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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 1:14 PM

When talking about the fundamentals of Advanced Handicapping here on these pages, I’m often focused on the “on-field” or “on-court” edges that one team will have over another. The first part of making winning bets in Las Vegas involves understanding how games are won and lost. Today, I’m going to focus on the second part…understanding what the MARKET thinks about a sport in a way that helps you turn your knowledge into cash.

If you know that Team A is going to win easily over Team B…but oddsmakers have made Team A an exorbitant favorite…then you’re not getting any value with your bet. You have to understand the teams AND you have to understand the market.

Right now the market is making their expectations very clear for the coming college and pro football seasons. All of the following have been posted offshore for awhile, and are now even up at most Las Vegas sportsbooks.

*Odds to Win a Championship

*Odds to Win a Conference

*Regular Season Win Totals for Most College and All Pro Teams

*Game of the Year Pointspreads for College Marquee Matchups

*Extended Pointspreads for NFL Regular Season action

It’s very simple right now for you to take all of that information and build what could be called “Market Power Ratings” for all NFL and many college football teams. Vegas doesn’t deal early with the dregs in college football, so you may still have some trouble telling Texas-San Antonio apart from Texas El Paso, or Middle Tennessee from Central Michigan. But, the bulk of major conference teams have been covered.

This week’s “Game of the Year” postings in Vegas can give you a very good read on Big Ten contenders for example. Let me run through some of the early lines for a league you’ll be watching a lot on TV this year. I’ll include Notre Dame in the discussion since they play Michigan and Michigan State early in the season. Remember that sportsbooks generally allot about 3-4 points for home field advantage in games that are supposed to be competitive. I’ll use three points to convert to a neutral field line in parenthesis after each game.

Michigan State -2 at home vs. Notre Dame (ND by 1 on neutral field)

Notre Dame -4.5 at home vs. Michigan (ND by 1.5 on neutral field)

Nebraska -2 at home vs. Wisconsin (Wisconsin by 1 on neutral field)

Michigan State -2 at home vs. Ohio State (Ohio State by 1 on neutral field)

Ohio State -4 at home vs. Nebraska (Ohio State by 1 on neutral field)

Wisconsin by 6.5 at home vs. Michigan State (Wiscy by 3.5 on neutral field)

Michigan State by 3 at home vs. Nebraska (pick-em on neutral field)

Wisconsin by 5.5 at home vs. Ohio State (Wiscy by 2.5 on neutral field)

Ohio State by 2.5 at home against Michigan (Michigan by 0.5 on neutral field)

You can see that Wisconsin is the class of the field given their medium home spreads vs. Michigan State and Ohio State in Madison, and their short dog price on the road in Lincoln. It’s hard to know for sure what Vegas is using for home field in each game because things don’t line up perfectly. But, generally, the Badgers are about 2-3 points better than everyone else…then everyone else is lumped together fairly tight. Notre Dame is given a slight nod over Michigan and Michigan State…which would have them behind Wisconsin but ahead of the rest of the pack.

Note that we can then see the Big Ten’s status in the national picture because there’s a Game of the Year line of USC -11 at home against the Irish. The market says USC is a full touchdown better than Notre Dame on a neutral field…which means the Big Ten is unlikely to be in the national championship mix this season. Advanced Handicappers must use connectivity to create a full picture. Notre Dame serves as an intermediary between the Big Ten and popular national championship choice USC.  

A week ago I encouraged you to start your football preparation by studying newsstand publications and making assessments of personnel and coaching changes. Now, it’s time for you to focus on the market. Use the publicly available information about Games of the Year, Regular Season Win Totals, and Odds to win conferences or championships to create virtual Market Ratings. You’ll be WAY ahead of the game come September because you’ll easily recognizes situations where the market doesn’t match the reality of what’s most likely to happen on the field.

If you’re concerned that the task is too daunting for you, please take the easy way out and sign up for my full season football service! You can take care of that with your credit card right here at the website. Packages are available for both the NFL Preseason and the full college and pro 2012 campaigns.

My next lecture in my College of Advanced Handicapping will be Friday. I expect that to be a baseball report given developments I’ve seen since the All-Star Break for several teams. I again encourage you to print out these twice-a-week sessions so you can create a virtual textbook that can be referred to at a glance for years to come. Back again on Friday.

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