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Buy Low, Sell High

   by Bryan Leonard - 10/19/2008

The stock market certainly has been in the news a lot the last few weeks. Those who make money in the stock market say its better to sell high and bid low. Wagering and winning is often about finding value. One of the biggest mistakes novice bettors make is to focus too much on what happened last week. If one team destroys another, it doesn’t mean they are going to destroy their opponent the next week.

You have to understand that oddsmakers take this into account when making numbers. If power ratings have a team as a 7-point favorite, but they destroy a team on Saturday or Sunday, they may have to make that team a 10-11 point favorite the next week as the public still has that blowout fresh in their minds. Or if a team hammered an opponent the previous season, they may take that into account.

I recall a game a year ago where I had a play on Michigan when they played Northwestern. Michigan, after an 0-2 start, was off back to back impressive efforts over Notre Dame and Penn State. While the national championship was long gone this team could still win the conference and a trip to the Rose Bowl. The previous week we used the Wolverines as our top play, but then the next week we had no problem going against them.

After getting the Monkey off their back the previous two weeks would they really going to be up to face the Wildcats? Michigan had beaten Northwestern by 14 points or more each of the last four years. Quarterback Chad Henne had been cleared by the doctors to play, but it sounded like Coach Lloyd Carr may have other plans. 'Certainly we want to make sure that when he comes back, that his mobility is there. At that position, it would be unfair. We're not going to do anything that's going to jeopardize Chad and his ability to react to the pressure that comes with that position, as far as those people trying to get after him.'

Considering the circumstances of Michigan being a prohibitive road favorite, it wouldn’t surprise a bit that Henne would rest another week. It was also the visitor’s first game on grass after starting the year with the four straight home games on turf. That may not sound like such a big deal but it’s a terrible ATS proposition. Also despite the resurgence the previous two weeks Michigan was still allowing more yards per play than they produce themselves, by a 5.3 to 4.8 margin.

While Michigan was peaking the Wildcats were sinking. We watched the embarrassing performance against Ohio State and simply put the Buckeyes dominated. But we did come away feeling that Northwestern could be a team with some value. First off, for the second straight week star running back Tyrell Sutton sat out with an injury. He and the doctors thought that he would take the field but Coach Pat Fitzgerald thought better of it. Now with an extra week of rest we fully expected Sutton to start against the Wolverines. How important is Sutton? He gives this team a playmaker they sorely need, producing 1,000 yards rushing each of the last two years.

In regards to the positives of the Ohio State debacle, Northwestern had terrible field position the entire first half. The Buckeyes did a tremendous job pinning the Wildcats deep in their own territory. That bad field position had a two-fold effect. First it limited the play calling on offense and led to terrific field position for the Buckeye scoring unit. The Wildcats were unable to get anything going offensively and the field position played a major role. What was the weakness of the Wolverines in 2007? If you said playing against spread offenses then you are a winner.

Remember when Michigan permitted 34 points to the spread of Appalachian State and Oregon spread the field for 39 points. This Northwestern team runs a version of the spread offense. While not as potent as the one Oregon runs it still should be effective against this Michigan defense. The Wolverines needed a plus three turnover margin at home in 2006 to win by 14, I couldn’t see them extending after playing Oregon, Notre Dame and Penn State the previous three weeks. A letdown was bound to occur and the totally embarrassed Wildcats took full advantage. They did get the spread cover allowing just 28 points as Michigan played it more conservative with the monkey off their backs. Wagering value comes in all shapes and sizes, so don’t be scared of big dogs and don’t get too hooked into what happened on one particular Saturday. The oddsmakers do, but savvy handicappers take a calmer, more rational approach.

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