If my business was gambling and not writing, I might have made a fortune since 2017 on the Las Vegas Bowl alone.
Your running handicap: Las Vegas Bowl committees select the Mountain West champion to face a marquee Pac-12 program that didn’t quite reach the pinnacle in league play. In 2017, the match-up was Boise State vs Oregon. In 2018, it was Fresno State vs Arizona State. In each case, the P5 representatives have suffered NFL Draft-motivated player defections and inner turmoil while the MWC champ prepared in lock-step unity. Yet the media continued to overrate the aristocrats’ chances, leading to a nice ML price and a favorable point spread on each mid-major.
What’s strange is that bookmakers – many of whom still live in Las Vegas – don’t know better than to open with minus-moneylines on the MWC winners to beat disappointed and only-90% motivated squads that finished 3rd or 4th in a league. Of all places on Earth for analysts to know better! Sin City residents have been watching sleek and talented UNLV teams get dusted by Boise State and Fresno State forever. They ought to know how dangerous a Mountain West “underdog” can be against the big-shots.
Looking at the betting lines for this Saturday’s meeting between Vanderbilt of the SEC and visiting Nevada-Las Vegas, it appears as though the gambling community is ready to compensate for its mistakes.
Maybe too ready.
Vandy’s line-to-win opened at 1-to-5.75 and has shortened to (-600), but the point spread has shrunk from a 3-score margin to just (-14.5) and could wind up at 2 TDs + XPs by kickoff time.
Who: Nevada Las-Vegas Rebels at Vanderbilt Commodores
When: Saturday, October 12th, 4 PM EST
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
Lines: UNLV (+14.5) vs Vandy (-14.5) / O/U Total: (59)
UNLV hails from the Mountain West, yes, and the conference has had a hex on the Power-5 – not just anyone from the Power-5 but schools like Florida State – throughout the early weeks of the 2019 season.
It’s not just the Boise Blue prevailing in a hostile Seminole setting that the Broncos didn’t even know they’d face – it’s results like Hawaii over Arizona in Week Zero in which the Rainbow Warriors showed that vulnerable P5 programs can lose to mid-majors who are not expected to contend in their leagues.
But it’s important to pick the right representative of a mid-major conference that impresses you. As high as the MWC’s ceiling may be, its floor is lower than any of 6 or 7 other sets of FBS teams, and that’s bad news for gamblers rushing to take UNLV-to-cover in Nashville.
We try to get as subtle as possible on BetFirm, but it’s important to note that wide-view analysis – or looking at final scores and basic outcomes – is the bedrock of all handicapping. Muhammad Ali lost to Joe Frazier and George Foreman destroyed Joe Frazier, causing the “common opponent” factor to sway the odds heavily in Foreman’s favor going into the Rumble in the Jungle. Of course we all know how that fight turned out, but recall that “Big” George Foreman was also only a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 underdog to beat Michael Moorer on the night George KO’d the unbeaten champ. High-rollers noted that Foreman had lost very few bouts, ever, and that he had knocked-out 50+ smaller fighters like Moorer while stacking-up that prodigious W/L record.
I can’t understand why Las Vegas and the betting public would collaborate on a big-picture mistake like the Vanderbilt vs UNLV point spread and moneylines. Not with an SEC team in the picture – even an SEC program lampooned as an “example cupcake” (with yours truly guilty-as-charged) along with Coastal Carolina and Little Sisters of the Poor.
Yes, Vandy has looked just as bad against marginal opponents as the Rebels so far this season. But consider that the teams Vanderbilt has lost to would look a lot shinier than those UNLV has lost to if they played comparable schedules.
For instance, the Commodores lost 42-24 to the Purdue Boilermakers despite Riley Neal’s near-400-yard passing display (though it was surpassed by counterpart Elijah Sinclair) and the Purdue offense going nowhere on the ground for most of 4 quarters. The Boilermakers haven’t looked so hot before or since, losing 3 out of 4 other games. But they’ve had to play Georgia, LSU, Northern Illinois and Ole Miss.
In contrast, Wyoming – which blew-out UNLV with a 26-point 2nd quarter and a 53-17 result – has beaten Missouri, Texas State, and Idaho, losing to Tulsa prior to the Nevada Las-Vegas game. If the Cowboys had Purdue’s schedule and the Boilermakers had Wyoming’s schedule, bettors would be focused on how Vanderbilt, not UNLV, has looked good in flashes against top competition.
The initial point spread of Vandy (-16.5) was closer to an accurate line than the current number. Take Vanderbilt-to-cover and increase units if the spread dips to (-14) points even.