KEYS TO FINDING "BIG" PLAYS
KEYS TO FINDING "BIG" PLAYS
DIRECT FROM NEVADA
WITH LINESMAKER NICK BOGDANOVICH
KEYS TO FINDING "BIG" PLAYS
Last week I won my Big Ten Game of the Year when Iowa routed Wisconsin 38-16. This weekend I'll be releasing my College Game of the Year for 2008. So, I figured today would be the ideal time to talk about the factors that go into finding those special caliber of releases.
With my background in oddsmaking, and as a big bettor, you probably think my big plays are keyed by line value. That's true to a degree. But, you really need A LOT of factors to step out on a special game. It's not enough to say "the line is -10 and I think it should be -12" or something. Or, "the public likes the favorite too much and I'm getting a couple of free points." Those are your bread and butter plays. You make a lot of money over time on your bread and butter plays. It takes more than that for this kind of release.
For a big play, I want to make sure I've got a team that I'm certain will show up with peak intensity. I want their full attention on this game. No distractions. I want to go against an opponent that's either distracted, demoralized, or physically worn down from the season. Line value is important. But, the outside factors need to suggest that I'm going to be on the right side 60-65% of the time. Even more. Not just that -10 is the line and it should be -12...but -10 is the line and the favorite is going to win by more than that most every time they take the field barring turnovers or fluke plays. It's about line value and success percentage.
Let me discuss some of the reasons I liked Iowa so much last week:
* Iowa was a good team who had finally got things moving in the right direction. After some tough losses where they won stats, they blew out Indiana the prior week. This group was enthusiastic, and ready to make a statement against a big name opponent.
* Iowa also had revenge from a loss the prior season. I'm not a big revenge guy. But, I do think it's a nice "kicker" to have when other edges are in place. The important thing to me was that I knew Iowa wouldn't take their foot off the gas if things were going well. They wouldn't relax too soon and lose their focus. That doesn't happen to good teams in revenge spots. If I'm making a big bet on a team, I want to know they'll be playing for me the full 60 minutes.
* Wisconsin had lost three brutal games in a row. Two were heartbreakers to Michigan and Ohio State. The third was a rout at the hands of Penn State. The Badgers are used to competing for Big Ten championships and major bowl appearances. They're not used to losing three games in a row. I won't say I thought they'd thrown in the towel on the season. But, I knew they were demoralized and lacking confidence.
* Wisconsin was using a quarterback shuffle. That's always a sign of a program that doesn't know what it wants to do. Nobody has confidence in a quarterback shuffle. That means the team was demoralized, AND very unlikely to get things figured out this week. There were a lot of reasons to go against Wisconsin last week no matter who they were playing given the state of the program.
* Line value. Here's where it comes into play. Iowa was pretty inexpensive on a strong home field. The public still didn't respect them because of earlier losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan State. And, the public still thought of Wisconsin as a "name" program. Iowa was just -3.5 or -4 when I released the game. Maybe some full season computer ratings or power ratings would put the number in that vicinity. Given my read of the programs RIGHT NOW, I thought the "right" number was much higher...and that Iowa would cover that low threshold a tremendous percentage of the time. I was happy to see other respected bettors coming in on Iowa during the course of the morning. It was a good sign that sharps were on the same game, and kept betting it even as the line went up.
When looking for standard plays, your concern is line value. When looking for BIG plays, you want to study all of these other indicators to find blowout potential. You want to bet the motivated team and bet against the distracted or demoralized team. These spots come up time and time again during the football season.
See if you can find:
* Two ships passing in the night. One team is surging after getting things figured out, while the other is slumping because things are falling apart. I'd bet if you looked hard enough you could find an example of this in almost every betting conference.
* Teams who are wearing down from attrition. This is a huge factor in the final month of the college football season. Some teams throw in the towel because they know it's a wasted season. Others are trying hard, but are just too shorthanded from injuries to compete. You also have some teams who start experimenting with younger talent. They're basically starting their 2009 season early and working out the kinks now. You definitely want to go against those teams because they don't even care about the score. They're just working on getting some of the fundamentals down.
* A crippling loss of confidence. When a team stops believing in its head coach, or in its starting quarterback, they usually never get the fire back. It will take new players coming in during the offseason, or a coaching change to bring the team back to life. This is something that happens in the second half of the season quite a bit. Power ratings and stats won't give this negative due justice. Teams will play much worse than the numbers would suggest once they've stopped drinking the kool-aid.
* Teams who have special reason to play well THIS week. That could be due to revenge, making a statement about the polls, making up for a bad result the prior week. Sometimes a coach gets the players sky high for one huge performance in a given week. A trained handicapping eye can see these spots coming.