With so many bettors placing money on their favorite teams (or using the neat trick of betting against their alma mater, so that whatever happens, they’ll be happy) it’s easy to forget that winning cash is not exactly the same pursuit as winning games.
The sports media conditions us to look for the best, to measure any team or player against the cream. So-and-so had 200 yards rushing against the Oklahoma Sooners? Wow, he sounds like a potential draft pick.
But a smart wager isn’t about measuring everyone’s potential to impress at the NFL combine. Some teams are great at playing opponents well-above their level of athleticism. That doesn’t mean they always win against like-athleticism, though. (Look at Navy in 2016, losing to Army but beating Notre Dame and Houston.) Likewise, a team might be poorly-suited for taking on rivals with more size and speed, but excellent at playing similar teams and beating them.
As the 4-4 Maryland Terrapins travel to face 3-5 Rutgers on Saturday, pundits will point to performances against top-25 teams, like Maryland’s Ty Johnson rushing for 83 yards against Wisconsin in a loss, or the Knights getting expurgated in a 56-0 loss at home against Ohio State.
But you’re not wagering on which program could finally take down the Buckeyes one day. Instead, you’re looking for which of 2 average teams will win when paired together on a given week. That’s something a little different.
Who: Maryland Terrapins at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
When: Saturday, November 4th, 12 PM EST
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
Lines: Maryland (+2.5) at Rutgers (-2.5) / O/U Total: (51)
Let’s throw away the record of these 2 schools against big-shots in 2017. How have they fared against opponents similar to one another?
Rutgers caught Purdue on a bad week and beat them 14-12, a result owed 50% to the Boilermakers’ injury problems at QB. Even against an ordinary Big Ten defense, the Knights’ offense was putrid, barely accumulating more than 200 total yards. The ground game and the offense fared much better in a 35-24 win over Illinois, but QB Giovanni Rescigno was asked to do very little, as was part-timer Kyle Bolin.
Maryland has been more impressive against the middle tier of the Big Ten. Against Minnesota, Max Bortenschlager went 18-of-28 with 2 touchdowns, and Johnson had 130 yards on 18 carries in a 31-24 victory in Gopherland.
I’m liking Maryland and the points, or straight-up on the money line. The Terps offer more balance on offense, and a defense that knows how to win on the road…at least against teams that can’t run faster and jump higher.