Thursday, December 30, 2010

Betting Notes From Las Vegas

By Micah Roberts

Jacory Harris Looks To Start For Miami
Prior to Hawaii falling badly to Tulsa as 10 ½-point favorites, the favorites of the first six bowl games had all covered. Even though there is no correlation with one game to another, it always seems like during the stretch run we’re about to see this week, that this is the time frame when things always level off in the favorite to underdog ratio.

The trend of taking underdogs at +8 or higher in pre-New Year’s day bowls is 1-2 thus far, but if playing money lines, you’re well ahead with Tulsa. This week we have two other opportunities to make the trend hold up with Army getting 8-points against SMU and Washington getting 13-points against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

Even though the Huskies got blasted at home by the Cornhuskers 56-21 in September, it’s safe to say that Nebraska’s current squad isn’t the same amid several internal squabbles, the main one being quarterback Taylor Martinez who orchestrated all those early season blow outs. While Nebraska comes in somewhat of a team in disarray, Washington comes in having rallied to make a bowl by winning their final three games. The major wild card in all this is Huskies quarterback Jake Locker who has the ability to single handedly take over games. I’ll take the points in this one and look for Locker to close out his collegiate career with a great performance.

Before I get to my favorite Bowl game of the week, I’ll let in that I also have action on Notre Dame +3 over Miami in the Sun Bowl, South Carolina -3 against Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and Michigan +5 ½ over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

Jim Harbaugh has brilliantly led the way for Stanford
When reflecting back just four years ago, it’s amazing to believe that the Stanford Cardinal (11-1) were 1-11. It’s seems inconceivable that a major player in the BCS game could just sprout of the ground from nothing, but here they are, the No. 5 team in the nation being piloted by the probable No. 1 pick in the NFL draft with Andrew Luck. Monday’s Orange Bowl matchup with Virginia Tech (11-2) will be the first meeting ever between the two schools and will mark the first time that an ACC school has faced a Pac-10 team in the Orange Bowl.

Virginia Tech can also say they have had a major turnaround of sorts after starting the season 0-2 with a season opening loss to Boise State and then the let down game the very next week at home against James Madison. The Hokies got back to basics, played their traditionally tough defense and won out, securing their fourth ACC title since joining the league in 2004 and won at least 10 games for the seventh straight year, the only team currently in the nation to do so.

The transformation of Stanford into a power house can be attributed to Luck’s play, but much of the credit for creating a winning atmosphere and schemes to get the job done have to be given to head coach Jim Harbaugh who took over in 2007. He has mixed the best of both worlds into his offensive attack stemming from his college playing days as the quarterback for Bo Schembechler’s Michigan teams along with adding some modern wrinkles. The combination of old and new styles has worked brilliantly as Stanford has one of the most balanced attacks in the country.

Stanford will be Virginia Tech’s second team they have faced this season that was top-10 in the nation in passing efficiency. Boise State was the other. Had it not been for a second half melt down at Oregon, a game they led 31-24 at the half, Stanford would be playing Auburn for the title game. Laying only 3 ½-points with one of the top teams in the nation that can beat you so many ways, against a team that padded their record against weak ACC teams, seems like one of the better bets in New Years day bowls and beyond. Stanford 38, Virginia Tech 21

Twitter Value
Information is the name of the game for both bookmakers and bettors and currently, there’s no where does sports information come quicker than on Twitter. Last week alone, there were two major occurrences where key information was found first on Twitter before any of the sports books paid services relayed the info. On Tuesday night, the Kansas State basketball team had it’s two best players, including pre-season All-American Jacob Pullen, suspended for their game against UNLV. The news was first displayed on Twitter and didn’t reach the sports books until 20 minutes later giving a huge window of opportunity for bettors to take advantage of the info. K-State was a 4-point favorite prior to news of the suspensions and closed at -2. The Rebels won outright in a game that probably should been shaded closer to UNLV being a slight favorite after the news was known.

