Lowlife gamblers like me get a hop in their step in the days leading up to Labor Day. I'm a degenerate, absolutely, but not so much of a degenerate that I'd ever bet on baseball. (Ever again, I should say) ... Yup, football is king, in real life, in the sportsbook. We'll celebrate here at Testudo Times by unveiling the sophomore season of Vegas View, which is a betting-specific look at each Maryland football game and a few other games too.
Last year, after getting the Foster Farms Bowl about as wrong as you could possibly get it, your humble host finished his season of published picks a moderately respectable 42-39 ATS (against the spread), while picking Maryland games 8-5 ATS and 9-4 straight up. Since I put my money where my mouth is, it means I didn't ever have to reload my account, which is a good thing (trust me, I've been on the other side of that coin plenty of times), but I didn't exactly go yacht shopping either. Oh well, I have a full-time job and a family, so this is a hobby for me, not my lifeblood. Anyway, last year many of you joined in with your picks in the comments and I'd love to see that happen again this year. Every week, schedule permitting, I'll break down the Maryland line, pick the game both straight up and ATS, then select 5 other games on the board that I like and pick those too. Place your picks in the comments below and let's see if we can make some money.
First, a little gambling background (pretty much cut & pasted from last year)... I'm not a traditional sports handicapper. The best sharps have eyes on the ground and inside info and they spend every waking hour examining matchups, statistical trends and whatever other nuggets of info they can get their paws on. I'm way, way lazier than that. My school of sports gambling labels me as what folks in the industry would call a "contrarian gambler." It means that I've been around the block long enough to know that, on a macro scale and over the course of a season, the house always wins and the public always loses. If this weren't so, all those palatial Las Vegas casinos wouldn't thrive the way they do. So that means I try to routinely align myself with the house and against the public.
The way to do that is by monitoring betting trends and line movement, which you can do at various websites. When I see 80 percent of the public stacked up on one side of a bet, I'm interested. Why? In a nutshell, any game that generates a 50-50 split on each side of a bet is a win for the house since the house takes a cut from all the winners. So 50-50 splits make perfect sense. 80-20 splits? Not so much. If the house is willing to sit on a 20% minority of the action without moving the line to balance it out, it means they feel strongly enough about the out-of-favor team that they're willing to risk losing a landslide of money if they're wrong. And they are wrong sometimes, absolutely, but in the big picture, over the course of a season and beyond, the house always, always wins. So if you're going to play with the house like I do, you can't do it for only one weekend, you've got to do it all year long. Sports gambling is a marathon, not a sprint.
So now that we've got the formalities out of the way, let's get football betting season rolling!
Richmond (0-0) at Maryland (0-0)
Line: Maryland -19
Trends: Usually I'd talk here about "betting trends," which basically means the percentage of the game-specific betting pool that is on each side. However, since this game is FBS vs. FCS, there's no published line at most sportsbooks and thus no trends. Trends and line movement are the primary ingredients I use to make my picks, so without them I'll have to pick this one the old fashion way, with wisdom and smarts ... not sure if those are my, um, areas of strength, but whatever. We'll talk trends next week.
My pick: Remember Randy Edsall's BCS team at UConn? Well it's true they weren't really all that memorable, largely because his UConn teams were pretty vanilla, run-heavy, clock-killing, low scoring type of teams. But they were effective enough to beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat and win the Big East during a time when it was highly debatable whether the Big East deserved an automatic bid. I say all this because I feel like that may be the type of team Maryland is this year. Maryland has OL experience, RB experience, questions at QB, nothing on the outside that looks particularly dynamic in terms of playmaking ability, and no good reason to try and get into a shootout with anyone. Against an outmanned opponent like Richmond, however, it also means that Maryland ought to be able to control the line of scrimmage. The Spiders are a FCS opponent that does have some offensive weapons, but lost 13 starters and will probably not be among the most physical teams in their own conference. I'm looking for Maryland to run a lot. A whole lot. Meanwhile, the Terps have plenty of secondary and pass rushing experience to limit big plays and force mistakes. Richmond is no slouch for what it is, having beaten Duke 3 times in a decade and losing just 23-21 to N.C. State just two seasons ago, but I don't like their chances against a Maryland team that I don't expect to try anything all that risky. Give me the Terps, both ways.
Pick vs. the spread: Maryland -19
Game pick: Maryland 34, Richmond 7
5 I like
LOUISVILLE (+10.5) at Auburn: Auburn is a very popular team right now, and as a result you see a double-digit line here against a Louisville program that has averaged 11 wins over three seasons. The Cardinals have QB questions but they also should have a whole lot of defense. With only 23% of the public backing them, Louisville has Vegas firmly on its side. I like the birds to keep this one close.
@NORTHWESTERN (+12) vs. Stanford: Vegas finds itself on Northwestern's side most weeks, and that's because they're usually a little bit tougher than their name and image. As a result, Vegas can usually get away with a couple extra points here and there and to me this is one of those times. Those of you who played along last year can remember NW winning outright as substantial underdogs two different times in this space. Those are the days you cash big tickets.
TEMPLE (+7) vs. Penn State (neutral site): Quick, how many road games did Penn State win by a touchdown or more last season? I'll give you a hint: you can count them on zero hands. I'll fess up to feeling a little bitter and envious about James Franklin the recruiter, but James Franklin the offensive mind? No thanks.
WISCONSIN (+10.5) vs. Alabama (neutral site): I like this spot for the Badgers. It's a familiar situation, having played LSU last year to open the season on a neutral field. They also catch the always loaded Tide at an opportune time, since Nick Saban will be breaking in new guys at a bunch of key areas, most notably in the skill positions on offense. 79 percent of the public favors Alabama here, so I'll hunker down with the house and take my chances.
@VIRGINIA TECH (+13) vs. Ohio State: C'mon now, I know the Buckeyes are the defending champs and all, but they lost this game last year and lost it big .... at home, no less. Lane Stadium on a Monday night with the whole world watching is going to be out of control loud and hostile. VT, always a defensive team first, has eight starters back and has been studying Ohio State for months. Top all that off with four suspensions for Ohio State (including star defensive lineman Joey Bosa). 77% of the betting public has piled onto the Buckeyes laying nearly two touchdowns on the road to a respectable opponent. It's too much. I just don't see a blowout happening here.