(From the movie Stripes.)
Cruiser: Maybe I should fold.
Ox: Let me see, Cruise. Let me look first. (Looks at Cruiser’s hand.) Fold? Not with a hand like that! Come on, dare me. Bluff me!
Cruiser: How much should I bet?
Ox: If it was me, I’d bet everything. But I’m Mr. Las Vegas. Come on, go for it. (Cruise puts all his money in the pot.) Yes, yes, there you go!
Cruise: What do you got?
Ox: Well, I got a full house, three 3s and two 6s. That’s what we call a full house.
Cruise: What have I got?
Ox: You have a 3, two 4s, an 8 and an ace. So, you lose. But if you had four 4s, you would have won! You’re getting really good at this game, Cruise.
Unless you find yourself in a state that allows sports betting, the following is for laughs only. But if you are in a state that allows sports betting, pay attention, and don’t get gored by the Ox (aka “the house”). Remember, the odds are never in your favor. Most gaming institutions have their college football over/under lines posted for the 2019 season. Let’s take a look, and I’ll share what I would do, were I betting man.
Fan Duel Sports Book, in New Jersey, was one of the first to post a 2019 CFB line. The following is Fan Duel’s over/under for the Pac-12 North, with comments provided by sports bettor and sharp Mike Josephs. (No relation to Yours Truly, by the way. In addition to the “s” in his last name, Josephs wins too much to be related to a “Cruiser-like” gambler such as myself.)
How do the lines work? -115 means that you bet $1.15 to win a $1. +115 means that you bet $1 to win $1.15. I note that, as a lead-in to his Pac-12 analysis, Josephs opines that, “The Pac-12 really needs USC to become relevant, and keeping Clay Helton as a coach may not get the Trojans there.” (In other news, the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.) Let’s take a look at the lines, shall we?
Cal: Six wins. Over -102, Under -114
Josephs sees five to six wins for the Golden Bears. My Verdict: no bet.
Oregon: 8.5 wins. Over -165, Under +140
Josephs sees 9 wins, but at -165 it’s not worth the bet. For those of you anxious about the 2019 season, if you think eight wins is the limit for the Ducks, +140 is a good value. My Verdict: no bet.
Oregon State: 2.5 wins. Over +130, Under -155
Josephs likes the under, but the price equals no bet. My Verdict: no bet.
Stanford: 6.5 wins. Over -108, Under -108
Josephs says to bet the over. If you are so inclined, pay attention to Stanford’s early schedule. The Cardinal opens with B1G West champ Northwestern, trips to USC and AAC champ UCF, and then plays Oregon in Palo Alto. Stanford closes with a home game against Notre Dame, to boot. My Verdict: bet the over at your own risk.
Washington: 9.5 wins. Over +110, Under -130
Josephs says, with an easy out-of-conference slate, take the over. He thinks UW goes 10-2 and, depending on where the losses come, wins the North. For what it’s worth, I made a wager on the under. Will Jacob Eason come through at QB? Can UW reload its defensive backfield? And UW plays at Stanford, and although its matchup against Utah is a home game, drawing the presumptive Pac-12 South champ is no walk in the park. My Verdict: take the under.
Washington State: 8.5 wins Over +115, Under -135
Josephs thinks Wazzu might win nine games. He doesn’t like the odds on the under bet. I see the Cougs winning eight games but agree that the under is too pricey. My Verdict: no bet.
Other CFB media outlets, CBS, FOX and ESPN, also have over/under totals up. Below are a few of ESPN’s over/under projections for the 2019 season. Of course, ESPN has “no skin” in the game. If Lee Corso had to back up his helmet predictions with greenbacks, his bank account would be in trouble.
ESPN’s Over/Under Projections
Alabama: 11 wins. Over +100, Under -121
A buck to win a buck on Saint Nick Saban running the regular-season table? With four cupcakes, three at home Duke at a “neutral site” and LSU tripping to Tuscaloosa, I took the over. Plus, after the Clemson championship game beat-down, you can bet, as I so bet, that the Tide will be ready to roll.
