Now seven games into this 2018 Bowl season, things really couldn’t have gone much more differently than we would have expected, given the premise of this article for bowl games and the historical data we have to back it. This time of the year is usually optimal for the contrarian bettor, as we look to fade the public consensus and its impact on the market; yet it is the public that has thrived in this small sample size of seven games thus far.
Going 5-2 ATS, consensus sides have bucked the trend we based this article upon and favorites have feasted, going 6-1 ATS, overall. Certainly not what would we would expect given the history, but it’s also important to remember that it’s called Bowl SEASON for a reason, and we should be careful not to get caught up in the moment and start blindly succumbing to the pressure to play the favorites/consensus sides.
If anything, favorites covering in the fashion they have been should create more value for the contrarian bettor as bowl season progresses, with those recreational bettors who are rewarded for backing the favorites and following consensus, more likely to do so in subsequent games. The recreational money that continues to flood the market on consensus sides should, in theory, create the value in inflated lines that we hope to capitalize upon.
Therefore, we will stay the course, finding those teams that are currently receiving a minority of the bets, and that we could somewhat accurately project to continue to do so on gameday, when a majority of the action will hit the market.
As a method of further refinement, I will continue to use Adam’s Power Ratings as a guide, and a basis by which to compare how the market has responded in relation to our position. I will include those plays, through next Friday, that are showing, or have shown line value from a Power Ratings perspective, while also being potentially overlooked by the betting public.
Here is the bowl game ATS data since 2012 as a reminder:
Teams receiving 48% of spread bets or less have gone 121-91 ATS (57%)
Teams receiving 41% of spread bets or less have gone 79-51 ATS (61%)
The Pinstripe Bowl
Miami FL vs. Wisconsin
Off-shore opening line: Mia -4 -110
Consensus current line: Mia -3 -115
Off-shore Betting Consensus: 20% Miami
BangtheBook Power Rating: Miami -3.5
While this number has moved against our position since it’s initial opening at Bookmaker, it’s hardly a surprise, given that a whopping 80% of the action has come in on Wisconsin early on. I’m more likely to look at the sharper opening numbers anyway, and with Pinnacle opening -3 -114 on the Hurricanes, and only coming down to -3 -109 despite the lopsided action, I comfortable saying that there has been no major sharp move mixed within the 80% consensus on the Badgers.
Currently the market reveals juiced threes to be the consensus, with a few 3 -110’s to be found at Bovada and the Greek, and one soft 3.5 available at BetCris. The juiced three at Matchbook is indicative of a sharp lean to the Hurricanes at three, while the reduced three at Pinnacle has me wanting to wait the number out.
An 80/20 split is about as lopsided as it gets, and a near must bet for the contrarian bettor during bowl season, when unpopular sides of this magnitude have hit at 65%. Through I doubt the 80% consensus lasts as the game approaches, it’s certainly worth seeing if we can get a number south of three by then.
The Texas Bowl
Baylor vs. Vanderbilt
Off-shore opening line: Baylor 4.5 -110
Consensus current line: Baylor 4 -110
Off-shore Betting Consensus: 39% Baylor
BangtheBook Power Rating: Baylor – 3
As far as our Power Ratings are concerned, the wrong side is favored here, and the market has been somewhat in agreement, coming down a bit from the 4.5 opener against an early Vanderbilt consensus.
What is even more significant about this move, is that many of the higher limit off-shores opened as high as six, and they too have been forced down to the consensus of four in the marketplace. At four, the market seems rather stable, with Pinnacle and 5Dimes both reduced and welcoming action at this number, while -110 is the norm. With another high limit book, The Greek, currently juicing the Baylor side at four, they may have taken a few sharp nibbles at four, and I’d be comfortable taking relative value to that book and laying the -110 juice.
Whether this consensus holds is debatable, and I could see late recreational money being more supportive of the Bears. If that ends up being the case, maybe four is the best number we see on Baylor; especially if our Power Rating overlay of seven points is in line with that of any professionals and they fully join the party when limits rise.
The Alamo Bowl
Iowa State vs. Washington State
Off-shore opening line: ISU 5 -110
Consensus current line: ISU 3.5 -115
Off-shore Betting Consensus: 48% ISU
BangtheBook Power Rating: Iowa State 4
Barely making the cutoff currently for the 57% ATS trend, Iowa State has appeared to get some love from sharps in the off-shore market, as this number opened as high as 6.5 at Pinnacle and has been bet all the way down to the current consensus of heavily juiced 3.5’s.
While at 3.5, our Power Rating of four no longer depicts any overlay value, this isn’t of utmost concern during bowl season, as expected variance in final scores is at its season long high – meaning a wide range of final scores are anticipated, relative to regular seasons games, when motivation is more predictable.
Currently, at most of the major off-shores, you’re going to have to pay at least an extra five percent tax if you want the hook on three with the Cyclones, while 5Dimes and Matchbook are the only two major books that have gone done to reduced threes. With Pinnacle and BetCris being two of those that are charging more than -115 and Matchbook having lost the hook, there may be some value in taking the 3.5 now and paying the juice, because there is no guarantee Iowa State remains the unpopular side.
However, given the perceived success of Washington State’s season relative to Iowa State’s, and the public familiarity with Mike Leach, Gardner Minshew, and the Air Raid offense, I think it’s more likely Wazzu closes the consensus side and our ATS trend comes into play.