Ready for the College Football Prop Bet of the year?
Those of you who have been with me for any significant portion of the past eleven years know that I am not prone to splashy statements. I have never once released a “lock” and in fact, I often preach the opposite – any bet can lose.
That being said, I have a prop bet that I really love for this upcoming 2012 College Football season. Of course, don’t go crazy and overbet your bankroll on it. Remember, anything can happen. But when we find value, we need to pounce. So, keep sound money management in mind when betting this. But by all means, get down on it.
The oddsmakers have predicted that the Aggies will win seven games this season. They actually are telling us that eight is more likely than seven as well as they have put the OVER at -140 and the UNDER at +110 (some sportsbooks have them listed at OVER 7.5 with negative odds on the under). I disagree with their assessment. With all due respect to Aggies fans (I have nothing against Texas A&M whatsoever), I give the Aggies a very small chance at reaching eight wins (what would be required to lose this bet, regardless of which line you take). This team is undergoing some major changes (move to a new tougher conference, new coach and new quarterback), yet they are expected to win more games than last season? I’m not buying it.
Again, those who know me know I don’t make recommendations based on gut feel. I use the math. When I make a big play, it’s backed by statistics that tell us we have a very high chance of winning. We’ll get into those numbers shortly. But first, a little about Texas A&M this year vs. last…
Goodbye Old – Hello New
The biggest change of course is the move from the Big 12 to the SEC, the meanest, baddest football conference on the planet. A&M’s conference schedule just got a whole lot harder. After opening at Louisiana Tech, they face Florida on September 8th. They also get the privilege of playing South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Missouri this season. On top of this huge change, the team has a brand new head coach (Kevin Sumlin) and a new quarterback.
Offense – Top players gone and QB is a major concern
In 2011, this team was ranked No. 11 in the FBS in scoring (39.1 points per game) and No. 18 in passing yards (over 291 per game). The Aggies were especially productive in the red zone last year, ranked No. 2 in the nation, scoring 95.2% of the time. Unfortunately for them, Ryan Tannehill and his record-setting 3,744 passing yards is gone to the NFL. It’s unclear who will replace him, which is not a good sign. Either Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel or Matt Joeckel will take over. Whoever lines up as the signal caller will struggle relative to the experienced and talented Tannehill. The good news is that the offensive line is solid and experienced. But, Quarterback is the most important position in football. The fact that this team still hasn’t decided means that whichever inexperienced QB gets the call, will not have had much dedicated time with the No. 1 offense.
Defense – Weak in 2012
The Aggies defense was ranked No. 70 overall last season, allowing over 28 points per game. They allowed opponents to score 88% of the time in the red zone, ranking them No. 101 in the nation. They ranked No. 109 in the nation against the pass. A&M allowed 30+ points six times and 40+ four times in 2011. Folks, these are not good numbers. There are only four returning defensive starters that played 7+ games last season. To make matters worse, A&M must replace both starting cornerbacks. While Tannehill and the offense were able to simply outscore teams last season, they won’t have that kind of offensive production to rely on in 2012. In a conference that thrives on great defenses, A&M’s is anything but.
What’s most important – The Math
So we have some anecdotal evidence to suggest that it might be hard for Texas A&M to reach eight wins in 2012. But that’s never enough to risk good money on. We need some data that gives us a high confidence that this is likely to happen.
History often repeats itself. Do we have any relevant history that can guide us here? Yes we do and it’s based on data regarding teams that have a lot of upheaval in important positions. In this case, upheaval means a change in both head coach and quarterback.
Think about it, how important are these two things?
A change in head coach means major changes for players who have to adjust to a new way of doing things and often a new playbook. Sumlin is new as is his staff. Granted, Sumlin has coaching experience (head coach of Houston from 2007 to 2011 and several assistant gigs). But, he’s new to this team and has a lot to do in a short amount of time. A lot is up in the air and new this season. And, with change always comes disruption which usually equates to fewer wins in the short term. I am not knocking Sumlin specifically. I am just saying that change doesn’t happen overnight, nor without pain. Even if he’s the right man for the job (to be determined), it will take a while for players to get used to his approach and playbook and in the meantime, expect some turmoil.
A change in quarterback is equally disturbing for a college football team. This is the most important position on the field. A great quarterback can make a mediocre team a national championship contender. A bad quarterback can make a good team average. Experience matters. Again, no knocks on Showers, Manziel or Joeckel specifically. But, how good can they really be in their first real season? How much rhythm can they have with receivers? How much command of the team and huddle can these young men really have? And, none of them has been good enough as of the writing of this article to claim the job. Changing quarterback means disruption – in a bad way.
Now, combine these two forces and we have a really strong reason to believe that a team is going to under-perform, especially if that team is coming off a winning season. And the numbers back us up. Since the 2002 season, teams that changed both their quarterback and head coach following a winning season have gone on average from winning 69% of their games the year before making the changes to 53% winning following the changes. That’s an absolute drop-off of 16% and a relative drop-off of 23%! Less than a third of these teams were able to muster a winning season at all the year of the big changes. So that means two thirds of these teams had a record of .500 or worse the year after making these two big changes at the same time.
Yet, Texas A&M facing these historic numbers, and moving to the toughest conference in football, is supposed to win more games than they did last year? I’m not buying it.
I like Texas A&M UNDER 7 or 7.5 wins (different odds at different sportsbooks)
Be sure to get my free football picks this season.
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