Sunday, December 06, 2015

Strangers in the Field: How'd we Do?

Back in August, I headed to Sin City and made a few wagers. Now, four months later, we get to take stock of those wagers and see the good, the bad, and the ugly. In hopes of getting better at this prediction business, I am also going to take an unbiased look at the process and ideas behind each wager. As you know, a broken clock is right twice a day, just as the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go astray. 

Over/Under Win Totals

Miami over 6 wins -200 ($150 to win $75)
Process: Six wins seemed awfully low for a team with Miami's solid peripheral numbers from 2014. 
Result: Winner. Yes, one of their victories may have been tainted thanks to some dubious officiating, but the Hurricanes still would have hit even if you go back and award that game to Duke as some on the internet have suggested. Ironically, Miami was probably a better team in 2014, yet they won two fewer regular season games. Ah, the vagaries of a twelve game season. We'll call this a good bet. 

South Carolina over 6.5 wins -125 ($50 to win $40)
Process: South Carolina won eleven games in three consecutive seasons. Surely 2014 was a blip on the radar and not a sign of things to come.
Result: Loser. The season began promisingly with a neutral site win against North Carolina. It was all downhill from there though. The coach quit, the team finished dead last in the SEC East, and for good measure lost to the Citadel. An optimist might point out that five of their losses came by a touchdown or less, but that is the only silver lining. This was a horrible bet.

Syracuse over 4.5 wins -120 ($40 to win $33.35)
Process: The offense couldn't possibly be as bad as it was in 2014 and the Orange play in the ACC.
Result: Loser. The Orange won their first three games, then lost eight in a row before winning their season finale for their lame duck head coach. Even though it didn't hit, I still think this was a good bet. I certainly didn't foresee the rise of South Florida (a non-conference game the Orange lost) and the Orange nearly beat Virginia and Pitt. This was a decent bet.

Texas over 6.5 wins +105 ($30 to win $31.50)
Process: This is Texas. They should roll out of bed and win seven games.
Result: Loser. If you had told me after I made this bet that Texas would beat both Oklahoma and Baylor, I would have assumed Texas would at worst be playing in a New Year's Six Bowl. Alas, those were pretty much the only highlights of the season for the Longhorns. Realistically, this bet was toast when Texas botched a late extra point to lose to Cal in their third game of the season. The victory against Oklahoma provided a glimmer of hope, but three weeks later, the Longhorns were shut out by Iowa State. This was another bad bet. 

Texas A&M under 8 wins -120 ($40 to win $33.35)
Process: I figured the Aggies one of the more overrated teams in the country. Playing in the SEC West and facing Arizona State in the non-conference, I figured the Aggies could be headed for a 6-6 season.
Result: Push. The Aggies lost four games, with each defeat coming by at least twelve points. They played three games this season outside their home state (and one was against Vanderbilt), yet they still lost four games. Despite the result, I think this was at worst a decent bet. I did not foresee Arizona State being hot garbage this year and the Aggies came very close to losing to both Arkansas and South Carolina

West Virginia under 7.5 wins -115 ($40 to win $34.80)
Process: West Virginia plays in the deep Big 12 and in 2015 had to play road games at Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and TCU. Plus their non-conference slate featured a tricky Georgia Southern and a Maryland team that was bowl eligible in 2014. 
Result: Winner. It came down to the first Saturday in December, but my main man Bill Snyder came through for me as the Wildcats upset the Mountaineers 24-23 to drop them to 7-5. Throughout my life watching college football, I have found that Bill Snyder is a lot like Jesus. Both were born roughly 2000 years ago and neither will ever let you down. All sacrilege aside, this was a bad bet. West Virginia is probably the best five loss team in the country with some metrics rating them a good team and others a very good team. I was fortunate this one hit.

Games of the Year

October 3rd
South Carolina +6.5 Missouri -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
Process: As I mentioned earlier, I thought South Carolina would improve. Couple that with some expected regression at Missouri and I figured the Gamecocks would keep this one close. 
Result: Loser. Missouri won 24-10. Let me rant for a moment here. Missouri scored six, yes, SIX, offensive touchdowns in their eight SEC games. They scored three in this one. You can do the math. In their other seven games, they averaged less than half a touchdown per game! Thanks Jon Hoke and Lorenzo Ward. I'll send you an invoice. I guess this shouldn't have come as a huge surprise though as this Gamecock defense made Greyson Lambert look like the best quarterback in history two weeks prior. Still, if you go by the spread at kickoff, this was a good bet. By the time the game kicked off, Missouri was about a field goal favorite, so I was catching an extra three of three and half points. 

