Sunday, December 11, 2016

Strangers in the Field II: How'd we Do?

I went to Vegas back in the summer and made some wagers. Here is how they turned out.

Over/Under Win Totals

Cincinnati over 7.5 wins -120 ($40 to win $33.35)
This was a big ol’ whiff. Cincinnati posted the best Yards per Play offensive numbers in the American in 2015, but was done in by a glut of turnovers. I figured the turnover luck would change, the Bearcats would stay near the top of the conference on offense, and cruise to at least eight regular season wins. The turnover margin did stabilize, but the Bearcats were near the bottom of the conference in offense and after opening 2-0 never threatened to come close to hitting this number. The only good thing to come out of this season for Cincinnati was Tommy Tuberville yelling at a heckler. In hindsight, the number was probably one win too high. Despite the fact that Cincinnati endured a horrible season, this one was hard to see coming. This was a bad bet, but if the win total was 6.5, betting the over could be forgiven.

Fresno State over 4 wins -115 ($40 to win $34.80)
I thought Tim DeRuyter would save his job and potentially return Fresno to a bowl game. Yes, the Bulldogs were bad in 2015, but the Bulldogs play in the weaker Mountain West division and only needed to equal last season’s win total to push this number. Like Cincinnati, Fresno never really threatened. I knew things were probably not going to turn out well when the Bulldogs blew a 31-0 (yes, you read that right) lead against Tulsa and lost in overtime. The Bulldogs finished the year losing eleven straight games and DeRuyter was let go. For those keeping score at home, that’s two bets and two coaches who were either fired or resigned. Fresno State was competitive, losing the OT game to Tulsa, losing to Nevada by five, and then closing the year with a one point loss to Hawaii and a two point loss to San Jose State. If Fresno had won all their close games, they would have hit the over. However, that does not change the fact that this was a bad bet.

Georgia Tech over 6.5 wins +125 ($40 to win $50)
Georgia Tech was extremely unlucky in 2015 and struggled to a 3-9 record. I was banking on them more than doubling their win total in 2016. If you look at Paul Johnson’s track record, with the exception of 2015, he always manages to win at least half of his conference games. If he did that this season and won all the non-conference games except Georgia, this one would hit. There were some nervous moments (the opener against Boston College in Ireland was extremely close), but the Yellow Jackets hit this number even before the finale where they upset Georgia. This was a good bet because the number was relatively low and the payout more than doubled the initial investment.

Kansas over 1.5 wins -155 ($40 to win $25.80)
The Jayhawks opened with an FCS opponent (and a bad one at that), so in my mind they just needed to find one more win in their next eleven games to hit the over here. Well, they easily beat Rhode Island and I thought they might cash the ticket the next week as they were favored at home against Ohio. But, like most good things, Kansas made me wait. And wait. And wait. They teased with a close loss to TCU. They were competitive for three quarters at home against Oklahoma State. They led Iowa State at home in the second half. After they lost to the Cyclones, I figured this this ticket was destined for the landfill. Then Texas came to town. I didn’t really like their chances in that game, but I flipped back and forth for a while. In the fourth quarter Texas could never ice the game thanks to some Devonta Freeman fumbles, some questionable decisions by Charlie Strong, and a great strip on a sure interception. Kansas forced overtime with a last second field goal, and then intercepted Texas on their first OT possession. I kept waiting for a fumble or blocked kick, but Kansas methodically moved inside the ten yard line and drilled an easy field goal for the win. In hindsight, Kansas did not improve by nearly as much as I thought they would. Still, it is very hard to lose every game you play. Even in a Power 5 league. We’ll call this one a decent bet.

Maryland over 5 wins -120 ($40 to win $33.35)
Maryland was a little better than their record in 2015 and would be bringing in a new coach and a soft non-conference schedule in 2016. The schedule proved to be a little tougher than I initially though as Central Florida returned to playing competent football and actually took the Terps to overtime in Orlando. Maryland prevailed and after their 3-0 start, waxed Purdue to open Big 10 play. With Rutgers remaining on the schedule in the season finale, the Terrapins just had to find one more win to hit the over. And well, they barely found it. The Terrapins were not competitive in losses to Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, but they were able to beat Michigan State at home to make the game with Rutgers mean a shot at a bowl bid as well as a shot at the over. This was a decent bet, but I probably should have abstained once the number climbed above 4.5. Maryland was not a good team, and was fortunate to win six games.

