Penn State’s expected ATS performance for 2012 season

Jul 31, 2012 3:10 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Teddy takes a slightly different path with an insider’s look at what went down at Penn State. Before that, though, Ted’s take from a gambling perspective.

So what is Penn State’s expected point spread performance for the 2012 campaign and beyond given the heavy NCAA sanctions?

It’s certainly not like the Nittany Lions have been ATS juggernauts in recent years. They went 3-9-1 against the spread last year and have only one winning ATS season in the last six.

The betting markets are certainly aware of the effect the NCAA sanctions are likely to have with the program – depth concerns are likely to be problematic for this squad for many years to come. That means Penn State might not be a positive expectation team to support in November games.

But we’ve seen the “us against the world” mentality the Penn State players now possess turn mediocre teams into ATS juggernauts more than once in recent years. These kids know this situation is not their fault, and the recruiting level here remained solid even in the last few years of Paterno’s tenure.

There’s enough talent stockpiled in Happy Valley to win games and cover spreads, even if some key players depart.

The top ranked high school pocket passer in the country, Christian Hackenberg, just re-confirmed his commitment to Penn State along with five fellow recruits.

“We believe in Coach (Bill) O’Brien and his coaching staff,” Hackenberg said.

The Nittany Lions are going to need that closeness and loyalty to the team and program. If they get it, the Lions may well be a better point spread team over the next six years than they’ve been over the last six!

The Final Verdict

Now that I’ve explored the betting theories on this issue, I feel compelled to discuss the broader story. The one where the single worst organization in all of sports – the NCAA – came down with their heavy handed sentence on the Penn State football program.

Now that the dust has settled (I’m certainly not the first one to write on this topic), it’s worth spending a few moments to discuss what the NCAA actually did. To do this, I engaged a friend and fellow sports bettor who spent his formative years in State College, but who wished to remain anonymous for the purposes of this article. Not surprisingly, my friend had some rather strong opinions on the topic.

He started the discussion talking about a recent trip to Boise, Idaho.

“Standing west of the Continental Divide, there is a great view of a stadium that is now home to a Big East school. Nothing says college football like a Boise State/Connecticut rivalry. But it makes all kinds of sense in terms of understanding how the NCAA did what it did to Penn State.

“They sat back for years as little more than spectators as the conference landscapes changed, unable to be a voice of reason that would have kept so many great rivalries in play, and eliminated the scrambling for the hodge-podge of alignments we now have.

“The Big 10 does not have 10 teams. The Pac 12 does not have 12. The Big 12 does not have 12. Missouri is ‘southeast.’ San Diego State is ‘east.’ The Atlantic Coast apparently reaches inland to Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

“But the NCAA is typically late to parties, and has maintained a bizarre history of using sanctions to punish many innocent players, coaches and programs while many of those who were directly guilty of infractions were able to move on with their careers. And they did it again.

“So what do we end up with? The NCAA has not investigated Penn State University, and the handling of the Jerry Sandusky nightmares. Yet without having conducted an investigation, they handed down some of the harshest penalties ever for any program.

“This is despite the fact that many of the legal processes are still playing out, particularly involving Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, and there was no particular deadline being forced upon the NCAA to act. From a PR standpoint they had the opportunity to be shooting fish in a barrel, and they seized it.

“But they seized it by being wrong in so many ways. They took 111 wins away from football players who had nothing to do with the Sandusky crimes (he last coached in 1999), and if we looked it up, we might find that Penn State may well have had the highest graduation rate in the nation during that cycle (they did for the 2011 season).

“The NCAA has not released a single rule that those players broke during those years, and hundreds of players who did the right thing have their wins removed. Not exactly a definition of justice.”

“Moving forward there are scholarship reductions for Bill O’Brien and the football program. O’Brien and the current players had nothing to do with any of this. The program will not have a full allotment of scholarships until more than 20 full years since Sandusky last coached.

“There will be players who were not even born when Sandusky last served as a coach that will still be performing under the penalties. Again, not exactly a definition of justice. But this is the way they do things.

“Did the NCAA get anything right? The fines absolutely fit, and had that been the extent of the actions there would have been applause. This is the best way to make something good out of a bad situation, and if the funds are utilized well, there is the hope perhaps situations like this can be prevented in the future.

“The Penn State mistakes are numerous, of course. Agreeing to the NCAA sanctions in exchange for not being granted a ‘death penalty’ was absolutely wrong. There should have been a direct challenge back to the NCAA claiming that governing body was exceeding its reach, particularly because the processes are still going on.”