Week One of Mountain West action starts tonight and that means we have an opportunity to dig into the betting trend data and see if there are any opportunities for wise wagers. At the end of today’s column I will review last week’s recommendations, but suffice it to say, Week 0 was not a good one for my predictions, going 0-3-1 with a net loss of five betting units. Week 0 can be notoriously hard to predict, especially with several teams having had tumultuous off-seasons.
Before we get into this week’s picks, for readers who are maybe less familiar with sports betting, I’ll share a little educational information where it could be helpful. This week, I’m incorporating a lot of data about various programs’ historical records “against the spread” or ATS. Typically when placing an ATS wager, you are getting -110 odds, that is, you risk $110 to win $100. At these odds, if you win more than 52.4 percent of your bets, you will turn a profit. So when you see me refer to a team that has won more than 52.4 percent of its ATS games as profitable, you will understand the reference.
Are there safer picks for Week One action? Let’s look at the numbers. Our odds and trends are provided by DraftKings and unlike last week, we have DraftKings lines for some games against FCS competition this week, so check the trends.
Cal Poly (+38.5) at Fresno State (-38.5), o/u 59.5
I don’t love spending a lot of time thinking about lines involving FCS teams because they generally only get posted the day before the game.
For this contest, Massey Ratings predicts a 27.5-point Fresno victory, suggesting there may be some value in Cal Poly +38.5. Massey’s game total is set at 58.5, right in line with the DraftKings number, so I would recommend avoiding the game total.
Thursday afternoon the betting line moved a full point briefly from -38.5 to -39.5 for about 13 minutes, before moving back to -38.5.
Fresno State was a solid 8-5 ATS in 2021, but the more interesting number to me is Fresno’s record ATS with Jeff Tedford as coach during his first stint from 2017-2019, when the Bulldogs were 25-13-2 ATS — a truly remarkable clip over three years, with the first two years of Tedford’s tenure being white-hot from a betting perspective (the Bulldogs were 4-7-1 ATS in 2019). I’ll be keeping an eye on Fresno’s behavior with Tedford back in saddle this year, but as for this week, cannot recommend a pick.
THE PICK: No Action
Portland State (+17.5 / +625) at San Jose (-17.5 / -900), o/u 51.5
Similar to Fresno’s game, I’m hesitant to make recommendations here. Massey predicts this as an 11.5-point victory for the Spartans, a more conservative margin than the Vegas line. His game total — like the Fresno game — is virtually in line with Vegas, with Massey predicting 50.5 as the total.
Since 2017 under Brent Brennan’s tenure, the Spartans are 29-25-3 ATS, underperforming spreads by an average of -1.7 points per game. That’s a 53.7 percent ATS win rate, which makes the Spartans profitable over the last five seasons, but not exceedingly such.
As for trends, like most FCS games, there hasn’t been any line movement since the line was posted Thursday. The game total did dip from 51.5 to 51 briefly Thursday afternoon but returned to 51.5.
This is another no pick for me.
THE PICK: No action
Colorado State (+30.5 / +1800) at Michigan (-30.5 / -10000), o/u 61.5
Jay Norvell brings a host of former Wolf Pack players to the Rams and opens with the privilege of visiting the No. 8 team in the country in the Big House.
During his tenure at Nevada, Norvell was 34-25-2 ATS (57.6 percent), one of the 20 best ATS rates in the country during the time period. Jim Harbaugh has managed a 43-41-1 ATS clip since 2015. For one, you expect that over time, a coach (and a program’s) ATS record will lock in around 50 percent — but also keep in mind that Michigan is one of the most wagered-on programs in the country, so any individual game you’re going to see the lines shake out more than a typical Mountain West line.
Comparing the DraftKings line to the computer predictions, I do see some value in the under for this contest, with Massey predicting a game total of 55.5 (game score of 42-14 for Michigan). The game total opened at 57.5 more than a month ago and has crept up to the 61 to 61.5 range it was this week. I’m one who tends to prefer betting against trends, and the best play here might be to wait until Saturday morning and see if sharp money goes on the over and pumps it up further, and get in on the under.
