Playing The Over/Under Game: Mountain West
By Joe Jenkins
Anybody that’s ever made a not-so-friendly wager on a sporting event, or even had a little fun in a pick ‘em pool, has learned a valuable lesson: The wise guys that run the sports books seem to know what they’re doing when they set the spreads and over/under lines.
With kickoff less than two months away, the over/under win totals have been released for the Mountain West by 5Dimes. The folks that run the books set the lines with the idea of getting an even amount of betting on both sides of the line (most of the time), so it’s a good, unbiased peek at what some analysts think teams are capable of.
Here’s a team-by-team look at what 5Dimes thinks of all 12 MWC teams, and what you should do with it — if gambling were legal, of course.
Air Force (6.5 wins. Over +120, Under -160)
The Falcons have to replace their starting quarterback and their leading rusher from last year. In fact, with only eight returning starters, it would save space to just tell you who’s left from last year’s 6-7 team.
Head coach Troy Calhoun has proven he can reload, however. Since taking over in 2007, the Falcons have never won fewer than six games.
That being said, the stars appear to be aligned for a four or five-win stinker in 2013. The under would be the safe bet, even if there is little value in the bet at -160.
Boise State (10.5 wins. Over +120, Under -160)
BSU’s over/under looks tempting on the surface since they won 10 games during the regular season in 2012. Not bad for a supposed rebuilding year. In fact, last year was only the third time since 2006 that the Broncos didn’t win 11 games in the regular season.
The best bet with this line is probably not to bet at all, but that doesn’t mean that the Broncos won’t be really, really good again this year.
Colorado State (5.5 wins. Over -195, Under +155)
The Rams are looking to improve in Jim McElwain’s second year at the helm and with 16 returning starters, it stands to reason they will. How much they will improve remains the question.
CSU won four games in 2012 with three of those wins coming in the final five weeks of the season.
A bet for the over in this instance is basically an endorsement that the Rams will be bowl eligible. Having enough confidence to put your hard-earned money on that is one heck of a gamble.
An incremental improvement to five wins seems about right, and there’s solid value in taking the under at +155.
Fresno State (10.5 wins. Over +120, Under -160)
Yes, you’re reading this right. The odds makers are basically coming out and saying they feel FSU will win as many games as BSU — right down to the value lines on each side of the over/under.
The Bulldogs' schedule does them a lot of favors. There are no glaring mismatches out of conference and they play the Broncos at home.
Even still, stay away from this bet for the same reasons you would for BSU. Endorsing any team to only lose one game all year is a sucker’s bet.
Hawaii (3.5 wins. Over -130, Under -110)
The 3.5-win line lets you know that odds makers believe the Rainbow Warriors are going to be pretty darn bad in Norm Chow’s second season in Honolulu. Negative values on both sides of the over/under let you know they’re not too sure how bad.
There’s no point in mentioning Hawaii’s brutal road schedule, because it’s always bad. The good news? BSU isn’t on the schedule.
The Rainbow Warriors return 18 starters, which will help with continuity. If you absolutely must bet on this, take the over. Four wins aren’t unattainable for this team.
Nevada (6.5 wins. Over +140, Under -180)
The Wolf Pack have gone to eight straight bowl games and have one of the best quarterbacks in the conference in Cody Fajardo. It’s tempting to take the over given the value (+140).
Expect Nevada’s bowl streak to end in 2013. Take the under, even if it is essentially worthless at -180.
New Mexico (4.5 wins. Over +140, Under -180)
The Lobos haven’t been bowl eligible since 2007 and they haven’t won more than four games since then. Setting the bar at 4.5 wins certainly seems like they’re getting punished for their recent history.
Things should start to look up at New Mexico, however as Bob Davie enters his second year and his pistol-based option offense begins to really take hold.
The Lobos 2013 schedule isn’t great, but it isn’t outlandishly bad, either. There’s good value in the over bet at +140, but five wins probably is the absolute ceiling for this team.
San Diego State (7.5 wins. Over +140, Under -180)
Putting the Aztecs at 7.5 with a value line of +140 has easy bet written all over it. Yes, SDSU has to travel to Ohio State, but every other game on the schedule is winnable.
SDSU’s offense became run heavy after the loss of senior quarterback Ryan Katz last season, but that didn’t stop it from rattling off five straight wins, including a 21-19 victory over BSU in Boise.
SDSU has the talent to contend for the MWC title again. Take the over and don’t overthink it.
San Jose State (7.5 wins. Over +100, Under -140)
We’ve been hyping David Fales as one of the best — if not the best — quarterback in the conference, so 7.5 wins seems a little low.
There are three factors working against the Spartans: a new head coach, a new conference and a less-than-stellar track record of maintaining success.
SJSU probably won’t match the 10-2 regular season record it posted in 2012, but eight or more wins is a pretty safe bet.
UNLV (4.5 wins. Over even, Under -140)
Ken Pomponio pegged the Rebels as a potential breakout team in the MWC. With 19 returning starters, there’s plenty of reason to believe they can.
The win total set is a little low, but at even money, is it even worth your time?
Utah State (7.5 wins. Over -150, Under +110)
Even with that in mind, USU lost its two games by five total points last year. This is a good team and if the defense can come close to surrendering 15.4 points per game like it did in 2012, they’ll be competitive in every game.
The value obviously lies in the under at +110, but it would be a shocker if the Aggies fall short of eight wins.
Wyoming (5.5 wins. Over -175, Under +135)
Everything about Wyoming points toward them winning six or more games this year, but the defense will have to stiffen up. The Cowboys ranked 99th in the country in points allowed (33.4).
The over looks to be the easy bet, but there’s little value at -175.