Another opportunity occurred Wednesday where rumors of Ohio State’s star football players might be suspended, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were swirling abound from quality sources on Twitter over an hour before news got to the sports books from their paid consultants. Even though it was revealed a day later that the NCAA would strangely allow the five players to play in their Bowl game and begin their 5-game suspensions next season, there was a large gap where the books were left unprotected with lack of information. Had the players been out for their Bowl game, Arkansas likely would have been a 6-point favorite or higher making it a 10-point swing.

For bettors looking to take advantage of this relatively new phenomenon, just sign up for a free account, follow a few sports writers around the country and ask to see key words such as “injury”, “suspension” or the actual name of a player your waiting information on. You’ll be surprised at how information comes just a little quicker than everyone else’s does. Quality information that I do see, I pass along as a re-tweet. You can follow me at MicahRoberts7.

College Basketball
It was kind of a quiet week over the Holiday weekend in college hoops, but we were further enlightened to a few teams that may have been perhaps rated too high as Baylor, Michigan State and Tennessee all took a step backwards with losses. Of the three, Michigan State will be the team to keep trusting as they head into conference play this week. They have four losses on the season, but all four have come at the hands of teams currently ranked. Last week it was Texas taking down the Spartans and before that, it was Syracuse, Duke and Connecticut, a regular who’s who of college basketball this season.

Baylor’s 77-71 loss to Washington State in Hawaii as 4-point favorites came as somewhat of a surprise even though the Cougars had been 9-1 coming in. Two days later, WSU lost to Butler as a 2-point favorite. We’re all still trying to figure out who the best team is in the weak Pac-10, but based on the play thus far, it could be the Cougars. Klay Thompson is averaging 22.3 point-per-game, up 3-points from his sophomore season last year. WSU can take a major step in taking conference supremacy this week on the road by doing the L.A. two-step and taking out UCLA and USC, something that seems entirely possible despite both USC and UCLA playing good basketball right now.

Tennessee is a team fading fast and at some point the rating on them may be adjusted too much giving them value. But let’s wait and see where they level off at, because they are free falling like rarely seen from a team that was once ranked in the top-10 after beating the likes of Villanova and Pittsburgh earlier in the year. They ended their three game losing streak by sweating out a home win against Belmont 66-65. This week they should be able to rebound with home games against Tennessee-Martin and Charleston before a big January 5 game against in-state rival Memphis. Then, the eight game SEC suspension of coach Bruce Pearl begins.

The games of the week both feature No. 18 Notre Dame (11-1) as they head into Big East play as one of the major surprises of the season so far. They welcome No. 9 Georgetown (11-1) on Wednesday then go to No. 5 Syracuse (13-0) Sunday. If their fate hasn’t been decided by then as to where they stack up, the following Tuesday they play No. 4 Connecticut (10-0).

The Irish have played only one ranked opponent this season and lost 72-58 to Kentucky. Look for them to play Georgetown tough and squeak out a home win, but to stumble by 10 at Syracuse. Based on those games and how they stand up to the class of the conference, a better assessment can be made for how they’ll perform for their January 4 game with U-Conn.

NFL Week 16 Recap
After getting pummeled all year by the sports books, bettors picked a fine time to ease the reins on their betting strategies and unit plays. Sure it was Christmas weekend, family was in town, or you had to be out of town, a portion of the betting funds had to be used to buy gifts, but when week 16 of the NFL came and passed, many were left off the gravy train. The favorites went 8-4 on Sunday with five of the six most weighted games coming in for the public, but unfortunately, about 25% of the regular weekly handle was missing.

“If it had been a normal NFL weekend, it would have been a very tough day, “ said Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay, “Because of the Holiday season we were slow for most of the week until a major rush on Sunday morning.“

Kornegay reported that his sports book “broke about even” as was the case for many other books near the strip, but the local sports books took a much harder blow due to the high propensity of players playing parlays off the board and on cards. Even so, all the books combined were very fortunate that many of the regulars were busy with other matters due to the Holiday’s. Much of the lodged clientele that target Christmas as their vacation destination aren’t traditional sports bettors either. Had this week of results occurred in, say, week 10, it had the potential of being the worst day of the season for the sports books.

