"The only monster here is the gambling monster that has enslaved your mother! I call him Gamblor, and it's time to snatch your mother from his neon claws!" – Homer Simpson
Since the dawn of time, everything I have written has been somewhat Simpsons related, be it term papers, excel templates, grocery lists, text messages to my confused wife, fantasy baseball team names, credit card applications, living wills, etc. It is literally impossible for my brain to store any new information because I have taken up too much space memorizing Troy McClure’s filmography. So you’ll understand my disappointment when my gambling column that I was going to call "I call him Gamblor" has already been taken by the much more important folks at EveryDayShouldBeSaturday. My wife, ever the giant Hunger Games fan, suggested "May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor," but I’m saving that for when we can actually wager on children battling in Thunderdome (coming in 2017!). So I am taking suggestions as to what to call this thing. Feel free to leave them in the comments or at @BigWoodWSU.
This week, we’re going to take a look at the Pac-12 lines. We may move into more of a nationwide scope as the year goes on, but there were plenty of games to play with for now. All the disclosures about the legalities of gambling and entertainment purposes apply, yadda yadda, let’s lose our money together.
WASHINGTON STATE (+13.5) @ BYU: So here’s some anecdotal information that should scare the pants right off of you (if you were previously wearing pants): This game opened up at BYU -13.5, we have seen reports via twitter that as much as 96% of the money coming in has come in on Wazzu’s side and the line hasn’t budged at all. Now there are a couple different schools of thought as to why the line hasn’t moved: There usually isn’t a lot of line movement on week 1, sports books may not want to give too much value to BYU when they have a fanbase that isn’t exactly renowned for their gambling addictions, or there may be some overzealous fans think they’re making smart plays on Leach every week. But one thing is very clear: this game is not your typical game where the line shifts to get an equal amount of bets on either side so the losers pay the winners. Vegas seems to be staking BYU. And Vegas isn’t exactly known for handing out money. That should give you pause picking WSU. I’m not much into betting on my own team, but for those who are: how excited are you really going to be when you get 92 bucks back on your $100 bet when the Cougs lose by 12? Not much of a consolation prize. If you’re going to play WSU, grow some balls and play the money line and get $400 back instead when WSU takes all of Vegas’ money. Do it. Do it now!*
(* don’t do it. This has 37-24 BYU written all over it.)
UCLA (-15) @ RICE: So since 1992, Rice has been 59-37 ATS at home. Thanks for the cash, right? Rice is also 27-44 ATS in that same timeframe in non-conference games. So Vegas undervalues Rice in Houston, but overvalues them against teams not named Houston. I’m confused as well; let’s keep digging. In the past three years, Rice has scored fewer than 20 points once, when they scored 19. So let’s say 20 points is Rice’s worst case scenario. In that same three-year timespan, UCLA has scored 36 points three times: against 2011 Colorado, 2010 WSU and 2009 WSU: three of the worst teams in Pac-10/12 history. So outliers aside, there would have to be a combination of UCLA scoring a 3 year high and Rice scoring a three year low in order for UCLA to cover. Take Rice and the points.
SAN JOSE STATE (+25.5) @ STANFORD: San Jose is already replacing so many pieces of a mediocre offense, it’s hard to believe they’ll score in double digits, meaning Stanford will only need five or so touchdowns to cover, something they should be able to do easily. This one seems to be the most obvious bet on this list. Which means it won’t happen. Take Stanford anyway.
NEVADA (+10.5) @ CAL: The Bears open up their inaugural "Our coach is not on the hot seat, but in actuality is totally on the hot seat, but welcome to our new stadium anyway" season with the Nevada Wolfpack, the source of two of my favorite football memories of the past ten years: getting to buy beer in a college stadium in Reno in 2005 and somehow getting caught up in the celebration wave on the sidelines and ending up in the locker room for Bill Doba's postgame speech (story for another column), and Nevada's 2003 upset of Washington that I attended in person on the Cougs bye-week in a nearly empty Husky Stadium. Nevada is trying to evolve into more of a passing offense this season with Nick Rolovich implementing some of the Hawaii offense into the pistol, and it’s not really clear if they have the personnel for it just yet. Take the Bears now before their eventual Halloween implosion.
COLORADO (-6.5) @ COLORADO STATE: When I saw that Colorado was a touchdown
road neutral site favorite, I did the same thing you did and immediately looked to see if Colorado State is really that awful. Yes. Yes they are. Take the Buffs. This may be their only cover as a favorite this year.
HAWAII (+40) @ USC: Stay away, stay away, stay away. This has all the makings of a game that’s 42-3 at halftime, and Hawaii wins the second half 17-14 when all the starters are hitting up the Hukilau. Side note, did anyone else have to learn the Hukilau in elementary school? I haven’t heard a recording of that song in 25 years, but could recite the entire thing to you on command. I’ve never even been to Hawaii. Again, no more room in my brain. Don’t hire me to do anything, ever. Take Hawaii if you have to.
SAN DIEGO STATE (+15) @ WASHINGTON: The last time Ryan Katz played a game at Washington, he tossed three interceptions, but was still a dropped 2 point conversion that hit his tight end right in the hands from pulling off the victory regardless. Ronnie Hillman is one of the best running backs
to head to Washington this year who was drafted and is no longer there because everyone who pays attention knew that and UW has a track record of playing rather poorly in season openers lately. I think UW wins this, but take the Aztecs and the points.
TOLEDO (+10) @ ARIZONA: So Toledo brings back nearly everything from a team that nearly knocked off Ohio St at home last year and they’re double digit dogs to an Arizona team that actually did lose a good portion of their team? Toledo’s coaching change should be minimal impact, because they promoted within and aren’t changing anything, whereas Arizona was 119th against the pass last year and is breaking in the RichRod era. Take Toledo +10. Take the +300 Moneyline if you’re feeling saucy.
ARKANSAS STATE (+35.5) @ OREGON: Raise your hand if you knew Arkansas St won ten games last year? Put your hands down, liars. Arkansas State is breaking in three new offensive linemen and their best running back was kicked off the team for guns and drugs, two of three things the rest of us were under the impression were encouraged in Arkansas (the third obviously being bacon). Take the Ducks and give the points to someone who needs them.
UTAH, ARIZONA STATE, OREGON STATE: Playing FCS teams. No Lines.
Good luck and hopefully you finish the week with a small fortune; provided you didn’t start with a large one.