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10 College Football Spreads Vegas Got Wrong for Week 6

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2013

10 College Football Spreads Vegas Got Wrong for Week 6

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Vegas is smarter than you or meor anyone, for that matterand it has the 10-digit bank statement to prove it. But that doesn't mean it's immune to fault.

    Every week, for whatever reason, a number of posted lines feel off. And every week, like clockwork, half of those curious lines end up being justified and biting bettors in the butt.

    But the other half were just plain wrong, giving too much value to one side and allowing sharp handicappers to make a profit.

    It's much easier to say in hindsight, but here's a look at 10 such errors from Week 6.

    All line data courtesy of VegasInsider.

Important Note

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    Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

    There's a difference—albeit a subtle one—between "spreads Vegas got wrong" and "games that easily covered the spread."

    For example, Florida State beat Maryland by 63 points this week. But the oddsmakers had FSU as 17-point favorites over a ranked opponent, showing a lot of faith in its ability to blow UMD out.

    Obviously, in hindsight, they should have given the Terps more points. But they still predicted Florida State would beat Maryland with ease—so really, in principle, they got the spread right.

    In similar fashion, Georgia opened up as a curious 10.5-point favorite over Tennessee and closed at 13.5, which is still below two touchdowns. That "short" line indicated that Tennessee might be able to hang around in a letdown game, so I'm inclined to say it was correct.

    Same goes for a misleading upset like Ball State 48, Virginia 27. The Cavaliers were five-point favorites, and yes, they got pasted. But they also lost the turnover battle 4-0. If Vegas had to do it again, UVA might still be giving a couple of points.

    This list was not as simple as looking at the final scores, comparing them with the spread and sorting the biggest differences. It's more of a detailed look at what Vegas tried to say with each number and why it ended up so wrong.

    Just remember that before you start complaining.

Texas at Iowa State (+7.5)

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    Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

    Final Score: Texas 31, Iowa State 30

    Of all the lines on this list, Texas plus-7.5 might be the most defensible. But it was still very wrong.

    The Longhorns looked to have turned the corner (or at least corner) against Kansas State last week, appearing to rally behind Mack Brown in an effort to save his job.

    Iowa State, meanwhile, had already lost to FCS Northern Iowa and has generally shown no signs of being a team that can cover less than a touchdown.

    On paper, Texas is more than 20 points better than the Cyclones. But man, this team does not play reflective of its talent. Getting over a touchdown on the road is an honor reserved for competent teams.

    A competent team this is not.

Michigan State (+2.0) at Iowa

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    Matthew Holst/Getty Images

    Final Score: Michigan State 26, Iowa 14

    Michigan State giving two points at Iowa says that it's a slightly better team than the Hawkeyes. But in truth, as was explicitly proven on Saturday, it's a considerably better one.

    Both offenses are heinous and both defenses are strong. But there's a slight difference between the two: Iowa's is merely that—strong—while Michigan State's is historically dominant.

    Sparty clamped down on the Hawkeyes offense in the second half, shutting it out over the final two quarters and letting Connor Cook lead a slowly evolving offense to the easy cover.

    Part of this line reflected the perceived home-field advantage of Kinnick Stadium. But as the Iowa program has slowly declined, so too has that edge.

    Sparty was a very strong play.

Penn State at Indiana (+3.5)

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    Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Indiana 44, Penn State 22

    Here's where this list gets tricky.

    Indiana, I suspect, graded out close to Penn State in most of the oddsmakers' numbers. PSU has been overrated all year, and the Hoosiers are sneaky-competent.

    But the Nittany Lions are what's known as a "public team," or one that squares like to bet on regardless of circumstance because of how much weight the program carries. It's the same fallacy that's made Notre Dame so poor against the spread in the last decade or so.

    Here, Vegas was happy to let this line go the wrong way, taking on money for Penn State and watching the number swell up from Indiana plus-2 to Indiana plus-3.5—all the way over the key number of three.

    So yes, technically, Vegas got this spread wrong. It probably should have been somewhere around a pick'em, and by no means should Penn State have been laying more than a field goal.

    But Vegas also made a lot of money on IU's victory, so in the end, it may not have been all that wrong at all. And this wasn't the only time that this happened.

Clemson at Syracuse (+13.5)

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Clemson 49, Syracuse 14

    Clemson is, by almost every reliable metric, somewhere between three and five touchdowns better than Syracuse. So why did this number fall below 14?