NC State over 3 wins -120 ($25 to win $20.85)
I hadn’t planned to bet on NC State, but I was perusing the totals and was struck by how low this number was. I immediately hit the web to see if NC State had joined the AFC West or had their entire team suspended and replaced by NC A&T players. Neither of those things happened so I placed a wager on the Wolfpack here. There was not a great deal of handicapping excellence that went into this bet. NC State played an FCS school, East Carolina, and Old Dominion in the non-conference. They did lose to East Carolina to give me a little indigestion, but they made up for it by beating Notre Dame and even though it looked like they might miss a bowl, they had four wins by mid-October. This was easily a good bet.

New Mexico under 7 wins -145 ($40 to win $27.60)
My lone under bet of the season came courtesy of Los Lobos. New Mexico won seven games in 2015, but still had a bad defense. I didn’t foresee that changing in 2016 and by playing in the tougher division of the Mountain West, I figured the Lobos would top out at 6-6 at best. Congrats to Bob Davie and company as they won eight games. Their option offense remained devastating and their defense remained poor making for some high-scoring games. The Lobos were also extremely fortunate as they won nearly all their close games, going 4-1 in one-score contests. All I needed was one game flipped the other way to generate a push. Despite not cashing this ticket, I had New Mexico pegged correctly, so we’ll classify this as a good bet.

Old Dominion over 5 wins even ($40 to win $40)
I follow college football, particularly mid-major programs closer than most. Thus, when I saw this total, I knew I had to bet it. Old Dominion rebooted their football program in 2009 and immediately became an FCS power before transitioning to FBS. They won six games in their inaugural season in Conference USA (2014), but were ineligible for the postseason as a transitional team. In 2015, their all-time leading passer departed, so the Monarchs were due for some growing pains. Still, they finished 5-7 and narrowly missed out on a bowl game. Heading into 2016, I figured they were a cinch to qualify for a bowl and they did not disappoint. This ticket was never really in doubt as the Monarchs won nine games and tied Western Kentucky at the top of the East division of Conference USA. I am not sure why Bobby Wilder’s name has not come up in any coaching hot stove talk.

Games of the Year

September 10th South Carolina +10.5 Mississippi State -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
I figured Mississippi State would struggle in their first year sans Dak Prescott (they did) and thought the Gamecocks catching double-digits early in the season would be a good play. I bought at a good price as this line was about 7 points thanks to Mississippi State’s loss to South Alabama the week before this game kicked. The Bulldogs took out their frustrations on the Gamecocks, leading 24-0 at halftime. The Gamecocks looked like they might get a backdoor cover when they cut the lead to 13 in the fourth quarter, but alas it was not to be. For those keeping score at home, I have bet on two South Carolina ‘Games of the Year’ odds the last two years and lost them both. In the other games, I’ve done pretty well.

September 17th Ole Miss +6 Alabama -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
Ole Miss had beaten Alabama each of the past two seasons and this game was in Oxford. I bought at a bad price as Alabama was a double-digit favorite when the game kicked. However, despite buying at a bad price, Ole Miss actually outplayed Alabama and had a decent shot to win this game as they led 24-3 in the second quarter. The Tide eventually pulled ahead and Ole Miss backdoored their way to a cover. However, if you look at the stats, Ole Miss probably deserved to cover as the Rebels torched a heretofore and since impenetrable defense to the tune of 43 points and 7.15 yards per play.

September 17th UCLA -1.5 BYU -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
Thankfully this game occurred early in the year before Josh Rosen got hurt. I figured this line was small enough that all UCLA had to do was win and they would cover. The Bruins were up comfortably most of the second half. BYU scored a late touchdown to get the final margin within three, but UCLA won by enough to cover.

November 5th NC State +15 Florida State -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
Florida State has struggled in Raleigh since around the turn of the century (remember Mike O’Cain's signature win in 1998?) and I figured this year would be no different. By gametime this line was around six points. NC State led for much of the game and easily covered despite losing straight up.

