Welcome to The Matriculate Degenerate, a weekly gambling column that will run in addition to our annual Protect Your Unit contest. Reason?? It'll give me at least one fun thing to write about college football. And because gambling.
This one will be particularly long, with lots of mansplaining about how to gamble on sports in the footnotes. Feel free to ask questions in the comments too so we can initiate you into our cult of
selling blood plasma because Wazzu didn't cover again responsible sports wagering for profit.
Despite what various repressed losers with likely-lousy sex lives tell you, you absolutely can be profitable on college football gambling. It's certainly easier to beat than the NFL, and with some quality research and knowledge of the sport as well as an understanding of the marketplace, you CAN make money at this. We intend to help you do so. Just don't blow it all on Natty Light & scratch-offs when your significant other dumps you again for watching and reading too much football. Spend it on the personal trainer you'll need to attract someone again.
Pro tip: Generally the smaller the conference, the bigger the value.
If you're willing to get in there and really deep-dive the MAC, Fun Belt, & C-DOA, you'll find a lot of truly bad lines out there. All the information you need can be compiled by media guides, following team beat writers on Twitter, and maybe watching a bit of film yourself. The guys that set the lines have way bigger games to worry about, and you can bring a lot more knowledge to the table than they have if you're willing to learn and grind. You'll know about that injured left tackle not starting and his really ineffective backup, as well as the trouble Team A has against zone reads... which Team B runs every other play.
The line makers set the lines how they do because they know what the perception will be amongst the degenerate gambling public. They don't get into the detailed weeds on this stuff, especially for games without a big handle. Make them pay for it!
With that, for our inaugural column we'll check out the sixth member of the power five conferences, your American Athletic Conference! #AmericanRising #ButSeriouslyWhoCanWeRelegate
We'll start with the odds to win the inaugural AAC Championship Game:
Gambling rookies: No idea what these numbers mean? Footnote 2.
As most of the profitable guys in Vegas will tell you, futures bets are generally a sucker play unless you've got a really good reason to think you can strike gold on something with a price. These bets generally come with high vigorish: the house edge on any of the teams listed above is 16.37% (here's a great calculator to finds the house edge on futures bets). The house edge on a -105 side or total bet on a single game? 2.38%.
You're also tying up some of your bankroll for the entire season, so you're probably better off betting the individual games of whatever team you fancy week-to-week. Buying the chalk on a futures bet is often the wrong way to wager, and certainly is here Cinci and Memphis having such low odds.
But if you want a sweat throughout the season, the two plays I like here are in the dead center of the board: Navy & USF.
Go clean up that coffee you just spit all over the monitor. Yes, USF.
Navy is great at 11-1 because their triple option offense that is so difficult to prepare for will keep them competitive every week. It also hasn't been seen by anyone in the league outside of the occasional FBS outlier or a team that's played Georgia Tech recently. They're also in the far weaker of the leagues two divisions, the West. Memphis is the best West team on paper, and yes Navy-Memphis and Navy-Houston are both road games, but the Middies might not even need wins there to get to the title game.
Keep in mind the crossover divisional games: the new AAC format has you play each team in your division once, and three teams from the other division each season.
Navy: ECU, UConn, USF
Memphis: Cinci, USF, Temple
Houston: Cinci, UConn, UCF
Navy gets the much easier path, & that could be the difference between 5-3, 6-2, or 7-1. Losing at Memphis & Houston would be like losing 2.5 games due to the head-to-head & three-team tiebreakers, but even if that happens it's potentially not an unscalable wall. But they can make things a lot easier on themselves by stealing at least one vs. UM or UH.
And remember that once you get to the title game, and Gunner Kiel and Cincinnati seem to be rolling and oh no you're so close but will lose this 11-1 bet and have no chance to make a cent... you can always hedge: just bet Cincinnati in the championship game on the money line, and you're a winner either way. The only question will be how much of your profit you'd like to lock up before kickoff.
As for USF... yes, I am the guy that has already given up on the season. And I stand by it as it seems pretty likely that USF will suck this year.
But there is WAY too much talent on this team to have them with this good a price. Willie Taggart has recruited quite well over three classes, and there's probably better than a 5% chance (though maybe not greater than 15%) that QB transfer Asiantii Woulard gets a waiver from the NCAA and saves the Bulls from their inability to, you know, move the football forward on offense.
