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Bet The Game: 3 Takeaways from the Betting Weekend

By Zack Schlegel

Another week, another chance for us to dissect the betting weekend for all its glory… and heartbreak. Here are my top-3 takeaways from the football betting weekend.

 

Michigan State and Stanford… the greatest love/hate relationship in college football betting. 

I’ll try to keep this one short, like how my leash is becoming when it comes to trusting these two programs to cover the spread for me. It’s not like the Spartans and the Cardinal are BAD as covering the spread. In fact look at these records against the spread since 2010:

  • Michigan State 62-58-2 (51.7%) ATS overall since 2010
  • Stanford 74-47-3 (61.2%) ATS overall since 2010

Clearly, Stanford has proven to be a much better bet against the number over the past decade, but the Spartans’ record isn’t awful by any means. However, for some reason I will always bet these teams when they lay an egg, and then fade them when they have their best game of the year. Pretty typical sports betting woes, right?

A year ago I took Michigan State as a short road favorite at Arizona St. The the Spartans blew a 13-3 lead, only to lose on a FG as time expired, 16-13. This year the Spartans were at home with a senior quarterback, going against an Arizona St squad with a true freshman quarterback making the first road start of his career. Things will be different this year, I said. Michigan State’s offense must be able to put up more than 13 points, I thought. Well… was I ever wrong. The Spartans offense was shut out until the fourth quarter. They lost the game 10-7 as 14.5-point favorites.

I could write a novel about the times that Stanford has completely screwed me over the years. Many of those coming against my beloved Oregon Ducks. For my sanity, let’s just keep it within the 2019 season. There’s already plenty to mention through three weeks.

In week one, the Cardinal were 6-point favorites at home against the Northwestern Wildcats. I know that usually both teams rely on their defense to carry them, so I was expecting a low scoring affair where Northwestern would cover and have a great chance to win outright. My bet was on Northwestern +6, with a little sprinkle on the money line. The score was 10-7 Stanford with just 0:20 left in the game, and Northwestern had the ball on their own 22 yard line. The cover had already cashed in my mind, and now I was thinking maybe we get a miracle touchdown or a big play that sets the Wildcats up with a FG opportunity to send it into overtime.

What happened next was just a good old fashion bad beat. QB Hunter Johnson was sacked and the ball was stripped away from him in the process, as Stanford’s Jordan Fox scooped up the ball and ran it into the end zone to seal the game for the Cardinal. The touchdown made it a 17-7 final scoring, covering the spread for Stanford backers, and leaving me shaking my head in disgust.

It’s all good and well, because when Stanford made their way to Orlando, FL for a road game against #17 UCF, there was a lot to like about backing the Cardinal. Stanford was 17-7 (70.8%) ATS after a loss since 2010, and they were getting 8.5 points in this spot. On top of that, they were 14-6 (70.0%) ATS as an underdog since 2010. Trends like that are just too good to pass up, so I went with Stanford +8.5.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was going to be screwed once again in a Stanford Cardinal football game. UCF jumped out to a 38-7 halftime lead, and I told myself for the 100th time that I would never bet a Stanford game again. The Cardinal fought valiantly, winning the second half 20-7, but unfortunately losing the game 45-27. Only time will tell if I am able to stay away from the unpredictable land mines that are Stanford and Michigan State.

 

If the season ended today, Jalen Hurts in your Heisman winner. 

Jalen Hurts is not just following in the footsteps of the last two Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, he’s setting the bar even higher. Personally, I have not seen a college football player this laser focused since Tim Tebow in 2008. There is no amount of success in any given game that will leave Hurts satisfied or feeling comfortable in the slightest bit. After his record breaking performance in the Sooners’ 49-31 opening win against Houston, Hurts would not even crack a smile or acknowledge his personal accomplishments. The mood was all business, and what was most important to him was getting better as team.

Oklahoma is off to a solid 3-0 start, defeating the UCLA Bruins this past weekend by a score of 48-14. Hurts casually threw for 289 yards and 3 TD’s, while adding another 150 yards and a TD on the ground. So far this season, Hurts has completed 80.3% of his passes for 880 yards and 9 TD’s, and 0 INT’s. He is also averaging 124 yards rushing per game, with 4 total rushing TD’s.

Looking back over the past three seasons for Oklahoma, here is how Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts compare statistically after their first three games:

Baker Mayfield (2017): 63-82 (76.8%), 1,046 yards, 10 TD’s, 0 INT’s, -13 yards rushing, 0 TD’s

Kyler Murray (2018): 49-73 (67.1%), 863 yards, 8 TD’s, 1 INT, 169 yards rushing, 2 TD’s

Jalen Hurts (2019): 49-61 (80.3%), 880 yards, 9 TD’s, 0 INT’s, 373 yards rushing, 4 TD’s

Looking at what is coming up for Oklahoma, they currently have just two ranked teams remaining on the schedule (#12 Texas and #25 TCU, both at home). It’s not absurd to think they the Sooners run the table and get back into the CFB Playoff for the third year in a row, and fourth time out of the six years since the playoff has been established. 2017 was the only year where the Heisman Trophy winner was on a team that did not make the CFB Playoff, and that was Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.

I expect Jalen to continue to shine and remain a top-3 Heisman candidate for the remainder of the season, as long as he stays healthy. I mean, if Lincoln Riley can produce the school’s third Heisman trophy winning quarterback in a row at Oklahoma, we may want to look into naming the program “The Heisman Factory.” Also, who wouldn’t want to see a rematch between Alabama and Oklahoma? Jalen Hurts vs Tua Tagovailoa is the game that college football fans deserve.

Current Heisman Odds (via Vegas Insider):

Tua Tagovailoa 2-1

Jalen Hurts 4-1

Joe Burrow 9-2

Trevor Lawrence 7-1

Justin Fields 8-1

Jonathan Taylor, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Sam Ehlinger 20-1 (tied)

 

Odds makers cannot set the spread high enough to attract Miami Dolphins money. 

The 2019 Miami Dolphins may go down as the worst team assembled in the history of the NFL. This past week, odds makers opened the line at Miami +15.5 in most books, and we saw that get bet all the way up to +19 or higher before kickoff. The spread was the third largest in NFL history — largest was the 49ers -23 at Falcons in 1987. Simply put, seeing a double digit spread in the NFL is a rare sight in itself, but seeing a spread close to 20-points is absolute ludicrous.

Things have gotten so bad, that some sports books are offering an NFL prop bet where you can wager on whether or not the Dolphins will go 0-16 this season. You can grab YES to the Dolphins going 0-16 at +950 currently via Bovada ($100 to win $950).

In week 3, Miami will be at Dallas for their first road game of the year. They were outscored 102-10 in their two home games so far. Dallas opened as 16-point favorites, and that number as already been bet up to Dallas -21, currently. In addition to the Cowboys being a far superior football team against a Dolphins franchise that is tanking in every sense of the term, Dallas happens to hold the best record ATS vs non-conference teams since 2010. The Cowboys are 21-13-2 ATS when facing teams outside of the NFC.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see this number get very close to that NFL record of a 23-point spread before we get to kickoff next Sunday. Dallas has put up an average of 33 points per game in their first two games (both against divisional opponents). At what point will we begin to see some interest in grabbing the enormous number with Miami? That is a question odds makers will be wrestling with all season long.

Judah and I will be back to breakdown our college football week 4 ‘Best Bets’ and NFL week 3 picks later in the week. Stay tuned for more Bet The Game content here on 750 The Game.

 

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