Market Overrating Most Top College Teams

It was a sight to behold. I still can't quite believe it myself and I've been following college football for a very, very long time. This past Saturday, Alabama...the #1 team in the nation...was barely able to cover its point spread as a big favorite against Missouri. The rest of the top 10? Nobody could cover a spread!

Well, #4 Clemson had a bye week. So, everybody who PLAYED was overrated by betting markets. Most by quite a bit. First let's look at the carnage. Then, the Dean of Sports Handicapping will discuss why it happened.

#2 Georgia (-7.5) lost at LSU 36-16 (missed by 27.5 points)
This was Georgia's first real test of the 2018 season. They had a creampuff schedule early. And, their SEC road games weren't against truly dangerous teams. The Bulldogs were completely ill-prepared for a GOOD team playing at HOME that was fired up to beat them. And, this was with LSU in a physically challening spot off a true war with Florida. Hard to fully describe how badly Georgia played here. No way this was the second-best team in the nation.

#3 Ohio State (-30) only beat Minnesota 30-14 (missed by 14 points)
It was uglier than that final score makes it sound. The game was close early in the fourth quarter before the Buckeyes pulled away. This after Ohio State was lucky to beat Penn State, and needed two non-offensive touchdowns to get past TCU (who hasn't looked good since). Too many oddsmakers and bettors think Ohio State is up close to Alabama in quality. Not true at all.

#5 Notre Dame (-21) only beat Pittsburgh 19-14 (missed by 16 points)
The Irish were due for a flat spot after playing well under new quarterback Ian Book. I attribute this to running out of gas emotionally rather than overrated talent. But, they were priced so high that they had to play at a peak to cover. Nobody can do that every week.

#6 West Virginia (-5.5) lost at Iowa State 30-14 (missed by 21 points)
Combination here of one team being slightly overrated, and the home underdog being extremely underrated. Iowa State is a legitimate bowl team this season...in a conference where too many "big name" programs have taken a step backward. Note that we're four games down the list, and every market miss has been by at least two touchdowns.

#7 Washington (-3) lost at Oregon 30-27 in overtime (missed by 6 points)
In fairness, this game went overtime. Washington only missed the market by three points at the end of regulation. And, the Huskies missed a last second field goal that would have pushed. So, this game was properly priced. Still, ranked teams have to play at a very high level to cover point spreads right now.

#8 Penn State (-14) lost to Michigan State 21-17 (missed by 18 points)
No reason for Penn State to look so awful here. This was an important home game against an opponent that shouldn't have caught the Nittany Lions napping. What are the TV networks going to do when so many alleged powers can't even win straight up when laying so many points?

#9 Texas (-14) only beat Baylor 23-17 (missed by 8 points)
An extenuating circumstance here as Texas lost its starting quarterback early in the game. The backup was able to engineer a win...but not a dominating performance. Worth remembering that most of the ranked teams would lose 3-7 points (or more) in power ratings if their starting QB got hurt. Always a possibility at the college level because they take more hits on QB draws and bootlegs.

#10 Central Florida (-5.5) only beat Memphis 31-30 (missed by 4.5 points)
This was almost a disaster on par with the other upsets. UCF rallied from 30-14 down to steal the win. Couldn't cover the spread though. All the way from teams ranked #2-10, it was failure after failure in regards to market expectations.

I'll stop my list now...but the losses by ranked teams didn't stop there! Also, #16 Miami (-7) lost outright to Virginia 16-13 (missed by 10 points); #19 Colorado (+7) lost at USC 30-21 (missed by 2 points); and #21 Auburn (-15.5) lost outright to Tennessee 30-24 (missed by 21.5 points).

What is happening? To me, the root causes are the key factors we always discuss here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping.

PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS
Many perceived "elite" teams aren't particularly deep in these high impact players this season. Sure, everyone has a few (everyone but Alabama, who has a boatload). But, that's it. Just a few. Many of the "next rung" teams also have enough to matter. That keeps many of these games close. Michigan State has a quarterback. Iowa State has more than that. LSU might be a top five team enduring a tough schedule. HOMEWORK: update your preseason evaluations of PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS to make sure you've accounted for studs just below the elite, and recognized over-hyped flops on the power programs.

THE MOTIVATION FACTOR
There was definitely a case this past week of media darlings lacking motivation to play at 100% intensity...who ran into fired up opponents who wanted to make a statement. That was the story of the weekend. Generally speaking, championship contenders start the season motivated...hit a lull in October...then regain their focus in November when it's time to get the job done. HOMEWORK: Look for teams this week who are coming off at least three straight up wins, or who may have jumped higher in the rankings because of last week's upsets. It's THOSE teams who will be flat this weekend.

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Best of luck to you this week in the baseball playoffs and early football. Our next class get-together will be Friday afternoon. I appreciate your attention and attendance. I'll see you again at that time.