I don’t handicap non-conference games. I used to a long time ago, but researching the variety of teams that land on the Big Ten nonconference schedule got to be too time consuming. I figure if I’m to have any advantage in picking winners, it will come from my diligence in watching and following all of the Big Ten teams throughout the season and wagering on games that involve only those teams. I won’t bet on any Week 1 games, conference game or not. I like to see a team play at least once before I make any wagering decisions. But I will say, there is some value in the early weeks, as the oddsmakers and fans are also learning about this season’s teams. I’ve noticed through the years that as I’m doing my preseason research, there have been occasions when I felt that a team or two was either overrated or underrated by most prognosticators. Purdue was that team last season. I felt that the Boilermakers had talent, they just needed a good coach, and with newly hired Jeff Brohm coming in with high accolades, I correctly predicted a stronger than expected season from the Boilermakers. But the general betting public expected “same ‘ol bottom dwelling Purdue” and the betting lines reflected this. Consequently, Purdue started the season 3-0 against the spread. Of course, after a few games, the cat’s out of the bag and the lines get sharper and John Q. Public starts to believe in Purdue or any other surprise team. I’ll stick to my guidelines of not betting non-conference games, but as an experiment, I’ll be tracking a couple of teams that I’ve picked out as “high value”, and see how they do ATS in their first three games.
These are the two teams I’m isolating:
Michigan St. – bet against.
Most publications are expecting big things from Sparty as they return several starters from a team that finished with ten wins last season. Some folks consider Michigan St. as top 15 coming into the season, but my predictions page (preseason predictions) shows that I don’t see Sparty posting much better than a .500 conference record.
I think Michigan St. will be good, but I think the lofty expectations are a result of what people are seeing on paper, the ten wins and the returning starters. A close look reveals that many of those ten wins could have gone either way, and that the losses were by large margins. So I think the numbers will be inflated in favor of Michigan St., and betting against the Spartans early on could pay off.
Ohio St. – bet against
Remember, the oddsmaker’s job is not to correctly pick the outcome, but to set a line that will draw an equal amount of action on both teams (although for the most part this is basically the same thing). So Ohio St.’s number is always going to be inflated by a bit to account for Buckeye nation betting with their heart and not their head. And Ohio St. has been so dominant recently that they’re always going to be perceived as great, justified or not. I think the recent turmoil is going to turn out to be distraction enough to have this team starting off slower than expected, and betting against Ohio St. could pay off.
I strongly considered:
Iowa – bet against
Most are projecting Iowa to turn in a good season mainly because the schedule sets up nicely. I’m not seeing anything on paper to think the Hawkeyes will win the ten games some are projecting. Iowa always seems to get off to a slow start and I don’t think this season will be different.
I’m not so sure about these, but I gave them some thought:
Purdue – bet with
Can there still be value in Purdue? Perception takes a while to die and, just like the assumption that Ohio St. will be always great, the same assumption applies that Purdue will always be bad. But the cat may be out of the bag after last season. I think Purdue will take a small step forward, but then, several others may feel the same way.
Illinois – bet with
I don’t think Illinois is going to finish with a good record. But I do think they will be an improved team. Most consider Illinois as the bottom-dweller that they are, so I figure the Illini might draw some point spreads that can be covered.
Minnesota – bet against
Minnesota had some decent seasons recently, but dropped off in the win column last season. I don’t know if the moderate success is still in people’s minds, but I don’t see the Gophers as returning to the “moderate success” status this season.
Nebraska – bet against
Nebraska fans are overly enthused about new HC Scott Frost. Most prognosticators are praising the hire, but I’m not seeing any lofty expectations concerning the win-loss column from John Q. Public, so I’m not too sure about this one.