As for trends of the point spread, it opened at Michigan -28 and money has poured in on Michigan, driving the line as deep as -31 late Tuesday before Colorado State recovered a half point and it sat at -30.5 at the time of this writing. 31 points is a lot to cover, especially when we don’t exactly know what we’re going to get yet out of the Rams.
THE PICK: Under 61.5, 1 unit
Northern Iowa at Air Force (No line published as of Thursday)
Arizona (+6 / +195) at San Diego State (-6 / -230), o/u 46.5
The Aztecs return to San Diego and open their beautiful new facility, Snapdragon Stadium, against a team that was utterly terrible last year and it is taking all of my willpower to resist making a “I thought we didn’t have lines against FCS teams” joke.
Despite their 1-11 record in Coach Jedd Fisch’s first season last year, the Arizona Wildcats were 6-6 ATS. Brady Hoke’s Aztec teams are a nicely profitable 57.1 percent (12-9-1) ATS since 2020.
At a glance, I’m pretty surprised by this line. While San Diego State has some pieces to replace, most of us in the Mountain West fandom expect them to be solid this year, and to only lay six points to Arizona feels like a good opportunity, especially for a team that should be juiced to christen their new home. Ken Massey disagrees with my assessment though predicts a 6.5-point win for the Aztecs, right in line with the current DraftKings line.
That spread of SDSU -6 has been the number for over a month now, with very little movement since the opening of -5.5. The game total on the other hand has drifted from an open of 49 to the current 46.5, with the most recent drop coming Tuesday evening.
I have a hard time seeing the Aztecs lose this game and see a lot of value here. If you find yourself looking at DraftKings’ other betting options, you will also note that the San Diego State point total is currently set at 26.5 (at -115 odds) and if you think SDSU will put up at least four TDs in their new home, you might look at the over there. You also can get over 6.5 points in the first quarter for the Aztecs for -135, which feels like a fun bet for anyone attending the game in person.
THE PICK: San Diego State -6, 1 unit
Tulsa (-6.5 / -240) at Wyoming (+6.5 / +200), o/u 44
Last week with Wyoming at Illinois, I saw that low over/under of 44 — the lowest of the Week 0 games — and felt the oddsmakers begging bettors to take the over. The game netted out at the exact point total of 44, giving me a push, and now I find myself once against staring at the Cowboys in a game with the lowest game total of the week, and again, it’s 44.
This total is one that dropped after Wyoming’s game Saturday. It had settled at 45.5 and made the quick drop to 44. This largely thanks to an anemic Wyoming offense against Illinois, led by a very forgettable performance from new QB Andrew Peasley.
Tulsa Coach Philip Montgomery has been at the school since 2015 and is one of the best ATS coaches in the country, leading his teams to a 48-35-1 (57.8%) record ATS which is pretty remarkable over such a stretch, only six programs have fared better during that period.
All signs would seem to point to prime investment opportunity with the Golden Hurricane, however this is a line that has seen a lot of movement both prior to Wyoming’s season opener, and after. While the line opened as Tulsa -1 more than a month ago, it slowly crept up to -4 last week, but since Wyoming’s loss to Illinois, has gotten as high as -7 before coming back to -6.5 Tuesday night.
While you’d like to think that Coach Craig Bohl will work out some kinks for the home opener in Laramie, it feels like Cowboy Joe has a lot of problems this year with the offensive pieces they lost. I think we will see more than 44 points scored here, but am less certain about Wyoming pulling off the mild upset.
THE PICK: Over 44, 1 unit
Texas State (+1 / +100) at Nevada (-1 / -120), o/u 51
In this contest we will get our second look at the new-look Wolf Pack after they left Las Cruces with a 23-12 victory over New Mexico State that got interrupted early by a lightning warning and it felt like the Wolf Pack came out of the delay with juice and the Aggies did not.
This is the first game on our slate for Saturday that has a large discrepancy between the Massey computer rating and the DraftKings line, with Massey predicting a 35-27 victory for Nevada. You’ll note that suggests there is some betting value both in favor of Nevada -1 and over 51.
The line for this game actually opened as Nevada -8.5 and crept to -5 last week, but has continued to creep in Texas State’s favor, including hitting a pick’em a couple of times this week.
Bobcats Coach Jake Spavital’s teams have been below water since 2019 with a 17-18-1 ATS record.
