Last week we were 2-2, bringing our preseason predictions record in the
to 5-5. This week provides us with the start of the regular college football season and the final week of preseason games in the NFL.
Before we get to our selections for this week, let me make a few general observations that could help you make money when you are betting on pro and college football.
If you intend to wager substantial amounts, it is imperative to have at least three different accounts so that you will always get the best point spread available on the game.
Last year, we won on approximately 55% of the selections made in this column, 59-47 in the college games and 41-36 in the pros. Of the 183 games selected, six ended within a half-point of the point spread. If I had not shopped around for the most favorable point spread, some wins would have turned into ties and some ties would have turned into losses. Shopping for the best betting line can and often does spell the difference between a winning and losing season.
In the NFL, always look first to bet on the underdog. Only if you can't make a case for an underdog should you bet the favorite. As we
documented last year, favorites in the NFL have covered the spread only about 47.5% of the time since 1980 and have covered more games than underdogs in only four of the last 20 years.
This does not mean that we always bet on underdogs, since each game must be analyzed based upon its dynamics. Nevertheless, it is clear that the oddsmaker always shades the point spread toward the favorite because that's who the public usually bets on. Remember, the point spread is a great equalizer, and if you find yourself betting on more favorites than underdogs week in and week out, it is time to reassess your betting strategy.
If you are betting on the total points to be scored in a game (that's called the over-under line) and favor the over, bet early in the week. If you like the under, wait until game day to bet. Approximately 70% of the time the over-under number increases during the week. That is because the public generally bets the over.
Monday Night Football
, the oddsmaker shades the line toward the favorite and the over since the game is invariably the heaviest one bet during the week, and the public prefers to bet the favorite and the over. If you want to bet on the Monday night game, wait until shortly before kickoff and then wager on the underdog or the under. At the end of the season you will likely show a profit.
Play so-called teasers sparingly. A teaser is a wager where you have the right to move a point spread by 6 points in either direction on two games. You win your bet only if you win both games with the adjusted point spread. The only teasers I ever play are the ones that have proven to be profitable over the years -- and those are teasers where I take a favorite of 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 points and make them a favorite of 1/2 to 2 1/2 points. Otherwise, teasers are losing propositions.
This Week's Picks
San Francisco 49ers (plus 3 1/2) over Denver Broncos (Saturday night)
, the Bronco coach, was quoted in the
Rocky Mountain News
on Wednesday as stating that his starters would only be playing one or two series in this game. Shanahan also announced this week that
would be the starting quarterback for Denver in the regular-season opener. While backup quarterback
probably saw the writing on the wall, we believe Frerotte will suffer an emotional letdown this week which will be reflected in his performance
We expect to see third-string quarterback
get substantial playing time, and that will allow the 49ers to stay competitive in the second half. Under those circumstances, and with the 49ers playing before a home crowd that will not see many victories this season, we will take the 3 1/2 points with the 49ers.
Florida State Seminoles (minus 25) over Brigham Young University Cougars (Saturday night
We will take a shot on the Seminoles this week for three reasons.
First, BYU is going to be at a serious speed disadvantage in this game. That often translates into a game becoming a blowout. Second, the Cougars are starting a quarterback who had limited playing time last season, and will be without their best running back,
, who is injured. Third, the Seminoles will be in a season-long battle with the
for the No. 1 spot in the
polls. While technically this is not a home game for Tallahassee-based Florida State, since it is being played in Jacksonville, there is no doubt that there will be a wildly partisan crowd.
Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -- Over 54 1/2 (Sunday night)
I told you about this pick in
my column two weeks ago. Virginia Tech returns nine starters on offense and should be as good offensively as last season, when it averaged 40 points per game. Georgia Tech returns nine starters from a defense that gave up 30 points per game. The other side of the equation is that Virginia Tech returns only three starters on defense, while the Yellow Jackets return four starters on offense. We have little doubt that the Hokies' prolific offense (and their special teams) can put up 35 points. The big question is whether Georgia Tech can score 20.
Since the Hokies are rebuilding on defense, we believe the Georgia Tech offense, which averaged 38 points per game last year, will score enough to have the game surpass the posted total.
Barry Lieberman was a litigator with the United States Department of Justice for nine years and is currently the general counsel for a company that operates four hotel/casinos in Las Vegas. He has been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years and successfully concluded last football season by winning on 55% of his college and pro selections posted on TheStreet.com. He welcomes your feedback at