As an avid user and follower of the AdjustedStats tool, what we call The Statalyzer, over the past decade+, I’ve always spent more time than not in thinking about and trying to understand specific predicted outcomes that vary widely from the Vegas lines. One of those games that jumped out ahead of time was the Texas – UTEP match-up. This was one that AS got right, almost to the exact score. What caused it?
First, the Facts
Vegas opened with a spread of 43 points in favor of Texas. As far as spreads go, they don’t get much wider or they won’t be put on the board. This spread also ended up as the closing spread as well.
Vegas opened with a total of 58 and finished with a total of 58.5. A decent-scoring game was the prediction, but nothing absurd.
Given the spread and total combination, it looks like Vegas felt the outcome could very easily finish roughly 51-7.
The Statalyzer predicted an outcome of 57-0, in favor of Texas. It comes to this through running simulations and taking an average. The UTEP total was actually a number slightly below .5 so it rounded down. Consequently, the total was also predicted to be 57.
The game wrapped with a score of 59-3, with a spread of 56 and a total of 61. Vegas pulled the spread short by 16 points. AS was off by only one point. Neither total was egregiously off and the game went over.
Did Vegas underestimate Texas to open in 2020?
Perhaps. Texas has a decade of evidence indicating that the program will start slow or poorly, irrespective of opponent. Past performance may not be indicative of future returns, especially with 3 different coaches involved in that timeframe, right? That’s a great maxim and all, but Tom Herman is 1-2 in openers at Texas against the spread and the ML. He hadn’t exactly covered himself in glory over the first 39 games of his coaching career at Texas, coming into 2020 21-16-2 ATS.
Couple that kind of lackluster performance to open the season in the Herman era with more than half the staff, including both coordinators, turning over during the offseason and there’s a decent recipe for uncertainty heading into the opening game.
However, the reality is that Vegas simply limits it’s spread to the low 40’s ahead almost any FBS match-up. The Vegas math may very well have pushed the spread into the 50’s, had they not had consistent data reflecting that setting lines that wide tends to inure to their detriment with the betting community.
Did Vegas overestimate UTEP in its second game of the 2020 season?
Uh, no. Again, it’s hard to find spreads of a wider range than this match-up. Frankly, 43 points might as well have been 50 points, but spreads aren’t posted that high.
The Statalyzer, for its sake, prognosticated UTEP to be dreadfully bad. Potentially, this could be a historically bad team with a history of fielding historically bad teams. I wouldn’t want to be Dana Dimel’s agent at the end of this season. The actual outcome of the game, and anyone who witnessed the massacre would be forced to agree, reflects a team that was accurately assessed by the Statalyzer. UTEP would be looking down the barrel at a 1-11/0-12 season in a normal setting. Instead they can wake up each week and thank God for SFA and Abilene Christian, giving them a vague semblance of just pathetic regarding their 2020 record.
Conclusion, if there is one?
It’s games like this early in every season that should be studied closely ahead of time. A loaded major program with a big line against a truly weak FBS opponent is often going to virtually force a big line to be posted, but up to a limit. A senior QB and Heisman candidate on the favorite’s roster to boot? New coaches with something to prove? This is the perfect kind of match-up for a coach like Herman to bring out his inner bully and make a case for the program going forward.
Generally speaking, it’s worth watching games with spreads in the high 30’s-low 40’s, specifically because these are potential arbitrage opportunities when the real algorithmic math is revealing a much wider spread. If Statalyzer comes back on a big number with a similar number or less, be wary. If it comes back with significantly bigger numbers than the spread, be greedy.