Posted by Dr Fro 9:46 PM
A value bet
I think that betting UT+10.5 is a very smart bet. Johnny disagrees, as I suspect many of you blog readers do. Let me try to persuade you.
First of all, before anyone claims that my views are biased, I would point out that any informed view on UT is necessarily biased. I don’t know any citizen of Texas that follows college football that is indifferent toward UT: either you hate them or you love them. So, people that actually know anything about UT are biased, the only question is the direction of the bias. I’d also point out that I thought we might lose to TCU – not exactly a view associated with a person wearing orange-tinted glasses. So maybe I am more balanced than you might expect.
First of all, it is worthwhile to remember what the line represents. It is not a weighted average; it is a median. For example, consider a hypothetical that the following four scenarios (and related probabilities) are the only ones that exist:
OU wins by 60 – 10%
OU wins by 7 – 25%
OU wins by 1 – 15%
TX wins by 1 – 25%
TX wins by 3 – 15%
TX wins by 7 – 10%
If you took a weighted average, you would come up with OU favored by 6.5. If you correctly took the median, you would put the game at pickem. This would correctly make it 50% likely that either side of the bet would win. If you set the line at 6.5, then only 35% of the time would OU cover.
This is important to remember because I hear a lot of people correctly predict that OU might beat UT by an enormous margin. I think that they incorrectly factor this into their handicapping and overvalue OU, thus moving the line. I do not think UT can blow out OU. I do think OU could win this game by 60. However, I can see a lot of scenarios where this game plays close (within 10 points either way), all of which cover if you take UT +10.5.
The next thing to consider is the gap between perception and reality of this UT team. I do not believe in looking at a small sample of games in handicapping a team. I look at the long term. College football teams do not go from rags to riches or the other way overnight very often. Consider the following long term facts about UT:
- No coach has won more games than Mack Brown in the past 10 years.
- UT is the only team to win 9 or more games every season since Mack Brown took office.
- No team has won more BCS championships than UT. (this one deserves a separate post later)
Nevertheless, the perception continues to exist that UT sucks and underachieves. This is not borne out in reality. There is also a perception that we can’t win without Vince Young, but last year we beat OU without Vince Young. There is a perception that Mack Brown can’t beat OU, but he is 4-5 against OU and has won the last two. I think that these inaccurate perceptions of UT make the line higher than it should be.
UT lost to KSU last week. People are expecting a total team implosion. History suggests that the opposite will happen. UT has rebounded from an early season loss often under Coach Brown to go on a long winning streak. OU lost to Colorado last week. OU has a history of stringing together losses. In 2003, they were riding high before losing to KSU. They then embarrassed themselves against LSU. In 2005, they lost to TCU and then lost to UT. In 2006, they “lost” to Oregon then lost to UT. I think Stoops gets his players to play with a lot of confidence, and that helps them to play very well. However, I think that losses puncture that air of invisibility and consequently take away one of their strengths. Consider this as further proof: Stoops has thrice played UT after an early season loss (99, 05, 06). UT won all three games. One other fact that is interesting, in 1999, UT came to Dallas one week after get schlacked by KSU (including kick returns for touchdowns) and OU came into the game one week after losing a close one (to Notre Dame). History is repeating itself. We won that year (by 10).
It is also important to analyze each team’s lone loss. KSU deserved to beat UT, but from a handicapping perspective, you simply cannot expect UT to give up a kickoff and a punt return every game. Adjusted for that, and UT’s loss looks a lot more like OU’s. OU, on the other hand, lost to CU in the two most meaningful stats: offensive yards and time of possession. While Sports Center will try to make it look like a fluke fumble was the cause for the loss, I would suggest that it only meant that OU lost in regulation instead of OT.
People keep wondering why UT has not looked very good so far this season. Due to a combination of criminal behavior, NCAA violations and injuries, we have missed a lot of stars. The list of players that have missed significant playing time includes Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman, Brian Orakpo, Adam Ulatoski, Jordan Shipley, Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton. We will have more of our starters available against OU than against any other opponent this year. OU has not had similar holes in their starting lineup in games this year.
The TX-OU game, like other big rivalry game should not be viewed through the same lens as regular games. Anything can happen. The underdog in this game has won the game outright more often than the favorite over the past ~20 years (looking for stat, will have).
Another odd characteristic of this game is the surprise quarterback effect. When Jason White came off the bench to replace Nate Hybel, he was unstoppable. Ditto for Peter Gardere and James Brown when they came in. When you have no film on the player in the most important position on the field, you are at a disadvantage. I don’t expect OU to play their second string QB, but I do expect to see some contributions from Mr. John Chiles. The last time a tall, athletic black man took a snap at UT, the game ended with a Waterford crystal ball and a lot of confetti. I’m just saying, is all…
In summary, I am not going to do a Mike Hart imitation and guaranty a victory. However, I think that there is a lot of value in taking UT plus 10.5. It may not win, but Aces don’t always win either. I still suggest you get all your money in the pot pre-flop with Aces anyway.