The Ohio State Buckeyes have opened up as thirty-seven point favorites at the Caesers Sportsbook in Las Vegas for Saturday’s game against the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers. After back-to-back weeks of allowing lesser opponents to remain in the game for four quarters, even finding themselves trailing to Cal by one in the fourth last Saturday, the Bucks could certainly use a pushover as a final warm-up to the Big Ten schedule. But thirty-seven points seems like an awful lot…
I know, I know. It’s Alabama-Birmingham, proud owners of an 0-2 schedule after lopsided losses to Troy and #8 South Carolina. Ohio State can certainly enjoy a snoozer of a Saturday with a 49-10 victory, or at least something similar, right? Not so fast.
A little research into the recent history of the relationship between Las Vegas and the Buckeyes shows that the city that never sleeps tends to overestimate the Bucks on a regular basis when it comes to point spreads.
Since the miracle heave from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith in the back of the end zone to beat Wisconsin as 7.5-point underdogs last October, Ohio State is a less-than-pedestrian 2-5 versus the spread, covering +8.5 points in a four-point loss to Michigan in November and a holding serve to a -25.5 point line in their 56-10 win over the Miami (OH) RedHawks three weeks ago.
The five times they failed to cover since last October came as 27.5-point favorites against Indiana (won by 14), 7.5-point favorites against Purdue (lost), 6.5-point favorites against Penn State (lost), 3-point underdogs in the Gator Bowl and lost to Florida by seven, and as 15.5-point favorites again UCF two weeks ago when they won by only fifteen.
Ok, so three of those came against conference foes when we all know B1G games can often go either way, especially under the shadow of turmoil Ohio State found themselves in last fall. Another came to an SEC team in their own backyard playing against a Buckeyes team with a lame-duck head coach and Urban Meyer watching from afar. It’s a small sample size, but trends don’t lie…
- The Buckeyes are 2-6 against the spread in their last 8 games overall.
- They’re 1-5 against the spread in their last 6 home games.
Does this mean Ohio State won’t cover -37.0 on Saturday? The trends say they have about a 20% chance of doing so. But those trends don’t take into account a pissed off head coach who wants a light bulb to go on over his young team’s collective head and then score at will until putting points on the board seven at a time becomes habitual. The Alabama-Birmingham Blazers may just provide that opportunity.
UAB has only covered the spread themselves in two of their last seven non-conference games and once in their last five tries against teams with winning records. In a nutshell, the Blazers couldn’t even go on the road as 3.5-point favorites against 1-10 Florida Atlantic last November and cover the spread. Hell, they didn’t even win, absorbing a 38-35 loss to close out their 2011 with a 3-9 actual record.
This is honestly a tough game to predict from a point-spread standpoint, as just about any B1G versus C-USA game would be, but both teams are simply pitiful covering the line Vegas expects them to. But there’s another bet line that will normally get plenty of action in the weekly sportsbooks – the Over/Under – and both teams tell a completely different story when it comes to putting points on the board, or at least allowing their fair share.
The O/U is a simple bet line. The odds makers post a number they feel the two teams will combine to hit and, as the bettor, the question you must answer is simple – will the two teams combine to score that many or will they not?
The Caesars Sportsbook has yet to post their O/U for Saturday’s game, but many other books already have it set at or near +57.5. How have the Buckeyes and Blazers performed against the second most popular bet line on most cards? Favorably, to say the least.
Here are the trends, goofy as some may sound:
- OVER is 5-1 in Buckeyes last 6 vs. a team with a losing record
- OVER is 5-1 in Buckeyes last 6 games following an against-the-spread loss
- OVER is 4-1 in Buckeyes last 5 games following a straight up win
- OVER is 5-2 in Buckeyes last 7 games on field turf (yes, the grass under your feet does matter – maybe)
- OVER is 5-2 in Buckeyes last 7 home games vs. a team with a losing road record
- OVER is 5-0 in Blazers last 5 games overall
- OVER is 4-0 in Blazers last 4 road games
- OVER is 5-1 in Blazers last 6 games on field turf
- OVER is 5-2 in Blazers last 7 games in September
- OVER is 9-4 in Blazers last 13 non-conference games
The morale of the O/U story? Vegas can’t get it right for either team, yet they make billions of dollars annually by being right.
Nearly all gamblers favor bets against the spread and the Over/Under, as both are present in every bet line in all four major American sports. But it’s the prop bets where many novices and hobbyists have the most fun. These are the bet lines that allow you to put money against certain statistics or occurrences within game action, often with a specific player pinpointed as the performer.
Unfortunately sportsbooks don’t often post individual player prop bets for college football games because of their amateur status and the concern for the potential influence bet lines like that can have on the integrity of the game. The prop bets you’ll see for CFB most often revolve around more in-depth team aspects – which quarter or half will be the highest scoring; winning margin bets; first half/second half O/U.
Fortunately those of us at the Empire – more specifically our resident bookie and Art Schlichter look-alike – have taken it upon ourselves to put odds on different prop bets for this weekend’s game in the Empire Lounge, which you can use free uCash to place bets on once registered into the forum.
Within the bet thread you’ll find opportunities to wager your free uCash on things such as:
- Will Bradley Roby or Travis Howard record an interception? (6/1 odds)
- Will Ohio State have a 100-yard receiver? (9/1 odds)
- Over/Under on Braxton Miller completions of +17.5 (3/2 odds)
- Will Jordan Hall record more than 120 total yards? (4/1 odds)
- Will Kenny Guiton get more than 2.5 pass attempts? (7/1 odds)
Is it real money? Of course not. Is it fun for all involved? Certainly.
I’m the last person you’ll find to advocate or encourage gambling (after all, CBS Cares and After School Specials were never shot on-scene live from the city that never sleeps). Alright, not THE last person, but wagering some of the $500 worth of uCash you get when you register at the Empire Forum is a fun way to take interest in more than just the score on Saturday afternoons.
You’ll find yourself rooting Kenny G into the game in the fourth quarter or doing a little math every time Jordan Hall goes off tackle for 7 yards. You can wager $50 in uCash that Philly Brown will score the first touchdown of the game, root your ass off for him to do so and then collect $550 in uCash if he actually does. If you’re feeling really froggy, drop another $50 in uCash on Ohio State blocking a punt or a field goal attempt and when Ryan Shazier goes around the corner and does so early in the second quarter you can celebrate turning $50 into $700 that you can use to bet once we post the NFL slate of games later this week.
How about FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS to get you started?
- Ohio State will top the O/U of +57.5 (3/2 odds) themselves, regardless of how many UAB scores.
- Bucking the trend, the Buckeyes will cover the -37.0 spread (3/2 odds) as they bring an increased focus on Saturday in preparation for the Spartans a week later.
- Braxton Miller will eclipse 360 total yards (3/1 odds).
- Bri’onte Dunn will score a touchdown on Saturday (14/1 odds).
- Either Christian Bryant or CJ Barnett will record an interception against UAB (14/1 odds).
Off you go…
THE MAIN EVENT – Alabama-Birmingham at The Ohio State Buckeyes (Empire Lounge)