College Football Line Swings – Who did Linemakers Favor or Fade?

When the Golden Nugget released the 2014 College Football Games of the Year, I shared with you team by team summaries analyzing the lines.  However, far more interesting than just what the current lines are, is the comparison of what they were the last time games were played.

As such, I went back as far as 2008 to find prior meetings with common opponents.  However, the vast majority of games lined by the Golden Nugget were rematches from 2013 meetings.  As such, we have very recent, relevant numbers to compare.

The key to such an analysis is adjusting for home field, because in most instances, teams hosting an opponent in 2014 were on the road vs that team in 2013.  So the proper adjustments were made to bring both meetings (current and prior) to neutral locations to compare lines accurately.

The findings are displayed in two tables below.  The first table (Line Swing Summary) shows the average line swing for all teams whose games were lined.  At the top of the list is the runner up to the National Title, the Auburn Tigers.  Their 9 releases this year feature average swings in their favor of almost 12 ppg as compared to their last meeting, a truly remarkable amount.  Linemakers gave them a ton of respect due to their high profile and every increasing public sentiment continued to grow throughout the 2013 season.  Other teams like USC and UCLA also received substantial swings in their favor as well.

On the other end of the spectrum is Baylor and Texas A&M.  Baylor was significantly impacted.  In their prior meetings in 2013, Baylor was an average favorite of 17 ppg vs teams such as Texas, WVA, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.  However, in 2014 vs those same opponents, they are favored by just 4.9 ppg on average.  Adjusting for road v home to the lines, we find that Baylor was faded by 11.3 ppg by the linemakers.  Texas A&M is naturally due to the disappearance of Johnny Manziel, but they were faded by 8.4 ppg.

Below the summary table is the detail table.  Here, you can find (organized by team) every lined game as part of the 2014 Golden Nugget Games of the Year, and you can see how it compares to the prior meeting.  The column on the far right is the line swing, where you can easily see which team was favored more in 2014 as compared to the prior meeting, and by how many points.  If the line is blank, it indicates the prior meeting occurred prior to the 2008 season.

Interestingly, the linemakers favored Oklahoma by almost 8 ppg more in 2014 than vs the same opponents in 2013.  However, sharp bettors were not buying it, and they actually bet AGAINST the Sooners in 6 games (and never once moving any of their games toward the Sooners), and dropped the Golden Nugget’s line by an average of 1.25 ppg.  This was fascinating to see – linemakers taking a stronger position on a team, only to have sharp bettors hammer them for it.  It will be very interesting to see how well Oklahoma does vs the spread in 2014.

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Analysis of the Initial Release of 2014 College Football Lines

Below are team summaries and team details for the annual Golden Nugget College Football Games of the Year.  Unlike most of these lists, I organized mine by team (instead of date) to make it easier for you to find certain games.  The summary will show you which teams are favored the most and which the least.  Obviously, being “Games of the Year”, not all games are lined for each team.  As such, this isn’t the truest portrait of the 2014 season, but it certainly is the most accurate as we sit in early June.

As you can see, the most favored team is the Florida State Seminoles.  But even more impressive than their almost -20 pt average line (Alabama and Oregon were both -22.5 last year) is the fact that their shortest lined game (thus far) is -14.5.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the Seminoles are indeed favored in every regular season game by over 2 TDs.  It would mark the FIRST TIME since 1980 a team was favored by over 2 TDs in EVERY regular season game.  Many teams have been favored by over 2 TDs in every game but 1, including (regular season records listed):

  • 11-0 Nebraska in 1983, 1995 and 1997 and 10-1 in 1996
  • 12-0 Florida in 2009
  • 11-0 Texas in 2005
  • 10-0 Oklahoma in 1987
  • 11-1 USC in 2008
  • 11-1 Boise State in 2011
  • 8-2 Florida State in 1995
  • 8-3 Virginia Tech in 2001

But no team was favored in ALL their regular season games by over 2 TDs.

Cal was lined in 6 games, but were dogs in all of them, by an average of 21.3 ppg.  Last season, they were dogs in their regular season games by 13.5 ppg.  They went 1-11 SU and 2-10 ATS in these 12 games.  Consider it was just 5 years ago Cal was favored by an average of 10 ppg and went 8-4 SU back in 2009.  How times have changed.

Arizona features the largest swing between favorite and dog of any team:  on 8/29 they are -23.5 point favorites to UNLV, and 10/2 they are +25 pt dogs to Oregon.  That’s a 48.5 point swing.

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Team by Team Summary

Game by Game Detail