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Thursday Football: Why Does the Underdog Have Such Great Success?

Jeff Glauser@Jeff_GlauserContributor IIOctober 10, 2014

The games on Thursdays this season—like the Giants' blowout over the Redskins—may sometimes be painful to watch, but they've been quite lucrative for those who have bet against the favorite.
The games on Thursdays this season—like the Giants' blowout over the Redskins—may sometimes be painful to watch, but they've been quite lucrative for those who have bet against the favorite.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Fans love their football. Always have. Always will.

Considering this, it’s amazing it took as long as it did to play the darn games more than just a once a week. Or hell, even twice.

Enter must-see TV on Thursday nights (apologies to Cosby, Seinfeld and Friends, et al). 

Yes, Thursday and football are a thing now for both college and pros alike. Of course, not everyone loves Thursday football—mostly players and former players-turned-columnists.

But for the rest of us, it’s game on.

So it only makes sense that football fans who also love betting on the sport get thirsty for Thursday before giving praise to a TGIF—and thus take notice at an interesting trend: This day’s becoming a “dog” day.

Indeed, the underdogs are hitting at 9-4—or 69 percent—so far this season for both college and the NFL. 

But why?

On the pro side, one theory is because Thursday night NFL games usually pair a generally good team, which has had a short week to prepare, to a middling team, which needs to take advantage of that.

Meanwhile, Thursday night college football games offer bettors a chance to get in some extra action on a Thursday as opposed to waiting until Saturday to see the games. These games are slotted for prime-time television and heavily watched by casual bettors from all over.  

And because Joe Public typically wagers heavy on the more popular big-name teams, it has in turn created a huge opportunity for experienced bettors to slap down some green on the dark horse, going against the grain for some financial gain.

The double play here is when handicappers see a reverse line movement, confirming that Vegas believes the underdog has a fight in this game.

Another contributing factor that underdogs in these games are winning more than losing is the players themselves.

Bragging rights of taking down a top school on the national stage often fuels the fires of victory. For these athletes, it’s a huge opportunity to showcase their skills with the hopes and dreams of being recognized in a national spotlight. Because of all this, players kick it up an extra notch and lay it all on the line.

In college football, there is no undervaluing the fight of those athletes, making them and their undervalued teams very profitable for a handicapper's bankroll. So, when the perfect scenario arises on a Thursday night, a handicapper needs to pay special attention to the subplots.

Taking a favorite to cover the points on a big stage has proved to be detrimental to bankrolls so far this year. Other betting pros, such as Bill Davis from Big Time Sharps, understand that there are numerous statistics to put into an algorithm to help factor in who will win a Thursday night game. But when all is said and done, it apparently doesn’t matter too much for Davis.

"I've been able to predict the outcome against the spread 72-95 percent of the time, depending on the availability of data and Thursday night games do not make a difference as it all comes down to statistics,"  Davis said.

Regardless, as a rule of thumb, look at the underdog first; figure out a reason to play against the favorite and go against the public and its heavy pounding of the home favorite.

And when in doubt? Take the dog and wait for its bite.

All quotes obtained firsthand.  

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