[By David Purdum]
It’s official: USC has won the offseason.
Heading into the opening week, more money has been bet on the Trojans to win the BCS national championship than all the other teams combined at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino SuperBook. The SuperBook has taken more than three times the BCS bets on the Trojans than any other team.
“This is extreme,” said Ed Salmons, longtime Vegas book manager and college football odds specialist at the SuperBook. “From my short-term memory, this is as extreme as I can ever remember, especially for a team with such low odds.”
Top 5 teams in terms of bets to win BCS title:
- Florida State
- Alabama and LSU (tie).
Saban’s world, everyone else just playing in it
Alabama has been favored in 40 of its last 41 games, including 26 straight heading into Nick Saban’s sixth season. The Crimson Tide have been favored by a total of 484 points, an average of 18.6 per, over the last 26 games. They are 17-9 against the spread during that stretch.
Saban’s program owns the betting market right now, but has a ways to go to match USC’s dynasty under Pete Carroll. USC was favored in 58 consecutive games from 2003 to 2007, the longest streak in the BCS era.
Carson Palmer and the Trojans were 3.5-point underdogs at Auburn in the 2003 season opener. They weren’t an underdog again until a road game at Oregon in the middle of the 2007 season.
During its reign, USC was favored by a total of 1,222.5 points, an average of 21 points per game. They went 34-24 against the spread during that run.
The Return of Urban Meyer
In 2011, the gambling gods took away Jim Tressel and his handy 76-47 ATS record.
This year, we get the return of another ATS monster, Urban Meyer. Meyer-coached teams are 71-43-1 against the spread at Florida (39-30-2 ATS), Utah (20-4 ATS) and Bowling Green (12-9-1 ATS). That’s a 62.3 percent cover rate, tops among any coach in the nation.
Revenge of the Sharps?
Something remarkable happened last September—the public won.
Nevada sportsbooks saw their profit from football wagers crash 61.93 percent from the previous September, according to Nevada Gaming Control statistics. That’s what happens when the top teams start covering the spread at a ridiculous rate.
Teams ranked in the AP Top 10 last season went 72-46-3 against the spread. Heading into Week 8, they were 41-12-1 ATS.
The top teams’ remarkable covering run not only took a bite out of the books, but it also took a toll on professional sports bettors, who had been used to making money betting against the public.
Professional bettor Steve Fezzik, the only back-to-back winner of the LVH Supercontest, has said publicly that last season was so bad that he won’t be handicapping college football this year. (But he will tail Right Angle Sports’ picks.)
To make things more difficult for the books, six teams—Stanford, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Western Kentucky, LSU and Houston—finished with 10 or more ATS wins last season. That’s the most for one season since at least 1997. And when teams start covering, bettors continue to back them, over and over and over again.
The most important stat
Any team can move the ball between the 20s, but these days games are won or lost—and pointspreads are covered—inside the red zone.
- The top 5 teams in red zone offensive efficiency last season—Stanford, Wisconsin, Texas A&M, LSU and Louisiana-Lafayette—went a combined 44-23 ATS.
- The bottom five teams in red zone efficiency last season—New Mexico, Troy, North Texas, Middle Tennessee and Colorado State—were 23-37 ATS.
- The top five teams in red zone efficiency defense last season—Alabama, Houston, Michigan, Rutgers and Virginia Tech—went a combined 41-23-2 ATS and produced 26 ‘overs’ compared to 40 ‘unders’.
OK, this stat’s important too
The last 13 BCS national champions have combined to go 101-46-2 ATS, with only one (’07 LSU) posting a losing record against the spread in the season they won it all. Eight of the last nine national champions finished ranked in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense, with seven ranking in the top 5.
Pass efficiency defense is derived from completion percentage allowed, yards per completion and touchdowns allowed per completion.
Alabama finished No. 1 in the nation last season in pass efficiency defense. The 2010 Auburn team is the only national champion since 2004 to finish outside the top 10 in pass efficiency defense.
3 Things to Know
- Virginia Tech in November: The Hokies under Frank Beamer are a ridiculous 24-5 ATS since 2004.
- Oregon State in September: The Beavers are 8-22 ATS in the first month of the season under Mike Riley since 2003.
- UTEP in November: Mike Price-coached teams are 22-52-1 ATS in the month’s final season.
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David Purdum is a sports writer who has been covering the sports betting industry for the last five years. You can find him on Twitter at @DavidPurdum.