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Total Notes - Week 1

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The 2014-15 college football season is underway and this column will be focusing on totals throughout the season. After watching Thursday’s action, it’s apparent that the oddsmakers will be making major adjustments to their power ratings, especially after watching three healthy road underdogs (Texas A&M, Temple, Rutgers) capture outright victories.

Expert Advice

Each week throughout the college football season, I’m going to lean on VegasInsider.com handicapper James Manos and his expertise on totals. When it comes to analyzing college number there aren’t many that can measure up to his knowledge and I believe you’ll find that out for yourself. With that being said, we asked him some questions on his approach and the upcoming season.

VI: Due to the up-tempo attacks in college football, how should bettors handicap the opening numbers based on the teams and their styles?

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Manos:
Setting numbers for the college football totals marketplace has certainly changed over the last 5 years and, unlike in the NFL, where rule changes have been a big part of the altered landscape, the college game seems to have been more effected by tempo and conference dynamics.  Teams going to an ultra-uptempo style, and having success, have caused other teams and coaches to take a hard look at the number of plays run in a game and how that effects scoring.  In addition, the success of some of those faster paced programs has caused traditional rivals and conference affiliates to adjust and adapt in an attempt to "keep pace." 

This is really evident in the Big XII Conference where we regularly see totals now that would have been considered outlandish just a few years ago.  This is largely due to the Big XII leading all conferences in average MOP (average number of plays run per minute of offensive possession time). 

The lowest widely available total posted for Week 1 was 47 while we saw eight games (20.5%) open with totals of 60 or higher….the median opening total across all games was 54.5.

According to Manos, the below chart he created is a great guide to understanding totals in college football.

-- Very low would be 40 or under
-- Low total anything lined at 47 or less.
-- Meduim total would be from 47.5 to 56
-- High from 56.5 to 67.
-- Very high anything over 67.5.

VI: For Week 1, what’s the proper approach a bettor should take?

Manos: The first week of the college football season is an instance where a prepared and experienced total bettor can probably find the biggest variance between his numbers and the books. This can create excellent betting opportunities but limits are usually lower and there are inherently more variables involved as there are less pertinent data to use.  While later in the season I may play ANY total that is 3 points off from my line, in the opening weeks it may take a bigger difference for me to make a play based ONLY on my own numbers.  

VI: What factors are the most important to look at when handicapping Week 1?

Manos: Early on the most important factors for betting totals are coaching continuity, tempo, expected PPD, and matchups……but as always it’s about the number you are betting into and betting into soft lines early remains the easiest and surest way to win. 

VI: What differentiates your technique from other professionals?

Manos: I rely heavily on my own offensive and defensive efficiency ratings to both make my own number and determine what totals to bet.  Essentially my offensive efficiency ratings give each team's chance to score per possession.  It does not differentiate between the type of score (FG, TD) but allows me to gauge a teams ability to create points per possession. Conversely, my defensive efficiency ratings give me each teams expected chance to stop the other team from scoring on each possession. It is not relative to field position, or TO margin, but an average across all expected enemy possessions.  Both total number of possessions and total number of plays run are important to determining an offenses effect on the total but I value possessions and PPD (points per drive) more as Yards Per Play and TOP can be deceiving at times and some teams who run a high number of offensive plays are not necessarily efficient.  

Line Moves

If you look at Thursday’s results from the first six games, all of them had significant moves and the house got beat up. Bettors going with the money, would’ve went 5-1 and the winners were clear-cut. The lone loser was the Tulane-Tulsa matchup which had an opener of 47 and close of 45 ½. Tulsa captured a 38-31 win in overtime.

As of Friday, some lucky bettors are staring at a middle of close to 10 points on the Bowling Green-Western Kentucky game. The total opened 54 ½ at CRIS and is hovering at 64. When you see that much of a shift, it’s apparent that the professionals (Sharps, Wiseguys, etc…) believe the opener was a huge mistake.

Listed below are totals that have had a move of at least three points of the opener from CRIS, a major offshore outfit that is one of the first to release numbers. Make a note that you can follow all the moves for every game via our Odds and/or Scores.

Ohio State-Navy: 57 ½ to 54 ½ (This number moved after the injury to Buckeyes QB Miller was announced)

UCLA-Virginia: 57 to 54

Georgia Southern-N.C. State: 53 ½ to 56 ½

Ohio-Kent: 51 to 47 ½  

North Texas-Texas: 52 ½ to 49 ½

UTEP-New Mexico: 67 ½ to 64 ½

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com

  
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