The only weighted public choice that faltered was the Chargers as 8-point favorites, who lost straight up to the Bengals. The Patriots, Ravens and Chiefs all came through for bettors in the early games and then in the late games, the Colts and Buccaneers led the way to more profits. Those wins, combined with the six college bowl favorites that covered earlier in the week, led to some serious risk and high payouts on multi-legged parlays.

Even the Sharps took somewhat of a hiatus because of the Holiday’s.

“We saw a few limit plays, but nothing like we normally see,’ said Kornegay, “It was more like half-limit plays mixed in with not many showing their plans until late Saturday night and Sunday morning.”

On a typical week, there usually is a surge of Sharp action when the line is first released on Monday’s. Then a little more of the Sharp’s plan is revealed on Thursday or Friday, with the final pieces of their plan unfolding on game day. Last week, not so much.

The Sharp plays of the week had the Bears and Raiders, with smaller movement on the Packers and Bills. The Bears had opened as 1 ½-point home favorites against the Jets, were bet down to -1 and then bet everywhere by Sunday morning pushing the game up to -3 even. The Raiders saw the same type of movement going the other way as they opened 3-point home underdogs to the Colts, but by kickoff the Colts were only -1 ½.

However, the public didn’t care what the Colts line was. They had seen enough last week in their win over Jacksonville that they felt their good old reliable team was back and that laying a field goal was easy. Same story with the Chiefs as the line was dropping on game day from -5 to -4 because of a few respected large plays, but the 6-0 home record had the average Joe taking Kansas City regardless of the line.

The one saving grace for the sports books over the weekend, beyond the Chargers losing, was the Cowboys losing Saturday night as 6 ½-point favorites at Arizona.

For those who missed out last week after a tough year, be thankful that we throw the entire year in the trash can, where it belongs, as week 17 begins a new year. Let’s make it a good one and hope that the tables turn for the bettor.

Tuesday night football gets it’s debut this week as the NFL treated one of it’s home games in Philadelphia like a rain out in baseball. I thought part of the beauty of football that separated it from other sports is that the fans and players both dealt with the elements as the dealer in the sky dealt them. What’s funny is that NBC made the switch to that game from their originally scheduled game of San Diego at Cincinnati to a game with a 14-point spread that was initially hoped to have Michael Vick playing against Brett Favre, a real ratings winner. Everyone who bet the game prior to the announcement of the date change has no action with all bets refunded. If looking to bet the game, you’ll have to use the new betting numbers of 133-134.

Bengals Shed Their Dead Skin
One week after ridding themselves of Terrell Owens and a 10 game losing streak, the Bengals played the Chargers without the other half of the Bozo-Ocho show. The Bengals played as smart and loose as they have all season in their 34-20 shocking win over the Chargers, a team who had to win to stay alive for the playoffs. I wonder what the duo will have to say on their show about the sudden wins correlating with their absence.

The public liked the Texans as a short -2 ½-point favorite against the Tim Tebow-led Broncos and it appeared that everyone would cruise to any easy win as Houston rolled out to a 17-0 halftime lead. Even though the Texans have the worst pass-defense in football, Tebow showed all the skills and grit that made him the scrutinized early pick by former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels by throwing for 308 yards and running for the winning score in a 24-23 win. Tebow engineered two fourth quarter touchdown drives that may give the faithful something to look forward to in 2011 after suffering through one of the worst seasons in Broncos history.

Freeman Free-Wheelin’
Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions in a 38-15 rout over the Seahawks giving him a 23-6 ratio on the season in those categories. The win keeps the door to the playoffs still somewhat open with what could be a pivotal game next week at New Orleans for both teams depending on what the Saints do Monday night in Atlanta. It’s hard to believe that this kid is still only 22 years old with almost two full seasons as an NFL quarterback.

Playoff Picture Clearing
The AFC is pretty simple at this point, if the Colts (9-6) win at home against the Titans, they’re in. If the Colts lose and the Jaguars (8-7) win, then Jacksonville is in. Should both lose, the Colts advance. In the NFC, the winner of the Rams-Seahawks game advances. If the Packers (9-6) and Saints (10-4) win, they are in, but should they lose, then the door opens up for the Giants (9-6) and Buccaneers (9-6), if they win, in a crazy scenario.

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