds) and only 1 underclassman left early. I think LSU is very capable of a double digit win season like they had 4 of the previous 5 years and get them now while the total is just 8.
Bowling Green Over 5 (-180) – This is another one which I would be very comfortable playing BG over 5.5 at a much cheaper price (like -120) so see if that is an option. BG won 10 games in 2013. Last year they went thru a drastic switch going from a defensive based team to the fast paced no huddle attack. They then lost their very talented returning starter at QB in week one. They still managed to wrap up the MAC East title and then rested some players for the upcoming MAC title game and after starting 7-3 dropped those two games at the end. BG gets QB Matt Johnson back and has my #1 rated Offensive line and #1 set of receivers in the MAC among 10 starters on that side of the ball. The D should be improved in the 2nd year of the new coach. 5.5 wins? That number is really cheap.
Colorado Over 4.5 wins (-140) – This is a sneaky one with a lot of hidden value. I think Mike MacIntyre is one of the most underrated coaches out there. He somehow coaxed a below average team to 4 wins his first year and fell back to just 2 wins last year. Now, I am asking him to more than double that total? Here’s why. Usually head coaches have a big year their 3rd season when the majority of the roster are made up of their own recruits and their systems are fully integrated. In MacIntyre’s 3rd year at San Jose St he took a previously woebegone team and tied a school record with 11 wins and they were ranked for the first time since 1975. No, Colorado will not win 11 games in his 3rd year here but they are one of the most improved teams in the country and could open the season 4-0! Last year they had 4 losses by 5 points or less which means they were basically 4 plays from being bowl eligible. The kicker is they play a 13 game schedule giving you an extra opportunity to top that 4.5 total.
These are my 9 top value plays as of today and I expect many of them to have much different odds by the time July rolls around.
Update- Line Movements as of July 7th
As I mentioned in the final paragraph of the article, the odds have indeed moved in just a month (all odds courtesy of 5Dimes). Here are the updates with my quick-hitting thoughts:
San Diego St: from OVER 7.5 wins (-120) to 7 wins (-175)- Due to lengthy suspensions to multiple players, most notably starting RG Darrell Greene, whom I named to my 1st Team All-Mountain West preseason team, the prospects for San Diego State are a little less clear. The over/under has dropped to 7, but at a much lower payout for those playing the over.
Miami, Florida: from OVER 5.5 wins (-170) to OVER 6 wins (+100)- Although he O/U for Miami has moved up another half-point, the over still looks very reasonable, particularly at +100.
Buffalo: from UNDER 5.5 wins (-155) to UNDER 5 wins (-280)- Pretty significant move here, as taking the under on the Bulls requires you to give up another half-point and a sizeable reduction in return at -280 from -155.
Penn St: from OVER 7.5 wins (-160) to OVER 8 wins (-145)- Another slight move in upward; the over still represents some value at 8 as the payout increases as well.
USC: from OVER 8.5 wins (-150) to OVER 9 (-120)- At 9 wins, the hurdle is more difficult for USC to clear, but remember that this is a bona fide national title contender and the payout obviously improves.
Colorado State: from UNDER 7.5 wins (-120) to UNDER 7 wins (-150)- Some movement here, as the line drops a half point along with the payout, making it a less attractive under play.
LSU: from OVER 8 wins (-125) to OVER 8 wins (+120)- With the payout increasing on the over, LSU becomes an enticing proposition. This line movement appears to reflect some of the attrition on the defensive 2 or 3 deep, as well as the uncertain status of QB Anthony Jennings, whom I projected as the backup in my magazine.
Bowling Green: from OVER 5 wins (-180) to OVER 5 wins (-260) – The line remains at 5 for now, though the payout from June is much less attractive. This could move to 5.5 or 6 over the course of the summer, so stay tuned.
Colorado: from OVER 4.5 wins (-140) to OVER 5 wins (+115) – Finally, Colorado, a strong value play at 4.5, has moved swiftly to 5 and may continue to move as the summer progresses. At +115, this over continues to be worth a long look.
As you can see, the lines have tended to move in the direction of my predictions in the ESPN Insider article barring extraordinary circumstances, which is one more great reason to sign up now and get ahead of the game! Also, as mentioned above, please continue to check in daily here at PhilSteele.com for the latest news and analysis on college football.
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