My heart suggests that there’s a good opportunity to take Nevada in this game, going against the line movement, but the quarterback situation in Reno gives me major pause. Illingworth and Cox split reps in Las Cruces and went a combined 14/23 for 78 yards.
THE PICK: over 51, 1 unit
Utah State (+42) at Alabama (-42), o/u 61.5
OK this one is easy for me.
Utah State will not lose this game by 42 points. Alabama is the best program in the country. The Aggies did look shaky in their season opener against UConn. But 42 points is a lot to cover, and while the Crimson Tide did have blowout victories by greater margins last season against New Mexico State (2-10) and Southern Miss (3-9) ... Utah State is a far better program than either of those teams.
This line opened as Alabama -38.5 and stayed there consistently until last Saturday when it would seem bettors, fearing Utah State would not be as strong as advertised, would be cruising for an even bigger blowout in Tuscaloosa. The line has fluctuated between -41.5 and -42 this week whereas the over/under, which opened at 62 and hit 63 for a time, has bounced between 61.5 and 62.
I don’t see Utah State losing this game by six touchdowns. Period. The Massey Ratings agree, predicting a 41-14 Alabama win. This is my personal opportunity to claw back from last week.
THE PICK: Utah State +42, 3 units
Maine at New Mexico (No line published as of Thursday)
Boise State (+3 / +120) at Oregon State (-3 / -140), o/u 57
Here is another Mountain West/Pac 12 game where the line surprises me a bit. As a contender for the Mountain West Championship, I’d feel that Boise would better than a three-point underdog to Oregon State. But here we are.
The DraftKings line is right in step with the computer ratings here. This is also a game where there hasn’t been a ton of fluctuation in the line movement, which opened at Beavers -4 and briefly hit -2.5 before coming back to -3 on Tuesday. Slightly more activity in the game total line, which opened at 59 and did get to 56 earlier this week before moving back to 57.
Oregon State has covered its last six home games, if you’re one to look at trends. While there is some reason for concern with the pieces the Broncos needed to replace, Hank Bachmeier is back and the Bronco defense should be able to hold against Oregon State’s stout running game. Call me a conference homer here, but I’m going Broncos.
THE PICK: Boise State +3, 1 unit
Western Kentucky (-15.5 / -700) at Hawai’i (+15.5 / +510), o/u 67.5
For a few moments late Saturday night, it looked like Fun ‘n Gun was back on the islands and Timmy Change’s Rainbow Warriors squad would get the ship from much turmoil righted immediately with a nice win against a poor SEC team.
That was for a few moments. Then things quickly unraveled, and we’re left wondering if Hawai’i is the worst team in the country.
Similar to Utah State and Wyoming, this game’s line changed significantly based on Saturday’s performance. The Rainbow Warriors were and 11.5 to 12.5 point underdog for most of the previous month until getting blown out by Vanderbilt, the line shifted to as much as -16 in favor of the Hilltoppers. It has settled at WKU -15.5 while the game total has simultaneously climbed from 62 to 67.5. Massey puts more faith in Hawaii, predicting a 38-31 loss. Western Kentucky opened the season last week with a 38-27 win over Austin Peay.
I’m flat out avoiding this one. WKU isn’t Vanderbilt, and Coach Chang should fix some things this past week, but as far as I’m concerned, Hawai’i is to be avoided until we get to conference play and are familiar enough with the opposing teams to be confident in betting against them.
THE PICK: No Action
Last Week Review
As mentioned previously, last week was bad for me and I’m hopeful that this weeks’ recommendations will be more sound. Season openers have a lot of wildcards especially when dealing with teams like New Mexico State, Nevada, Hawai’i, and UConn that have new coaches, a lot of transfer portal activity, and then weather factors on top.
My Hawai’i pick was a complete miss and overestimated the impact of travel on Vanderbilt and underestimated the devastation that was the Hawai’i offseason. I do believe weather played a factor in the teams losing juice in Las Cruces, and while the over in Logan looked to be solid after the first half, Utah State went extremely conservative offensively in the third quarter and the scoring ground to a halt.
This is a marathon and not a sprint though, and with a bit of luck, this next week will turn things around. Happy wagering.