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College Football Over/Under Lines



As I noted here, I don’t gamble on anything related to Oklahoma State as it generally makes me more nauseous than watching Willis McGahee’s leg snap into three thousand pieces over and over again. BUT if I were to gamble, these numbers would be intriguing.

Yesterday the Hilton Superbook released its 2011 college football over/under win totals. Picking over/under win totals is a lot like a musician banging out an album. You have to know what you’re doing even when it seems like it’s pretty easy, you only have 10-12 chances to screw everything up or get it all right, and the end payout is usually pretty much a crapshoot.

I think over/under bets are a lot more fun than national title bets because most times they ride until at least the beginning of November, if not the end of the season. National title bets might be ended by early October when a team loses for the first (or second) time and is completely out of it. (also this is exhibit #1 for why a playoff actually makes the season more interesting…but we don’t have time.)

These bets are tantalizing precisely because they seem so simple. That’s how Vegas wants it. For example: Oklahoma State’s over/under total is 8.5. To us irrational, slightly-still-glowing-from-the-massacre-in-San-Antonio Cowboy faithful this seems like free money. Consider:

  • OSU has never regressed in wins under Mike Gundy.
  • Three straight seasons of 9+ wins and this is the best of the last four teams.
  • Gimme games against Louisiana, Tulsa, K-State, Baylor, and Kansas mean they only need to win four real games to get to nine.

How do they not move right past 8.5, right?

But as we’ve all learned, the point of Vegas making lines is not that they get them right but that they get equal action on either side. They then pay the winners with the losers money and make their own money on a 10% commission. (that’s obviously oversimplified, but you get the point). So essentially Vegas thinks the public thinks OSU is going to fall off a cliff over the next four months. I disagree (as you’ll see below)

Let’s take a look at some of the interesting spreads (Oregon and Ohio State were left off “due to too much uncertainty”… I’d say that’s some pretty generous wordsmithmanship):

Oklahoma 10 – unless Landry gets hurt you should at least push this.

Boise St. 10.5  – you’re basically betting on two games: TCU and Georgia.

Texas A&M 8.5 – I’m fairly certain either them or OSU is going to get to nine…of course one would have said the same thing about Texas this time last year.

Oklahoma State 8.5 – an agonizing number but at gunpoint I take the over.

West Virginia 9.5 – high hopes for crazy Dana.

USC 7.5 – with everything going on at Oregon (and Cal?) this feels like over.

Texas 8 – I’d actually go over this. They had (have?) the best defense in the conference and there’s no way Garrett Gilbert can be as bad as last year. Right? Am I right?!? I think they win nine.

(Side note: it’s nice that now you can pick three or four South teams to win 9+ games and finish atop the conference whereas before you had to take into account that they weren’t going to get all the North teams etc.)

TCU 9 – is anyone betting the under on a Gary Patterson-coached squad?

Missouri 7.5  – 6-0 at home last year, just throwing that out there.

Auburn 6 – have we ever seen a defending champ not make a bowl the following year? I guess Texas almost pulled it off last year (or the last two years)…

Michigan 7 – OVER.

I use the word “agonizing” for OSU because I haven’t totally bought into this team as a Big 12/national title contender. Trust me, if just one of the Tech/Texas/Mizzou/A&M games was at home I’d by hyping this thing harder than Kia did Blake Griffin for that one unspectacular weekend in February.

I just can’t get past the road schedule though. Yes I know they’re 8-1 in true road games the last two years and I know Texas, Missouri, and Texas Tech are all down. But the Big 12 is still a tough place to go on the road and Austin, College Station, Lubbock, and Columbia are four of the five most hostile environments in the conference.

Like I said, with a gun to my head I go over 8.5 but I think we’re starting to take for granted how grueling and truly special these 9+ win seasons are. OSU is not deep yet. They’re deeper and their program is unequivocally on the rise. But to start stringing together 9-10-11 win seasons you have to be crazy deep at every position to overcome the inevitable pitfalls one encounters on the road to the national championship (apologies to CBS there).

Q tweeted at me last night saying, “it’s easily the over.” Okay, Q, let’s see you lay five hundy on those nine wins and lose 18 pounds over the next five months worrying Gundy and his boys won’t quite make it.

That said, I hope he’s right.

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