I think Tua Tagovailoa, under the tutelage of new/old offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, will blow up many a scoreboard. He is the returning leader in Yards Per Play at QB. He produced 10+ yards last season every time he threw or ran the ball. Thank goodness Mark Helfrich delayed making an offer to this kid … That remains one of the all-time biggest recruiting gaffes. My Verdict: take the over and don’t look back.
Clemson: 10.5 wins. Over -139, Under +115
I took the over here. It’s expensive at -139, but look at the Tigers’ talent and their schedule. The ACC is way down and Clemson gets A&M at home. My Verdict: take the over on the champs.
Georgia: 10 wins. Over -182 (!), Under +150
Why not simply post 10.5 wins? Only a dog-gone Dawg lover would take these odds on the over. My Verdict: stay the heck away from this bet.
Oklahoma: 10 wins. Over -148, Under +120
Will grad transfer Jalen Hurts hear the siren sound of QB whisperer Lincoln Riley as did transfers and Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray? Texas lost tons of guys on both sides of the ball. Like Clemson, this is another school playing in a mediocre-at-best conference. But, -148 is too beau coup. The Sooners’ big out-of-conference game in 2019? The Chippers in LA. My Verdict: tempting, but too expensive. No bet.
Ohio State: 10 wins. Over +100, Under -121
Easy out-of-conference slate. With a new HC and a new, untested QB, I see a push (10 wins) for Ohio State. My Verdict: push.
UW: 10 wins Over +137, Under -167
I could find no “real odds” this favorable. The under here is crazy expensive. UW is another school with a joke of an out-of-conference schedule. But lots of guys are gone on both sides of the ball, and in his one year as a starting QB at Georgia, Eason barely completed 50% of his throws. ESPN is far higher on UW than I am. I see at least three defeats, with an Oregon victory in Seattle being one of them.
Coach Chris Petersen has taken advantage of a down Pac-12, but so far, he has zero impressive out-of-conference wins with the Huskies. Personally, I think his sterling coaching rep is based on cheap Group of 5 wins at Boise St. and not much else. My Verdict: the under is pricey, but the smart move.
Washington State: 10 wins. Over -110, Under -110
I could find no book that has WSU with 10 wins. If I had, I would have bet the under with a bullet. Unless “The Pirate” (aka Mike Leach) has been able to beard another mustache, there’s no way the Cougs reach this lofty number. A loss to WSU in Autzen this season would be a huge downer for the Ducks. My Verdict: take the under with no hesitation.
Oregon: 8.5 wins. Over +120, Under -148
Compare this with the above Fan Duel line of -165 over and +140 under. Fan Duel’s line, compared to ESPN’s, would drive most gamblers to an under bet. On the other hand, with the over at -165, Fan Duel believes that most will wager on the Ducks coming in at 9 or more wins. My Verdict: still too dicey to warrant a bet.
Utah: 8.5 wins. Over -150, Under +123
I think Utah easily covers the 8.5, but $1.50 to make a $1 is too much. Utah, at 8.5 wins, leads the Pac-12 South in projected wins. What does that say about the South? My Verdict: take the over, but only if you have deep pockets.
To recap, according to The World Wide Leader, the usual suspects, depending on where an L might pop up, are lined up for the Playoff. The Dog Biscuits win the Pac-12 North, and Utah wins the Pac-12 South. If That School Up North wins the conference championship game, we likely see a re-run of the 2018 Rose Bowl, according to the oddsmakers. Men of Oregon, do not let this travesty morph into reality!
One final piece of advice: be careful with your change. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “In gambling, the many [us suckers] must lose in order that the few [the House] may win.” And, as I have unfortunately spoken in the past, “Momma, tonight it’s Tube Steak and not T-bone …”
Georgetown, Texas Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.
Jon Joseph grew up in Boston, Massachusetts but has been blessed to have lived long enough in the west to have exorcised all east coast bias. He played football in college and has passionately followed the game for seven decades. A retired corporate attorney Jon has lectured across the country and published numerous articles on banking and gaming law. Now resident in central Oregon Jon follows college football across the nation with a focus on the Conference of Champions and the Ducks.
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