Last week, college football favorites won an amazing 55 of 57 games. 55-2 SU! It’s always fun for the public to fawn over how predictive Vegas is (or more accurately, how predictive the betting market is) – but there’s no denying getting 96.5% of the games right is truly an amazing accomplishment.
The record against the spread for these favorites was 36-21. Covering 63% is certainly better than a coin flip, but such moderately lopsided ATS results are not that rare for a given week.
So what drove the 55-2 SU? First factor was the big number of large favorites: the average college football spread this week was nearly 19 points. Any favorite above that average losing would have required a massive upset.
In addition, the smaller favorites obviously got lucky in more than their share of coin-flip-type situations. Many big favorites plus close game luck equals 55-2. So naturally, after a week like this, the conversation turned to how common college football blowouts have become.
Yet, last week, the talk after Saturday was Akron almost beating Michigan as a 36-point underdog. $100 on Akron to win would have paid upwards of $19,500, and would have been one of the biggest upsets in college football history. A week ago, parity in college football was the topic of that discussion. Too many blowouts and parity seem like contradictory conclusions, but I believe they both fit into the same general theme.
It’s beyond debate that today’s No. 50 college football program is closer in relative quality to No. 15 compared to decades ago. Long ago, lax scholarship restrictions allowed the powerhouses to stock their reserves with all the best players.
Ohio State’s fourth string under Woody Hayes was more talented than Akron’s first string because the average HS star from Ohio would rather have been in the Buckeye team picture than play for a lesser school, and the scholarship rules allowed for such stockpiling.
The growth of TV has been another big factor in parity. Not that long ago, the only way to gain consistent national television exposure was to play for one of the elite programs. Now, conferences as small as the MAC have national TV deals, making many more schools viable choices for the best high school recruits.
So why so many blowouts if there’s more parity? Certainly cupcake scheduling is a factor. But beyond that, style points matter in 2013. In our 24/7 world of TV, talk radio and Internet commentary, a dominating performance generates a cycle of positive notice – while a close game is considered and reconsidered again and again.
A given day’s superior team is motivated to make the effort to run up a large victory margin.
What does all of this mean to sports bettors? First, don’t be afraid to lay big numbers. Prior generations of wiseguys hated laying points. In modern college football, the favorite is sometimes the sharp side.
Yet, at the same time, parity allows smaller schools with less prestigious names, in the right spot, to be a good money line bet to win the game. The current makeup of college football is a recipe for extreme results: more favorites running up the score, and more big underdogs pulling the “shocking” upset.
RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Monday through Friday at 10 am on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. Discussion of this article continues at Pregame.com. Contact RJ at [email protected]