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Betting the Big East

   by Ben Burns - 06/29/2010

Dear TV blowhards,

Please continue to badmouth the Big East this year. Your overly critical analysis, which is generally inaccurate, has created tremendous betting value for those in the know.

Sincerely,

Ben’s Bankroll

Whether or not the Big East is actually the worst BCS conference is irrelevant. Every TV talking head says it is, and that’s what has created a profitable betting environment, especially on the conferences second level of teams.

Last year, the five teams to finish below .500 in the Big East— Syracuse, Louisville, Rutgers,
South Florida and UConn—went 17-4 against the spread in non-conference play. 17-4!

Overall, the Big East is 16-6 straight up in bowl games the past four years. That’s the best mark
of any conference. So while the Big East hasn’t produced a National Championship Game
participant in 10 years, it’s proven to be a much more capable conference than the media would
like you to believe.

This year is set up to be much the same. You won’t find any Big East team in the Top 15 of
preseason rankings, and Pittsburgh, the consensus favorite to win the conference, is 50/1 to win the national championship. That’s the same odds as Clemson, a team almost no one believes can win the ACC. Syracuse is perceived to be one of the worst BCS teams around. The Sporting News put the Orange 99th in its Preseason 100, behind Kent State and Army, among others.

Those are just a few more examples of the media’s tendency to exaggerate how bad the Big East really is.

Look, no one is saying the Big East is better than SEC, Big Ten or Big 12. But to say the Big
East is made up of teams that can’t even stay on the field against teams from the other BCS
conferences is absurd. According to college football pundit Phil Steele, the Big East went 9-
9 straight up against other BCS conference schools last season, the second best record in the nation.

There are some interesting early non-conference games involving Big East teams: Pittsburgh at Utah, Sept. 2; UConn at Michigan, Sept. 4; South Florida at Florida, Sept. 11; and West Virginia at LSU, Sept 25, for example.

If the media keeps piling on the Big East, oddsmakers will be forced to follow suit, which means there will be some value backing the Big East in September.

Big East odds/ends

(ATS records from last three years)

Pittsburgh Panthers

ATS: 21-15 (Home: 8-9 Away: 11-3)

Thing to remember: For a team considered the favorite to win the Big East, the Panthers return
just 11 starters, the fewest in the conference. Sophomore quarterback Tino Sunseri is among
the new Panthers. Sunseri wasn’t able to earn the starting job outright in spring practice, but
the belief is that’s only a psychological coaching maneuver by Dave Wannstedt. (Who knew
the ‘Stache was capable of such Jedi mind tricks?)

West Virginia Mountaineers

ATS: 16-20-1 (Home: 6-11 Away: 8-7-1)

Thing to remember: The Mountaineers are loaded with dynamic weapons like running back Noel Devine and wide out Jock Sanders. The secondary is also extremely talented. But there is some concern at quarterback, where projected starter Gino Smith broke his foot in January and was unable to participate in spring practice.

WVU’s 16 returning starters is tied with UConn for the most in the conference.

Cincinnati Bearcats

ATS: 20-17 (Home: 8-7 Away: 12-7)

Thing to remember: Don’t under-estimate Cincinnati in the post-Brian Kelly era. New coach Butch Jones replaced Kelly and Central Michigan and continued the Chippewas’ success. In his first season succeeding Kelly at CMU, the Chippewas upped their scoring average by 15 points.

South Florida Bulls

ATS: 18-17 (Home: 8-6 Away: 8-10)

Thing to remember: Skip Holtz had instant ATS success at East Carolina. The Pirates went
18-6 against the number in his first two years. Certainly, the perception is that South Florida’s
program is in better shape than when Holtz took over at ECU in 2005, so that will limit the
Bulls’ betting value slightly. But there is some big-time talent going through this program, which produced three draft picks in the first 65 selections in this year’s NFL Draft.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

ATS: 20-15 (Home: 8-10 Away: 10-4)

Thing to remember: Rutgers has been an ATS darling since Greg Schiano took over in 2001,
especially out of conference. Against non-conference competition, Rutgers is 26-13-1 ATS since 2001.

Syracuse Orange

ATS: 14-20 (Home: 7-12 Away: 7-8)

Thing to remember: Coaches have said they’ll be increasing the tempo on both sides of the
ball. Defensively, the Orange is promising to blitz relentlessly. Offensively, you’ll see them in the no-huddle, hurry-up more frequently. Are you listening over players?

Louisville Cardinals

ATS: 12-20-1 (Home: 6-11 Away: 6-9-1)

Thing to remember: Charlie Strong inherits a program that has been severely out-coached
and out-played in the Big East the past three seasons under ex-coach Steve Kragthorpe. The
Cardinals went 5-11-1 ATS in conference play the past three years, by far the worst ATS record
in the league.

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