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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Only two early football games this week before the full NFL schedule Sunday and Monday. So, I’ll cover both of those games here in our regularly scheduled Thursday report. I’ll also have some room today to discuss early season college basketball. I’ll be back Friday for the regular expanded NFL rundown. Before you know it…the college football bowls will be here and will have a very active schedule over the last 10 days of December.

For now, we have two games to discuss…

ARIZONA AT ST. LOUIS (8:25 p.m. ET Thursday on NFL Network): An opener of St. Louis -2.5 was hit very hard by sharps…with the line soaring past the critical number of three all the way up to Rams -4.5. It’s rare to see oddsmakers miss an opener by this much. And, that’s a MAJOR miss given how easily money ripped through the three. Oddsmakers thought they were going to “tempt” some St. Louis money with an opener of -2.5. The Rams have been so impressive in recent weeks…and the Cardinals so shaky offensively with backup quarterback Drew Stanton…that many syndicates had St. Louis as the superior team in their current Power Ratings. Sharps couldn’t believe they could get -2.5 and then -3 right off the bat. And money kept pouring in! As you consider the game today…note that Rams support has dried up at -4.5. Dog lovers haven’t yet come on Arizona, but may between now and kickoff. There was no reason for dog bettors to jump in until the ground settled.

The total opened at 41, and has been bet down to 40.5. That’s also a reflection of support for St. Louis, whose defense has thrown two shutouts in a row…and is once again facing a quarterback who may be in over his head given the importance of this high pressure game for the Cardinals.

ARMY VS. NAVY (3 p.m. ET Saturday on CBS, in Baltimore): The big move here was on the Over/Under, as an opening total of 60.5 was bet down to 57.5. Quants had it in the high 50’s in their math. Weather is supposed to be breezy, which could influence the limited passing that would go on between two option teams. It’s hard enough for these two teams to complete passes in good conditions.

Navy opened at -15. The game has been bet down to -14.5, which doesn’t mean much because 15 isn’t a key number. Many of the old school guys who like taking big dogs are taking Army. This is Army’s “bowl” game while Navy will face San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl on December 23. But, it’s always a big game emotionally for Army and they’ve still struggled in this series. Not a heavily bet game from sharps outside of that big totals move at the early numbers.

There’s a lot of college basketball on the schedule this weekend. I’ve mentioned in the past that I love that sport. I spend hours in late October and early November preparing my Power Ratings so I’m ready to go right out of the gate. While most people will be watching TV games Saturday like North Carolina/Kentucky, Michigan/Arizona, and Gonzaga/UCLA; I’ll be checking out multiple lesser known teams all over the schedule. I think that’s where the most betting value lies…in games featuring teams that many oddsmakers don’t have time to follow closely.

My best early season advice for college basketball bettors:

*Focus on teams and conferences you know best

*Find and study teams who have a lot of new talent (those are toughest for market to peg)

*Monitor line moves because ALL early season moves are sharp (limited public action)

*Don’t be afraid of underdogs, as many lesser known teams are underrated

*Bet on experienced defenses vs. inexperienced offenses

My years of experience behind the line have taught me that it’s toughest to really pin down the quality of teams who give a lot of early season minutes to freshman. Lines are the softest in those games because they represent a guess. Veteran teams will pick right up where they left off last season, meaning they’ll “play to their numbers” much more often. Note that it’s usually smart to take veteran teams on the road (particularly non-marquee teams that oddsmakers don’t see on TV much) because they can counteract the opponent’s projected value of home court advantage. You start the game with a couple of free points in your pocket because the market overrates home floor in those matchups.

I plan on talking much more about college basketball once the bowls are out of the way. And, you can always purchase my BEST BETS in basketball and football right here at the VSM website with your credit card. If you have any questions about my personal service, call the VSM office Thursday afternoon or Friday during regular business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

See you Friday afternoon for this week’s sharp betting summary in the NFL. Next Thursday we’ll cover the NFL prime time game and the first FIVE college bowls that kick off the postseason on September 20. Then it’s going to get REAL busy after that! Thanks for reading.


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Richie B. on twitter @vsm_baccellieri

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