To much fanfare, the Golden Nugget sportsbook in downtown Las Vegas, NV, released their much-anticipated college football Game of the Year Lines. This year, the Nugget released 100 lines, starting with the August 24, 2019 contest between “The U” and Florida, being played in Orlando, and ending with America’s Game, the annual contest between my beloved service academies, Army and Navy, being played December 14 in Philadelphia.
There was some consternation among the faithful, as CG Technology got the jump on the Golden Nugget and released their Game of the Year lines about 24 hours ahead of the advertised release of the Nugget’s lines. This event was accompanied by the predictable grumbling and gnashing of teeth amongst the industry’s useful idiots, claiming CG was “chickenshit” to jump to the head of the line.
It was and still is my opinion that competition among sportsbooks is a very good thing for we the bettors. I have no idea if the CG Games of the Year were the exact same as the Golden Nugget’s. Personally, I intended to give my business to the Nugget, and was not at all interested in going to “The Strip” to seek out a CG book. If you don’t know the difference, you will find this article helpful.
As I write this article, the venerable Golden Gate casino in downtown Las Vegas just opened their brand new sportsbook. They claim they will do things differently and offer shoppable lines and a few other promises. But being the sceptic I am, I will wager that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I was fashionably late, arriving to the Nugget sportsbook about 45 minutes after the lines opened at noon. There were probably a dozen people milling about, checking over the sheet and checking their phones for information. One of the self-described “sharp” bettors had his trusty copy of Lindy’s. Or Athlon. I don’t know, they’re both the same in my opinion. I don’t use either of those mags. The Steele Bible is not yet out, so no one was using it for actionable information.
Because I like to be prepared, I was armed with the preliminary S&P+ ratings, which I very recently discussed. No one I saw was similarly equipped. But there are many ways to handicap college football games, and I will suppose the bettors in attendance were using whatever approach works for them.
The Nugget established a few rules for the opening, among them was a limit of $1000/bet and you must have a player’s card (so they know who you are). I did not bet the limit and was allowed to bet without a player’s card.
My approach to Game of the Year games and betting these lines is very simple. I do not like to bet games that are too far out in the season, as so many things can happen – and we don’t even know who the starting quarterback will be for many teams. Also, there are many new head coaches and we don’t have a very good idea how they will mold their new team. Some head coaches roll with what they have, others clean house. Just too many variables to consider.
Again, armed with my trusty S&P+ ratings and what I know about some of the lines and teams I am considering betting, I look for large discrepancies between what S&P+ says and what the line says. The absolute best value I found is the September 21 contest, Texas Longhorns hosting their Big 12 rival Oklahoma State Cowboys. Why do I like this game so much? Easy, the wrong team is favored!
The preliminary S&P+ ratings list Oklahoma State at a rating of +12.8. These same ratings rate Texas at +8.9. That makes the Pokes nearly 4.0 points better than the Horns. An added bonus is the Cowboys returning production is rated a middle-of-the-pack 74. Out of 130 teams, the Horn’s returning production is rated 121. Clearly, they have some gaps to fill.
Add in the Horn’s home field advantage and the line should be a Pick. Yet the Nugget opened Texas as 10-point favorites (-10). By the time I could scramble up to the counter to get my money down, the line had moved to Texas -9.0. Clearly, at least one other sharp saw this juicy number and bet into it, changing the line by a full point.
Using this approach, I ended up liking a total of four games and bet those four, then joined a good friend for a cool beer on the Fremont Street experience. On my way home, I rolled through the El Cortez sportsbook (here’s an introduction to that fiasco) to check a couple of other lines and stayed to play a little blackjack.
Download the Golden Nugget’s College Football Games of the Year Lines for 2019.