The defense might be pretty good under Tom Allen's new 4-2-5 system, and punter Mattias Ciabatti is booming 75 yard bombs in practice and will be a Ray Guy candidate. There could be a lot of 3-and-outs no matter the QB, but the defense could still end up with a lot of field to attempt to get takeaways before bending or breaking.
For this to be a profitable bet, USF would need to win the league only 2% of the time. Do I think it'll happen? Of course not as I've never been Baker Act'ed. But gambling is all about finding value, and USF has a decent price at 55-1. At 30-1 I wouldn't consider it, but this number seems a touch high.
If anything, throw a couple bones on this bet just for the receipt you can show everyone if it actually happened. Because otherwise there isn't a sentient being on the planet that will believe you.
Note that this is regular season wins only: conference championship games and bowl games do not apply.
Rookies: Clueless? Footnote 3.
With win totals it's not only how many games you think a team will win, but also the price you're being charged to make that bet. You can hate a side at -150, and freaking love it at +150. Price and value is what matters here. If you hit only half of your -150 bets, you're going broke insanely fast. If you hit half your +150 bets, you'll be so flush you'll make it rain on the kid's table at Christmas dinner. "Who's your favorite uncle? That's right! Knockoff iPads for all of you!!"
Bill Simmons rant: when he would do over/under podcasts and never mention the prices, I wanted to beat him senseless with Grady Little's fungo bat. IT'S ALL ABOUT VALUE YOU HACK MASSHOLE. And what, you're not going to write anymore? Because you're so good on TV?? The Internet will be copy-pasting your David Caruso jokes to you on Twitter in a year. Let's just move on.
Here's some value plays.
Navy's out of conference schedule is Colgate, Air Force, Notre Dame, and Army (who hasn't beaten them since 2001). That's likely three wins, so you'd need them to go 5-3 or better in conference to cash. At -140, there's likely some value here. But again, you're betting $1.40 to win each $1, and tying up capital you could be using week-to-week.
Houston's total is 8, and their OOC schedule is Tennessee Tech & Texas State (likely wins), but also at Louisville (likely loss) & vs. Vanderbilt (toss up). They'd need to beat Vandy and win five AAC games just to push, with only them going 6-2 in the league and beating the 'Dores taking your money. At -135, this seems like a good under.
There's a chance SMU is historically bad again, and with OOC games of Baylor, TCU (LOLOLOL), North Texas (Mean Green won 43-6 last year) and James Madison (push?? JMU is #13 in the FBS preseason poll), they might not find three wins until Chad Morris gets a full recruiting class. The under at +168 on 2.5 wins makes this tempting.
Memphis is the darling of the preseason chatter, but going over 8.5 might be tough. Their OOC of Missouri State, Kansas, and Bowling Green gives them three should-wins, and a midseason tilt with Ole Miss is at home. If they went 3-1 OOC, they'd only need 6-2 in the league (where they are the heavy favorite to win the division) to get you +150. You know, hookers and blow value.
If USF gets Asiantii Woulard eligible, literally run to your laptop and bang the Bulls over 4 and that yummy +125. Otherwise, ignore them.
Opening Week Lines:
Here's a few opening week AAC games you might like:
FIU +16.5 over UCF. I'm hearing FEISTY things about what's happening in Miami Gardens. Early season big lines are good value for dogs often because the offense of the better school hasn't started clicking yet. This isn't a "I hate UCF" bet as much as a "I think the Panthers might be better than expected" bet.
Baylor -34 over SMU. Art Briles has no problem running up scores, and Chad Morris just won't have enough talent or playbook yet to prevent a massacre. Briles also might want to teach a lesson to the new coach in the state about the pecking order.
Temple +7 over Penn State. It'll be a 50/50 crowd at The Linc in Philly at best for the home team, but the Owls might actually be interesting. PJ Walker is good, and has likely been preparing for this game since he signed his letter of intent. The cherry and white will treat this like a bowl game, and James Franklin's young talent won't be ready by this one.
