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July 11, 2009

The Second Sign...



For me, the first sign college football is just around the corner is when the preseason magazines hit the newsstands. The second sign is when the early opening lines, or point spreads, for the major games of the year are released. A week or so ago, The Las Vegas Hilton came out with its early lines for noteworthy games of 2009. Games involving Georgia:

GEORGIA +3 Oklahoma State
GEORGIA -2' Arkansas
GEORGIA -14 Arizona State
GEORGIA -4 LSU
GEORGIA -3' Tennessee
GEORGIA +16 Florida
GEORGIA -10' Auburn
GEORGIA +1 Georgia Tech

A few things immediately caught my attention: Georgia is a 3.5-point favorite at Tennessee but only a 2.5-point favorite at Arkansas? Favored by 10.5 over Auburn seems awfully high. The Tigers always play us tough in Athens and even in 2007, a 45-20 Georgia win, the Dogs actually trailed 20-17 in the third quarter.
Being an early 1-point underdog at Tech is somewhat surprising. Much of the Bulldogs not being favored is considering the game is on The Flats, although the Jackets don't have much of a home-field advantage, and last season's second-half debacle against them. I just don't see Georgia Tech running with ease on our defense and us falling victim to our state rival for a second consecutive season. If LSU can contain the Jackets' running game like it did in this past Chick-fil-A Bowl in a 38-3 victory, Georgia can do the same.
Notice how big of an early favorite Florida is over the Dogs. Georgia has not been as big as a 16-point underdog since 2001 when the Gators were 19-point favorites over Coach Richt's first team.
I've always been intrigued with sports betting odds, especially for football. In fact, my second book, About Them Dawgs!, includes a three-page section on point spreads for Georgia football games since 1973. Interestingly and according to The Gold Sheet, point spreads for the 1973 season were the first in college football formulated with the help of computers. It is considered that college football point spreads prior to 1973 have little to no relation to the point spreads of the last 36 years.
As my book mentions, from 1973 through the 2007 season, Georgia was considered the underdog in just 24.5% of its 421 games. In comparison, during the same time period, Tennessee was an underdog in 27.1% of its games, Auburn 31.1%, Georgia Tech 45.8%, and Vanderbilt 71.9%. If you include the 2009 Capital One Bowl versus Michigan State, the Bulldogs have been the underdog in only 11 of its last 30 bowl games and on just three occasions in their last 20 bowls.

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