October 31st
Oregon State +16 Utah -110 ($25 to win $22.75)    
Process: Utah finished in the year end top-25 poll in 2014, but all their conference wins came by six points or fewer.
Result: Winner. Utah won 27-12. The Beavers were a lot less competitive than I assumed they would be in 2015. Thankfully, they played well in about a third of their conference games, and this happened to be one of them. By kickoff, this line had jumped to 25 or 26 points in Utah's favor. I figured I would be ripping this ticket up for sure. I was home for Halloween and my parents do not have the Pac-12 Network. I was handing out candy and causally watching other games and I saw the Beavers were hanging around. Don't ask me how they did it, as I decided to refrain from keeping up with this game on my computer. Amazingly, the Beavers barely covered this number. This was a bad bet that worked out.

October 17th
Pittsburgh +11 Georgia Tech -110 ($25 to win $22.75)

Process: Georgia Tech was overrated heading into 2015. I figured they would win this game by about a touchdown.
Result: Winner. Pitt won outright 31-28. I did a pretty good job of identifying Georgia Tech as a stock to short in 2015. When the game kicked off, the Yellow Jackets were only favored by three and they never came close to covering this larger number. This was a great bet.

November 12th
Virginia Tech +6 Georgia Tech -110 ($25 to win $22.75)

Process: Georgia Tech was overrated heading into 2015 and their games with the Hokies are always close.
Result: Winner. Virginia Tech won outright 23-21. The Hokies fell behind 14-0 early, but Georgia Tech did not score an offensive touchdown the rest of the way. At kickoff, Georgia Tech was favored by one or two points, so I had an extra four points to spare with this line. This was a good bet.

November 21st
Miami +3 Georgia Tech -110 ($25 to win $22.75)

Process: Georgia Tech was overrated heading into 2015 and they have never won in Miami under Paul Johnson.
Result: Winner: Miami won outright 38-21. Georgia Tech turned the ball over 50 times or so (okay, it was only four) and after an early lead, they never threatened to win this game. By kickoff, this game was a pick 'em, so I bought at a good price. This was a good bet.

Miscellaneous Bets

Pittsburgh Pirates 10-1 to win World Series ($15 to win $150)
Process: Pittsburgh is good and baseball is random. Why not?
Result: Loser. The Pirates finished with the second-best record in all of baseball, but ran into the Jake Arrieta buzz saw in the Wild Card Game. This was a decent bet.

Toronto Blue Jays 30-1 to win World Series ($10 to win $300)
Process: Toronto had a great run differential in late July and would improve as their luck evened out. I had no idea they would get David Price. 
Result: Loser. Toronto got red hot and won the AL East. Alas, as I said before, baseball is very random and the Blue Jays lost in six games to the eventual World Series Champions. I still had a great time following this team though. I saw one of the more exciting playoff games in history complete with a baffling play that caused the stereotypically laid back Canadians to nearly riot. This was a great bet and if I could have sold this ticket like a stock once the playoffs started, I certainly would have. 

Reckless Parlay
$10 to win $900
Process: I only have to get all seven right? Easy money.
Result: I got 4 out of 7 right. I guess that's not too bad. But you don't win any money for that.

Game 1: September 3rd
South Carolina -3 North Carolina (@Charlotte)


Game 2: September 3rd
Michigan +5.5 Utah


Game 3: September 3rd
Western Kentucky +2.5 Vanderbilt


Game 4: September 5th
Northwestern +12 Stanford


Game 5: September 5th
Arizona State +3 Texas A&M (@ Houston)


Game 6: September 5th
BYU +5.5 Nebraska


Game 7: September 5th
Georgia Southern +19 West Virginia

So that is how the bets went and her is the tale of the tape.

Money Wagered: $510
Money Won: $530.80
Return on Investment: 4.1%

So we won a little money. The economist or investment banker might point out that winning twenty bucks does not cover the opportunity cost of a flight to Vegas and a hotel room. I would point out to that smug individual that my 401(K) lost value over the last quarter and I didn't even get to watch some 18-22 year-olds make that money disappear. And, as I'm sure Las Vegas had hoped, I was just successful enough to come back next year.


Patrick H said...

Just wanted to say thanks for continuing the blog. It's always entertaining and informative. And few (none?) generalist bloggers give as much attention to the non Big 5s as you do. So thanks again!

matt said...

Thanks for the kind words. Glad to know we have at least one reader :) Look for more posts after the bowls are over. I'll be doing about one post per week on each of the ten conferences, so the Group of Five will get some coverage.