Don't Follow the Money in XFL and USFL Games!

by Al McMordie

The XFL Championship game was played Saturday night.  I released the Arlington Renegades +6 as my XFL Football Game of the Year 12 days ago, on May 1, following the conclusion of the semi-final games.  At kickoff, the Renegades were a 9.5-point underdog at Circa Sportsbook on the closing line.  Three hours before the game, I received an email from a client.  He wrote, "all the money is on DC.  Doesn't make me feel confident in (your Game of the Year) pick now." 

Even though the steam was on the other side, I wasn't concerned.  I've been handicapping sports since 1978, and tracking point spread movement along the way.  One of the many things I've learned in my 45 years of handicapping is that you cannot simply "follow the money" if you want to be a successful bettor.  I don't even pay attention to the money moves when I analyze the games.  Indeed, most of the time (like here, with my XFL play), I'm releasing my picks at the start of the football week, or early in the morning with basketball, before the money has even come in on a side.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I do track point spread movement -- even though it never even comes into play when I make my selections.  And one of the things I have been aware of is that the money has been HORRIBLE in these XFL and USFL football leagues.  On podcasts, I have often called these minor football leagues the "Overreaction Leagues."  What I mean by that is bettors and oddsmakers -- most likely due to the short histories of these leagues -- completely overreact to small samples of data.  I've hit 64% in the XFL/USFL the last two years by often taking advantage of what I've considered to be overreactions.

So, when the line on Arlington moved from +6 to +9.5, my confidence wasn't daunted, given how bad the money has been this year in the USFL and XFL games.  Of course, I would have rather had +9.5 than +6.  But it didn't matter, as Arlington blew out DC from the get-go, and won outright, 35-26, for an easy XFL Game of the Year Winner.  Let's take a look at this year's XFL and USFL games to see just how bad the money has been (games that didn't move at least a half-point at Circa Sportsbook aren't listed).  All results are based on the closing line at Circa.

XFL Football League
Week 1
Renegades (Open -2, Close -3.5), Lose
Roughnecks (Open PK, Close -3), Win
Sea Dragons (Open +1, Close -3), Lose

Week 2
Sea Dragons (Open +2, Close -4.5), Lose
Vipers (Open +1, Close -4), Lose
Brahmas (Open -1, Close-4), Win
Roughnecks (Open -3, Close -4.5), Win

Week 3
Sea Dragons (Open PK, Close -4), Tie
Renegades (Open -6, Close -8), Lose
Roughnecks (Open -4, Close -5), Win

Week 4
Sea Dragons (Open -3, Close -5.5), Win
Roughnecks (Open -9, Close -9.5), Win
Vipers (Open +7, Close +5.5), Lose
Battlehawks (Open -2, Close -4), Win

Week 5
Roughnecks (Open -3, Close -6.5), Lose
Battlehawks (Open +3, Close +2), Lose
Guardians (Open +9, Close +7), Win
Brahmas (Open +2, Close +1), Lose

Week 6
Sea Dragons (Open -6, Close -8.5), Lose
Vipers (Open +4, Close +2), Lose
Brahmas (Open +5, Close +4), Win
Roughnecks (Open +3, Close +2), Lose

Week 7
Sea Dragons (Open -4, Close -5), Win
Guardians (Open +12, Close +9), Win
Roughnecks (Open -3, Close -4), Lose

Week 8
Battlehawks (Open -4, Close -5), Lose
Guardians (Open +2, Close -2), Lose
Roughnecks (Open -4, Close -6.5), Lose
Sea Dragons (Open +2, Close -1.5), Lose

Week 9
Roughnecks (Open -6, Close -6.5), Lose
Brahmas (Open -1, Close -2), Tie
Defenders (Open -8, Close -10), Lose
Battlehawks (Open -2, Close -3.5), Lose

Week 10
Battlehawks (Open -7, Close -9), Win
Defenders (Open -3, Close -4.5), Lose
Roughnecks (Open +3, Close PK), Win
Sea Dragons (Open -6, Close -11.5), Win

Playoffs - Semifinals
Roughnecks (Open -6, Close -8), Lose
Sea Dragons (Open +6, Close PK), Lose

Playoffs - Championship
Defenders (Open -6, Close -9.5), Lose

This season, in the XFL Football league, the sides that drew the money went 14-24-2 ATS.

USFL Football League
Week 1
Stars (Open -2, Close -3.5), Win
Breakers (Open -3, Close -7), Tie

Week 2
Breakers (Open -4, Close -7.5), Lose
Showboats (Open +9, Close +5.5), Lose
Generals (Open -2, Close -7), Win
Stars (Open -3, Close -4), Lose

Week 3
Stallions (Open -5, Close -8), Lose
Gamblers (Open +2, Close -8), Lose
Stars (Open -4, Close -7), Lose
Panthers (Open -3, Close -6), Lose

Week 4
Gamblers (Open +3, Close +2), Win
Generals (Open +4, Close +2), Lose
Stallions (Open -6, Close -10), Lose

Week 5
Maulers (Open +4, Close +3), Win
Gamblers (Open +6, Close +5.5), Win
Generals (Open -5, Close -7), Lose
Breakers (Open -7, Close -7.5), Lose

Week 6
Maulers (Open PK, Close -3), Lose
Stallions (Open -3, Close -5), Win
Breakers (Open -6, Close -8), Lose
Generals (Open +3, Close -5.5), Lose

Week 7
Stallions (Open -1, Close -4), Tie
Maulers (Open +4, Close -3), Lose
Gamblers (Open -3, Close -4), Lose
Generals (Open -4, Close -7.5), Lose

Week 8
Maulers (Open +3, Close +1.5), Win
Stallions (Open -6, Close -7.5), Lose
Generals (Open +2, Close -3),
Breakers (Open -2, Close -3.5),

[Editor's Note:  This article was originally written May 13, but has been updated throughout the USFL season following the initial publication.]

In the USFL Football league, through Saturday, June 3, the sides that drew the money have gone 7-18-2 ATS.

What we can see from this is that if you followed the money, you would have gone 21-42-4 ATS combined in XFL and USFL Football games this season.  Of particular note is that the money went 0-3 in this season's XFL Playoffs.  And, even though last season's USFL games are not listed here, the money also went 0-3 ATS in last season's USFL Playoffs.

The bottom line is that if one wants to succeed at sports handicapping, it's best to have a sound methodology, and to stay true to it, while ignoring things like what others are betting on.  I couldn't care less where the money has gone, or what the public is betting on.  I don't go with or against either of those things; I just march to the beat of my own drum.

Good luck, as always...
Al McMordie 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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