College football’s opening weekend typically has many games with points spreads of five scores or greater. This year is no different as 8 or 9 games will likely kick off with a point spread of 31 or more points.
Most experienced handicappers will advise gamblers to stay clear of these lines. This is generally good advice.
Last year there were 31 games that had a point spread of 31 points or greater (How is that for symmetry!). The favorite covered 15 of these games while the dog covered 16. Betting in the traditional manner at the standard rate of -110 (2.1) on all large lines would have been a losing proposition taking all favorites or all dogs.
The favorites have performed even worse over the past 20 years winning just 246 games, losing 274 and pushing on six occasions. Five of these games actually ended in an outright upset!
If one would have bet all of these favorites in the traditional manner at $110 to win $100, they would have lost $5,540, or $10.53 per game.
Does that mean the dogs are the way to play these games? Unfortunately this is not the case either. As mentioned, last year would have been a losing proposition with such a strategy while betting every large dog at $110 a clip would have reaped a reward of less than a buck a game ($0.65) for a total of $340 over the past 20 seasons.
A critic might point out, “Yes, if you totaled up every game ever played you would find a similar result. That is the entire point of handicapping, to analyze teams in order to identify specific games where there are discrepancyies between the bookmakers implied ability of the teams and your own assessment?”
This is certainly true, but handicapping these large lines is somewhat more challenging as it is usually not a question of the favorite team’s ability to cover the spread, it is more a question of their willingness to keep piling on points and to remain focused.
Handicapping large lines can occasionallyidentifywinning plays if a strong focus is placed on teams that need to exceed expectations for ratings purposes. Boise State and TCU fit these criteria and performed quite well in this roll last year, especially on the road where they went 5-1 ATS. However, they only managed to go 2-2 at home.
The greatest danger in betting larger favorites is the threat of a backdoor cover late in the game. This is due to the winning side bringing in substitutes to give more players an opportunity to play, coaches calling more basic offensive and defensive plays, and players losing some of their focus.
These are primarily second half issues. In our next post, we will discuss how large favorites CAN BE TRADED on betting exchanges in these situations.