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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

July 20, 2009 at 9:47 PM

Guessing the spreads

A lot of good questions coming my way today.
But one struck me as particularly interesting and challenging and I decided it deserved its own entry — specifically, could I take a stab at guessing what the spread will be for each of UW’s games this season?
One thing to remember is that point spreads are established not so much to predict what the outcome will be, but to set a number that will result in equal betting on each side. Since the sports books get the vigorish, or $10 for every $100 bet — they basically try to set a number that will generate equal betting on each side as they’ll win just by getting the vigorish.
That’s why bigger name schools sometimes seem to be larger favorites than maybe they ought to be — Vegas is guessing that the public will bet on Ohio State or USC or Alabama but might not on Washington State or Iowa State or Kansas State, that sort of thing.
UW has been one of those schools fans apparently like to bet on because its spreads have actually been fairly favorable at times over the past few years compared to the actual outcome — UW is just 40-65-3 against the spread since 2000, worse than its 44-64 record on the field. The Huskies were 1-11 against the spread last year, covering only against BYU when the Cougars were an eight-point favorite.
With a trusty copy of Phil Steele’s college football annual by my side — with point spread results dating to 2004 enclosed for some reference on how the games have been listed in the past — I decided to take a stab at it.
So here goes:
Sept. 5, LSU at home — Tigers by 14. Actually, this one has already been listed at the Golden Nugget so I’m cheating a bit. It opened at LSU by 16 but has since dropped by two points, evidence that some people out there think the Huskies may be undervalued a bit —- or maybe LSU overvalued considering it is going on the road with an uncertain QB situation. I would, uh, bet this one settles somewhere in the 14-15 range. LSU figures to score a lot of points so the question will be if UW can keep pace. I’m thinking a lot of gamblers will think a score in the 41-27 range will seem about right.
Sept. 12, Idaho at home — UW by 20. Depending on what happens the week prior, some may start postulating that the Vandals have a chance. Don’t buy it. No matter if UW will have lost 15 in a row, there is still a big difference between the Pac-10 and the worst teams in the WAC, which is what Idaho is. This is pretty similar to the 2005 UW-Idaho game when the Huskies had lost seven in a row and some thought Idaho might have a chance — UW was favored by just 13. UW instead won 34-6 in a game it dominated physically. This one might be more high-scoring, but just as big a rout.
Sept. 19, USC at home — Trojans by 20. Setting lines ahead of time for every game is difficult because you don’t know what has happened prior. For now, I’m guessing that conventional wisdom will have held — UW loses to LSU but beats Idaho — and that everyone on both teams is healthy. Obviously, the lines for each game will depend greatly on who is healthy, what happened the week before, etc. But reading this game right now, I’d think that the Trojans will be a considerable favorite, but that anything above three touchdowns would seem like too much for a team with a young QB going on the road, and knowing that the UW coaches should know quite a bit about how to game plan for the Trojans.
Sept. 26, at Stanford — Cardinal by five. Stanford could be pretty good this year and figures to be at least 2-1 heading into this one (it plays at WSU and Wake Forest and home to San Jose State before facing UW). UW won here in 2007 as a three-point underdog.
Oct. 3 at Notre Dame — Irish by 16. UW is 0-7 all-time against Notre Dame being outscored on aveage 38-11 (another stat stolen straight from Steele).
Oct. 10 Arizona at home — Wildcats by two-and-a-half. Really getting to the point here where it’s hard to guess what the respective states of the two teams will be. But again, assuming it unfolds how we think it will now, I would figure that Arizona will be a slight favorite — Wildcats will have a bye before facing UW and figure to be 2-2 at the worst, having likely beaten Central Michigan and NAU at home before playing at Iowa and Oregon State.
Oct. 17 at Arizona State — Devils by nine. Night games in Tempe aren’t easy to win. And in another Steele stat I hadn’t really realized, ASU has won five in a row against UW by an average of 16 points.
Oct. 24 Oregon at home — Ducks by 12. I’ll assume UW has shown some improvement but that the record is about what most expect for both teams. If so, I would imagine a spread somewhere between 10 and 14, allowing for the fact that most will think the Ducks will win but that the Huskies will be more competitive than most of the past five years.
Nov. 7 at UCLA — Bruins by 11. Here’s a tricky one because UCLA could be a really good defensive team that may not score a lot. Being at UCLA is enough to make the Bruins a heavy favorite — UW hasn’t won there since 1995. So I’m thinking that just a little shy of two touchdowns makes sense
Nov. 14 at Oregon State — Beavers by 9. This could end up being a bit too low if Oregon State turns out to be really good. For what it’s worth, OSU was favored by five in 2007.
Nov. 28 Washington State at home — Huskies by 11. Here’s another one that was already listed, with UW originally favored by eight but already having gone up to 11 — hey, kind of like Spinal Tap’s amps. I personally won’t be surprised if UW wins by a lot more, but oddsmakers will always take into account that the history of this series is for close games, no matter how good or bad the teams are.
Dec. 5 Cal at home — Bears by 12. Cal could have the Pac-10 title, or at least a fairly significant bowl appearance, riding on this one. And while UW may have beaten Cal the last time the Bears were here, Jeff Tedford is otherwise undefeated against the Huskies, 6-1 against UW in all. The Bears will no doubt be expected to win.

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