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The inside line from PinnacleSports.com by Simon Noble
With the opening weekend of college football just days away, many players are studying changes made during the off-season. One of the biggest changes doesn’t involve any player or team, but the length of the game itself.
Rule 3-2-5-e states “When Team A is awarded a first down, the clock will be stopped and will start on the ready for play signal.” This amendment means the clock will restart when the ball is ready after a punt or kickoff; the clock didn’t start in prior years until the ball was snapped.
In a typical game, each team has about 12 possessions. The new rule should come into play approximately 24 times and is estimated to shorten the game by five minutes. One obvious consequence of this new rule is that games will be lower scoring. If each team now only has 11 possessions instead of 12 (12 * 55 minutes / 60 minutes), you would expect scoring to be about 8% lower. The linemakers at Pinnacle Sports betting agree and you’ll likely see totals that are lower than in previous years.
Additionally there are two less-obvious impacts that sharp bettors will certainly look to exploit in college. First, the average margin of victory will decrease. A game spread is the sum of expected scoring in all possessions. In reasonably close match-ups (where the spread is 14 or less), you would expect the game to be slightly closer than in years past. A game lined at -14 in previous years might be -13 or -12.5 this year.
This effect won’t be as significant between unevenly matched teams. For example, take the Texas/North Texas match-up, where the Longhorns are 41 point favorites. In expected blowouts, the favorite typically plays its starters until up about 30 points (often in the first half) before putting on the second-string. While there’s still one fewer possession per team, many second-half possessions are routinely spent just chewing up the clock and have less effect on the total compared to possessions in close games.
Another more subtle result of the new clock rule is that more games will be won by exactly 3 and 7 points. If each team had exactly one possession, nearly all games would be decided by 3 or 7 points (or end in a tie). Each additional possession decreases the likelihood of landing on the 3 or 7. In a two possession game, a team could also win by 6, 10 or 14. Conversely, reducing the length of the game by five minutes makes the 3 and 7 slightly more likely to occur.
Many books already under-price the 7, allowing bettors to buy onto and off of the 7 for 10 cents (instead of 14-15 cents, which is the “fair” value). With the new rules, this type of point buying becomes even stronger – perhaps strong enough that some may blindly play all teams at -7.5 or +6.5 at retail, buying onto and through the 7.
These rule changes will provide the greatest opportunities for sports bettors early in the season before the lines are fully corrected by oddsmakers. In addition to rule changes, understanding how teams have changed in the off-season can also reap generous profits.
All college teams experience a learning curve during the season. It’s common sense that the longer teammates play and practice together under a single system, the more consistent they’ll become. While bettors intuitively understand that low roster turnover will improve a team, many sports bettors underestimate the changes that occur during a season.
A team with only five returning starters does not play equally bad all season; instead they’ll often start poorly and improve throughout the season. Instead of viewing this team as “consistently bad” for the entire year, the opinion would be more precise to view this team as “very bad” during the first half of the season, and just “somewhat bad” as the team gains experience. Similarly, teams with many returning starters have a pronounced early season advantage, but this diminishes later as the season progresses.
Bettors should also consider whether there’s been a coaching change. If there’s a new coach, the team tends to revert to the mean - winning teams will win less, and losing teams will lose less. On the other hand, a team with a returning head coach AND many returning starters should be on track for a solid season.
The following teams that return their head-coach and at least 20 starters should be poised to start 2006 on a high note:
2. Ball State
3. Kent State
4. Mississippi St.
5. Ohio U.
7. Western Michigan
Compare those to these teams returning less than 10 starters:
1. Florida St.
4. Louisiana Tech
6. Penn State
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For the first weeks of the season, there may be opportunities to back the first seven teams and fade the second set. On September 16th, Miami-Ohio will play at Kent State. This game will present a unique betting opportunity when a team from each list plays and it’s doubtful the point spread will adequately adjust for the extreme difference in returning starters.
What are our players betting at the Pinnacle Sports Book?
Odds to win the Super bowl: Dallas +749
Self-confessed cheese head fan, Brendan from Oz sent an email and was interested to know who the hot teams were in the early Super Bowl market. The Cowboys opened up as a large +3000 dog. In our most heavily traded Super Bowl future, a combination of sharp and public action drove their price down. If T.O. actually plays when Dallas travels to Jacksonville in the season opener on September 10th, those early buyers will be patting themselves on the back.
NFL Regular Season wins: Cincinnati Over 8.5 -146
PinnacleSports.com opened the Bengals at over 9.5 -120. While some of our early sharps immediately hit the under, there’s been heavy balanced action. The price was driven down due to a combination of one-sided sharp action and general market drift.
USC -8.5 +101 at Arkansas
Sharp betting 101: Fade teams that play in the National Championship for the first two weeks. PinnacleSports.com opened USC as a moderate 9-point road favorite in their September 2nd opener, and heavy balanced action poured in. It has been mostly sharps on Arkansas and public money backing USC. What does it mean when we say “sharp players” are on a side? Our player profiling identified long-term winners through a variety of statistics. Last year’s “sharp plays” listed in the Pulse won over 58% of the time, but don’t forget that past results are no guarantee of future success