Last Sunday, college football fans were wondering the same thing television executives have been for the past six months: What is the proper role for sports betting?
More than ever, a point spread and power rating became a conversation topic with the College Football Playoff, and it makes sense, given the eye-test component to the committee's decision. As I offered last week, I believe an oddsmaker should be asked to join that committee. However, let's try to maintain some balance and perspective.
Yes, Georgia has a higher power rating than Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Ohio State. Yes, the Bulldogs would be favored over those schools on a neutral field. But that's all it means. Being a few points better than another school on paper does not make you "unequivocally" better, which is the magic word in the CFP bylaws.
Georgia fans will and should clearly argue any point that benefits their team. However, the degree to which the oddsmakers' ratings became interpreted as fact truly surprised me. Point spreads and betting lines offer a valuable metric. However, it is just one metric. An oddsmaker on the committee would contribute an important voice, but it should not be the only voice.
This is new territory for everyone. Since the U.S. Supreme Court removed the federal ban on sports betting in May, sports broadcasting corporations have pondered gambling's proper place in programming. Much like how George Costanza found the perfect combination of Mountain Dew and mozzarella to break the Frogger high score, executives are striving for the right mix of betting content and conventional sports news.
We are all experiencing a shift in this legalization era. Play-by-play announcers occasionally try to find the appropriate usage. Reporters might even weave in an odds question during interviews. Mistakes will also occur. Everything considered, the (extremely) territorial gambling community needs to relax and accept the growing pains.
For example, gamblers do not own the word "upset." There can be several definitions. They do not all revolve around a point spread. Specifically, when No. 22 Texas A&M beat No. 7 LSU two weeks ago, it is accurate to call it an upset because the lower-ranked team won. Yes, I realize the Aggies closed as three-point favorites, but there are other parameters. Rankings are more common than point spreads.
I have been gambling my entire life. I am a giant advocate of betting and everything it entails. But I also understand that the world does not revolve around point spreads and money lines. In fact, we have always complained about the stigma and lack of mainstream inclusion. Ironically, it's now time for the gambling community to reciprocate and embrace the other side.
Here's what I like this weekend (3-1 last week):
Navy/Army under 40 -- This spectacle and American tradition offers plenty of reasons to watch. However, if you need some action, it's worth noting this game has gone under the total in 12 straight years. Both teams run the triple-option offense, and thus their defenses are accustomed to facing it in practice. When not ripping off large chunks, rushing attacks lend themselves to the under by chewing clock.
Broncos -4 (at 49ers) -- Simply, these are two teams headed in opposite directions. Denver has won three straight and is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games, while eyeing a playoff berth. Meanwhile, San Francisco has the pole position for the top overall pick and should continue down that path.
Seahawks -3 (vs. Vikings) -- On paper, Minnesota is a better team, but this comes down to the quarterbacks. Russell Wilson always finds a way to make the big play, while Kirk Cousins never seems to look comfortable in big spots. Cousins is 8-19 as a starter against teams with winning records. Plus, aside from their tough-as-nails head coach, Mike Zimmer, the Vikings just seem soft. They only have one relatively impressive win this season, and that came at home to a Green Bay team that is winless on the road and just fired its head coach. Essentially, the Vikes fold in big games.