Welcome to a new GTS series called “Line Moves”. Being able to monitor the odds market is an extremely important tool in the sports investor’s arsenal of weapons. Having the ability to understand where the “sharp” money is going can help you in two different ways: it can allow you to find trends that can be exploited in slower-moving books, and just as importantly, help you identify situations where you can prevent yourself from making a bad wager. Ben Franklin’s adage “A penny saved is a penny earned” is very applicable to the sports betting world.
While there may be many different reasons that these unusual line moves occur, the one thing they all have in common is they happen because the sportsbooks are trying to gain as much of an equilibrium as possible, to limit the potential liability from one side or the other. If you analyze these moves, along with the juice, and incorporate these habits into your handicapping research, you will frequently have an excellent idea of the game plan of the sportsbook. As Vegas wasn’t built on winners, knowing what side the books are on can be an incredibly powerful tool to utilize.
My criteria are a bit different than other line observers. In order for a game to be inspected, both the percentage of bets and money need to be on the opposing side of the line move. For example, if Penn State is +10 against Ohio State in Columbus, and the majority of the money and wagers are being placed on the Buckeyes, but the line moves from Penn State +10 to Penn State +7, this doesn’t make sense and qualifies as a game we would take a look at. There may be an injury to a key Buckeye player or perhaps some sharp money came in on the side of the Nittany Lions. Regardless of the reason, we would inspect this game much closer and try to determine why. These plays have been highly successful in the past and I’m quite certain they will retain their excellent track record.
Let’s dive into Week 1’s college action.
Ball State @ Kentucky -26/47.5 (Saturday, Sept. 2nd, Noon) The Wildcats are currently getting 64% of the bets and 83% of the money, yet have seen the spread drop from -27 to -26. Hopes are high in Lexington as Kentucky returns 9 starters on offense and brings in NC State transfer Devin Leary at QB. Ball State brings back seven starters on each side of the ball. 26 points is a lot to cover for an offense that averaged 20.4 ppg. Leary will end up being better than Levis, but it will take a game or two to get him fully acclimated to Kentucky’s offensive verbiage. I don’t even think the Cardinals will need a back-door cover, they keep it within the 26 the whole way. PICK: Ball St +26
South Florida @ W. Kentucky -11.5/70.5 (Saturday, Sept. 2nd, 3:30 PM) I like Western Kentucky’s experience returning 7 offensive starters, including their star QB Austin Reed, who threw for over 4,700 yards and 40 TDs last season. The Bulls do bring back 9 starters on D, but need to dramatically improve on the 41.2 ppg. 52% of the money and 65% of the wagers are coming in on W. Kentucky, but they moved the opening line down from 13.5 to 11.5. However, the WKU side of that -11.5 is juiced to -112, while USF +11.5 is at -108. This leads me to believe that the books think the spread should be WKU minus 12, making the current -11.5 a good gamble. PICK: W. Kentucky -11.5
South Alabama @ Tulane -6.5/51.5 (Saturday, Sept. 2nd, 8:00 PM) This is an extremely interesting move in that 7 is one of the key numbers in football, so books tend to only move off of it for a damn good reason. A whopping 76% of wagers and money are crashing in on the Green Wave, yet the line moves from Tulane -7 to -6.5. This is screaming that South Alabama covers. They return an impressive 18 starters, with QB, from a squad that went 10-3 a season ago. Tulane brings back 14 of their own starters from their 12-2 roster. They will, however, be forced to replace their starting RB who gained 1,581 yards and 19 rushing TDs. The models have Tulane winning a shootout here, but for the Jaguars to keep it with a score. PICK: South Alabama-Tulane OVER and South Alabama