Lines shift through Manziel mystery
Every line move tells a story. This isn’t profound wisdom from a volume of Aesop’s Fables for gamblers, it’s the reality of betting markets.
Point spreads are set to force bettors into making a calculated decision to back one side or another. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, has a huge impact on every line involving Texas A&M.
Even in the modern age of social media and breaking-news stories before facts become verified, line movement in the betting market is a good precursor of what’s to come.
As far as 'Game of the Year' college football lines are concerned, the clash between Alabama and Texas A&M scheduled for Sept. 14 have attracted the most attention. Despite being available for wagering for the last six weeks, the line remained pretty static in the Alabama -6/-7 range. Then, all of a sudden out of nowhere the number ballooned all the way to -9.5 at a respected offshore book two Thursdays ago.
Clearly someone had dumped a substantial sum of money on the game to push the price out that much in a short period of time.
But who knew in advance about the NCAA investigation into Manziel's autograph controversy? And of those people, who was willing to put their money up offshore? Could the autograph dealers have bet against A&M once they found out the investigation was ongoing?
What a mess.
Like I always do when things like this occur, I reached out to my deep network of industry colleagues and bettors. Oddly enough, no one seemed to have an answer and Vegas books went so far as to hold its ground at the much shorter price until information was uncovered.
In the past, say 20 years ago, major information known only to gamblers wouldn’t have been that uncommon. Books and the professionals received information much sooner before the public and used it to their advantage. Nowadays those opportunities are rare because it’s virtually impossible to keep information regarding elite talents capable of creating seismic line shifts from the media.
Fast forward to early this week when stories began to break speculating Johnny Football had allegedly been paid by memorabilia dealers to sign a surplus of merchandise.
As any good bookmaker should and would, each one scrambled to remove every game involving A&M, its season win total and odds to win the SEC from the betting boards. It goes without saying a prolonged suspension to Manziel would benefit every other conference team on the Aggies' schedule while basically dashing any hopes of an SEC title coming to College Station. One book did take the opportunity to post a wide array of props given his tenuous status, and below you’ll see where the numbers opened compared to where they sit now.
J. Manziel Plays vs Rice 8/31 (courtesy of 5Dimes)
Then: Yes +450 / No -750
Now: Yes -135 / No -105
J. Manziel Plays in any game this season (courtesy of 5Dimes)
Then: Yes +140 / No -180
Now: Yes -350 / No +250
J. Manziel wins the Heisman Trophy (courtesy of 5Dimes)
Not only are prop and single-game lines impacted by current events, but also regular-season win totals and future odds. With Manziel factoring prominently into the team’s forecast for this year, A&M's win total opened at 9.5. However, if he’s ruled out for the entire season some bookmakers speculate his absence could cost the team anywhere from 2.5 to 3 wins. There's not another talent on the roster capable of stepping in under center without the team taking a step back
The other interesting debate taking place all over the sports betting industry is around Manziel’s actual value to an individual point spread.
One of the iconic figures in the industry, Jimmy Vacarro has said publicly he sees Manziel's value at six points, while some other prominent oddsmakers peg his worth at eight. One group of respected bettors went so far as to tell me he’s worth even more than that, equating the star QB's point-spread value to nine points or more. 5dimes currently makes a 5.5-point adjustment for potential scenarios against Rice in Week 1, Texas A&M -28 with Manziel starting and -22.5 if he doesn’t. Of course, this would be modified on the caliber of opponent, but is still interesting food for thought.
Last, but not least, is his impact on the landscape of the SEC. Here is what the odds looked like at the LVH on Monday maintaining a 26-percent market hold (meaning the book expects to retain .26 cents of every dollar bet on conference futures):
TEXAS A&M 8
SOUTH CAROLINA 6
OLE MISS 25
MISSISSIPPI ST 75
Here’s how my adjusted odds would look if Manziel were to be suspended for the 2013 season, while maintaining the market’s hold-percent integrity. Notice the next tier of SEC West sides like LSU, Ole Miss and Auburn all see their prices come down, while A&M’s shoots up from 8-1 all the way to 30.
TEXAS A&M 30
SOUTH CAROLINA 6
OLE MISS 20
MISSISSIPPI ST 75
Looking for more information on the SEC betting markets? Check out the On The Line Podcast for a complete outlook.