November 26th Georgia Tech +13 Georgia -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
Prior to 2016, the previous three games in this series had been decided in overtime, overtime, and by six points. I figured more of the same was in store and with Georgia Tech undervalued after a 3-9 season and Georgia going through a coaching transition, I couldn’t resist. I bought at a good price as the line on this game was about four points once it kicked. There were some nervous moments as Georgia had a 13 point lead in the fourth quarter. Once Georgia Tech cut it to six, I figured the margin for this ticket might come down to a two-point conversion (if Georgia scored, there would be no need to kick the extra point and go up 13 at that late juncture). Thankfully, Georgia Tech intercepted a pass and scored with under a minute left to win outright.

December 10th Army +11.5 Navy @ Baltimore -110 ($25 to win $22.75)
Navy was losing their best quarterback since Roger Staubach and this figured to be Army’s best team in a while. Catching double digits in a rivalry game? Sign me up. The actual line for this game was about six points, but that is because Navy lost their quarterback to injury the week before in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game. Winning their division of the AAC may have cost Navy in this game, as they not only lost their starting quarterback, but did not have an extra week to prep for their arch-rival. Army broke their 14-year losing streak and won outright.

Conference Champion Bets

Cincinnati to win the American +450 ($10 to win $45)
I already wrote about Cincinnati’s awful season. No need to rehash it here. Go back and watch the video though.

Eastern Michigan to win the MAC +30000 ($10 to win $3000)
This was obviously a longshot, but I thought it was worth it. As I mentioned earlier, I follow mid-major football closer than most rational humans. I knew this was Chris Creighton’s third season and I thought he might be due for a breakout campaign. Eastern Michigan did win seven regular season games, but that other directional Michigan school was a little better this season. Still, this was a pretty good bet considering the potential payout.

Marshall to win Conference USA +350 ($10 to win $35)
Heading into 2015, Marshall lost a lot. In fact, they only returned nine starters! Yet they managed to follow up a 13-1 season with a 10-3 record. With 11 starters back in 2016, I figured Marshall was built to last and would return to the throne in Conference USA. Non-conference play was rough with the Herd losing to Louisville and Pitt, and also to Akron. At the time, I figured the Akron loss was just a blip. Alas, it was not. The Herd dropped their conference opener to North Texas and it didn’t get any better from there. The Herd managed just a 2-6 mark in league play and was never in contention for a bowl bid, much less the conference title.

Miscellaneous Bets

Los Angeles Dodgers to win World Series +150 ($10 to win $150)
I thought the Dodgers had an outside shot at stealing the division from the Giants and with Clayton Kershaw potentially returning, I figured they were worth a look. The Dodgers did win the divison, then the Division Series against the Nationals, and finally led the Cubs 2 games to-1 before dropping the final three games as the Cubs won the National League pennant.

St Louis Cardinals to win World Series +250 ($10 to win $250)
The Cardinals were in no position to win their division with the Cubs holding a commanding lead through the summer. However, they were within striking distance of the Wild Card and were actually tied for the second Wild Card spot as late as September 21st. They wound up finishing one game out of the second Wild Card spot.

Miami Marlins to win World Series +400 ($10 to win $400)
I didn’t think Miami was very good, but they were actually leading the Wild Card at the time of this wager, and well, stranger things have happened. The Marlins reverted to their peripherals and then suffered a devastating blow when Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident.

Reckless Parlay
$10 to win $400

Game 1: August 26th Hawaii +21 Cal @ Sydney

Game 2: September 1st Tulane +17 Wake Forest

Game 3: September 2nd Army +16 Temple

Game 4: September 3rd Georgia Tech -3.5 Boston College @ Dublin
Loser (by half a point) :(

Game 5: September 3rd Wyoming +10.5 Northern Illinois

Game 6: September 4th Notre Dame -4.5 Texas
Loser (thankfully, I would have hated to lose the parlay by half a point)

So here is the tale of the tape.

Money Wagered: $525
Money Won: $593.75
Return on Investment: 13.10%

Well, we won a little money. In fact, we won more than last year. Not quite enough to retire on, but enough to lure me back next summer.

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