Also: yes, you can bet on games months in advance! These advanced lines are great if you think you're ahead of the curve on a team. You can actually bet now on the last regular season college football game already (December 12th, Navy -14 over Army). It's a fantastic way to find some value early, and advanced bets are a great way to catch a middle. What's a middle? Footnote 4.
Note that these bets charge at least regular "juice" (-110 instead of 5Dimes usual -105), and some are as much as -120 (which you'll basically never want to touch with a 50-foot pole). Staying away from anything over -110 without a really good reason is usually good policy.
Here's some games later in the season (all listed at -110 currently):
September 24th: Cinci +2.5 over Memphis. It's in the Liberty Bowl, but that means this is basically a pick 'em on a neutral field (using the three points for the home team rule of thumb). I do like Memphis, but Gunner Kiel and the "how are they still in college" skill position trio of Hosey Williams, Shaq Washington, and Chris Moore shouldn't find much resistance in the AAC. Plus UC has a good schedule early (Alabama A&M, Temple, Miami Ohio) to see them start strong and gain some gambling momentum. Betting this now means you see Cinci as the favorite by kickoff. I do.
October 1st: Cinci -1 over Miami. See above, and Miami has a coach on a blazing hot seat. Plus they play Nebraska the week before: if they look bad there, there might be a nice middle available here.
October 23rd: Memphis -13 over Tulsa. Letdown game potential on a short week (Friday game) coming six days after playing Ole Miss, but you won't care either way: if they beat the Rebels, you're gonna love having this at 13 because everyone else will be paying more. If they lose, a bounce back game with an AAC title still in their control will be plenty of incentive. Good spot here.
November 20th: Cinci -8.5 over USF. See above again. This could be 20 or more by kickoff if these teams hit their projections.
If you're still reading, you've got the curiosity and focus to be a winning college football bettor. Come join us on our journey, and let's make some cash.
Just don't spend all the winnings since you can't donate plasma every day.
1. If you bet $100 and win, you'll always get back $200 (your $100 stake, and the $100 you won). But if you lose, normally you'll have to pay $110 (the $100 wager, plus $10 in "juice" or "vig" for the house). With 5Dimes, you'll only have to pay $105: the $100 wager you lost, and just $5 in "juice." This same "juice" applies if you're betting any amount between $1 and $1 million. THIS IS A FANTASTIC DEAL!!
2. These prices are expressed as how much you would win if you bet $100 on the outcome happening. Example: if you bet $100 on ECU which is listed as +900, you would win $900 plus get your original $100 back for a total of $1000 in your account. You could also express this as 9-1 odds; 9-1 is the same thing as +900.
3. If you lose a -150 bet, you're out $150 if you bet enough to win $100.
If you lose a +150 bet, you'd be only out $100 if you were attempting to win $150. The bigger the number with the minus sign, the easier the bet is to win. The bigger the number with the plus sign, the harder the bet is to win.
Even means exactly as it sounds: you bet $100 to win $100.
No, you do not need to bet $100. You can bet as little as $1, and maybe even less than that. But odds are always expressed in terms of people betting $100.
If you bet either over or under on Temple, who is listed at 7, and they finish with exactly 7 wins... you push. You get all your money back with no commission or "juice" for the house.
4. What's a middle? PURE SPORTS BETTING HOT SEX THAT'S WHAT IT IS!! Here's how to get one.
Let's say you really like Utah this season. Right now they're an 8.5 point underdog on the road to USC on October 24th. But you think Utah will absolutely roll Michigan in their opener, and open their schedule 5-1 at worst. Also, you're not too high on how Coach Sark and USC will start the season. You think the Trojans will start badly, and that Notre Dame will issue a full beatdown in South Bend the week before they play Utah.
By betting $10 on Utah now, you'll get the maximum amount of points before the bookies and the rest of the gambling public figures out that Utah isn't actually 8.5 points worse than the Trojans. By the week of that game, the line might have moved to USC by just 2.5 points.
So here's how to catch that middle. Bet the exact same amount you originally did on Utah +8.5 ($10), and put it on USC -2.5.
This way, if USC wins the game by anywhere between three and eight points, you'll win BOTH bets. If you lose, you're only out the vig on one bet (at worst, that's $1). But if you win, you'll win $20.