    Simple. "Clemsoning" is a real phenomenon—at least in the minds of some bettors. Those who have been burned, repeatedly, betting Clemson on the road in a letdown game were eager to stay away.

    Even those who won on the Tigers in a similar spot two weeks ago, when Clemson covered at North Carolina State, had to sweat out that win and benefit from a blown call that took a Wolfpack touchdown off the board.

    This line said that Clemson might walk into Syracuse and "Clemson."

    It never happened. 

North Carolina State at Wake Forest (+7.5)

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Wake Forest 28, North Carolina State 13

    This felt more like a line against Wake than a line for N.C. State.

    But either way you swing itand no matter how bad the Deacons have looked this seasonthe Wolfpack should probably never lay over a touchdown on the road.

    Actually, they should probably never lay any points on the road. According to professional handicapper Teddy Covers, over the last 10 years, N.C. State is 0-10 against the spread when it's favored to win on the road.

    Then again, 63 percent of the money came in on the Wolfpack, so in the end, Vegas still took in a profit. Maybe it had this line just right.

Ole Miss at Auburn (+2.5)

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    Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Auburn 30, Ole Miss 22

    The jig is up in Oxford, and the public is starting to realize what sharper minds already knew: Ole Miss is a year or two away from being good.

    The Rebels' quality wins this year were a nail-biter at Vanderbilt, which just got torched by Missouri in Nashville, and at Texas, which couldn't stop a nosebleed. Does that really make them a threat?

    Auburn, meanwhile, has improved each week under Gus Malzahn. There's a reason Vegas opened it as just a one-point dog, but public money came in on Ole Miss and pushed the line up another point and a half.

    In reality, that number should have gone the other direction, but Vegas was happy to reap the fiscal reward. The books didn't get this one wrong—the public did.

Illinois (+9.5) at Nebraska

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    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Nebraska 39, Illinois 19

    Not unlike the Clemson line, the short number posted here reflects a distrust in Nebraska.

    Especially since Illinois has shown some pluck this year, bettors didn't know whether or not to put their faith in the Huskers and their shaky defense.

    Putting this line under the key number of 10 was curious. On paper, Nebraska is drastically better than Illinois, and before the season this line might have been somewhere in the 20s.

    This is much easier to say in hindsight, but it looks like Illinois is kind of overrated. And maybe Nebraska, even without Taylor Martinez, was starting to get a bum rap.

    After the margin in this victory, that won't be the case for long—for either side.

TCU (+10.0) at Oklahoma

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Oklahoma 20, TCU 17

    This one wasn't off by much, but the rationale behind it was faulty.

    Ten points is a lot to lay against a very good defense, no matter how inept its QB. The Horned Frogs got predictably bad play from Trevone Boykin, but their defense allowed them to hang around and finish within single digits.

    Part of the reason for this spread's inflation was Blake Bell and OU's offense. After looking good at Notre Dame last week, there was (and maybe still is) a perception that it had turned the corner and was firing on all cylinders.

    That's not the case.

    Notre Dame's defense got shredded (for the third time this year) against Arizona State on Saturday, and the only other team Bell has faced is woeful Tulsa.

    There's no way he should have been laying double digits against TCU.

Kansas State (+13.5) at Oklahoma State

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    Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Oklahoma State 33, Kansas State 29

    Sharps snatched up Kansas State plus-14, betting the line down a half-point and below the key number. But even that was a bit of a stretch.

    To be frank, Oklahoma State just isn't that good. In this year's Big 12, that might be enough to compete for a conference championship. But it doesn't make them a smart bet to blow teams out.

    Even before losing to West Virginia, the Cowboys' signature win was a neutral-field win over Mississippi State in Week 1.

    But the Bulldogs, even by their standards, are having a down season, and the cachet of beating an SEC team shouldn't come without caveat. Plus, the Cowboys took a while to get going in that game and really only covered because Tyler Russell got hurt.

    Don't overrate the 'Pokes.

Washington State (+1.5) at California

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Final Score: Washington State 44, California 22

    How quickly people forget.

    Washington State legitimately almost won at Auburn—which looks more and more impressive by the week—and did beat USC at the Coliseum. The Cougars are pretty darn good this year, and they aren't afraid to play on the road.

    Cal, meanwhile, has yet to beat an FBS opponent and might have the worst defense in any of the five power conferences.

    What has it done to warrant being favored against anyone?

    Wash. St. was devalued because of the blowout loss vs. Stanford, but it won't be the only team to feel the Cardinal's wrath this year. That's a forgivable offense.

    This sloppy line, however, was not.

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