Walk the Line: What Vegas Thinks About Cal and the Pac-10

Posted by: Avinash on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

I have a gambling problem. Not a gambling addiction (other than one bad incident that I deserved, I’ve been fairly frugal with my betting habits).

No, my problem is that I’m no good at gambling. I.e. I lose a lot of money. I seem to have terrible patterns at predicting who will win and even worse at identifying the trap games. While some people make it big and others lose money slowly, I lose money quickly. When it goes down, it goes DOWN. My last big gambling endeavor (the NBA playoffs) left me down a nice two Gs because I sold my soul and kept on betting Lakers in the Finals, one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.

In other words, I’m a sportsbook’s best friend. Which is why you should take this gambling analysis column with a very tiny grain of salt. My gambling habits will probably end me up in prison one day, but there’s no reason for me not to share my foresight with all of you, right?

Cal opened up as 7 point favorites against Michigan State. That’s approximately the same line that Cal opened up with against Tennessee last year, which probably means that they put Michigan State on a similar level as us. I described in gruesome detail last year how much new beach property sportsbooks opened up last season as the gambling nutbags of the world continued to pour their money into Tedford mania. In every game the Bears played after Oregon, Cal did not cover the spread. And for anyone who remembers the numbers, we were very very public in every game we played.

Arguably, the factors like last year’s collapse will make people weary to bet heavy on Golden Bear this fall. But gamblers tend to have short memories. However, there is the advantage that Michigan State is a state school, and state schools are filled with gullible gamblers. The action could definitely split both ways.

Our supposed win total (8 is what Vegas has now) seems about even keel too. This sounds about right, given that the overall talent of our squad factored into the relative weakness of the Pac-10 this year should be enough to get us right back to where we belong (at that 8 win level), and the few tight games we played on the schedule will decide where we go. Only the Condoms (10.5 and the highest total on the board), Arizona State (8.5) and Oregon (8) are at or above that level in the Pac-10, but I’m not sure what to make of those last two win totals considering the preliminary lines Vegas has posted (more on that below).

Some of these lines attracted my keen interest.

Georgia -4.5 at ASU: This line is very very small for a team with the defensive power to obliterate Rudy Carpenter.
Cal -1 at Arizona: Oh God.
USC -10.5 at Arizona: Seems very low against a team that has not finished with a winning record in the Pac-10 in the Mike Stoops era. I’m a little confused, especially given that the Men of Troy are two TD favorites at UCLA. Even with their upset record, this seems like a game where the Trojans should be laying two TDs (a little less of note is USC -11.5 at Oregon St., which seems about right)
UCLA +10 at Oregon: The two teams of mystery in this conference. The Ducks are projected to win 8 games this year, and they are close to unbeatable at Autzen when at full strength. So this line feels a little short.
Cal +13 at USC: This line will not change considerably unless Cal starts the season 8-0. USC could lose a game or two and still be favored by double digits.
Stanford +14.5 at Cal: If we lose this game I will jam a fork down my throat.
UCLA +9.5 at ASU: Again a very short line. For a Bruins fanbase that isn’t expecting much, they’re sure getting plenty of love from the bookies. Either that or the Sun Devils aren’t as great as we think.
Oregon +1 at OSU; ASU +1 at Arizona: Alarm bells are shooting off here. What the hell’s with these lines? My only conclusion is that Vegas doesn’t think much of any of those four teams. Which leaves USC and Cal as the top two honchos again.
Of course, none of this should matter to you, intrepid Cal fan. You’re not going to bet on us and jinx our season again, are you?

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