Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: UNC coach Larry Fedora
- UNC announced that 13 players will be suspended for early-season games.
- The players suspended have almost no impact on the betting line, so anyone rushing to blindly back Cal as a Week 1 favorite against North Carolina should think twice.
- This situation is a good lesson in how a betting market can overreact to inconsequential news.
North Carolina announced on Monday that 13 players will be suspended for selling team-issued shoes earlier this year. The suspensions range in length from one to four games, and some will be staggered, so not every player will miss the team’s Week 1 contest against Cal.
The Action Network college football handicappers Collin Wilson and Ken Barkley break down what this means to UNC, why bettors might overreact to this news, and why this might give Cal some help reaching its win total.
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Will the betting market overreact to UNC’s suspensions?
Barkley: Breaking news is an interesting concept in the sports gambling world. Most people with a few hundred bucks in an account just automatically think “I’VE GOTTA GET DOWN ON WHATEVER RIGHT NOW!” so they can beat the line movement. And honestly, that’s just not the case in a lot of situations.
I don’t have my final numbers for the UNC-Cal spread, but it’s possible this frenzy and overreaction could actually create value on Carolina. There just aren’t many individual players in college football worth that much to a spread.
That’s especially true for Carolina: The Tar Heels have two pretty equal quarterbacks, so the staggered suspensions really limit the impact. Does this really swing things in a meaningful, measurable way? Maybe not, so a media frenzy would create betting value in the way you wouldn’t expect — on the team with 13 suspended players.
Wilson: These suspensions certainly hurt UNC’s depth, especially along the offensive line (four players). The loss of QB Chazz Surratt for four games might hurt, but the difference between him and Nathan Elliott is minimal.
I already liked UNC at +6 in its opener against Cal. S&P+ listed this game as a pick’em, while my power ratings made this Cal -5. It’s off the board now, but oddsmakers will eventually re-open the line, and any number north of +7.5 for the Tar Heels has value. Bettors might blindly back Cal in wake of this news, despite none of the players who will miss that game meaning much to the spread.
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The biggest loss is Malik Carney, who had 12 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2017. Carney’s suspension is staggered, so he’ll sit against East Carolina, UFC, Pitt and Virginia Tech. That means Carney will be available in two big road tests in the first five games: at Cal and Miami.
How much do these suspensions help Cal?
Barkley: For someone like me who bets a ton of futures and win totals, one of my first thoughts was “does this affect Cal’s win-total?” That’s the most interesting potential ripple effect, as the single-game markets and UNC-specific props were taken down immediately.
Before the news dropped, I had already bet Cal’s Over 6.5 win total. In the end, I chose not to add to my position. Why? A few points of movement to a spread doesn’t really correlate to that much difference in its projected wins.
>> Follow Ken Barkley in The Action Network App to get free alerts on all his college football bets during the season.
It’s also Cal, which hasn’t had enough success recently to convert people into buyers at the drop of a hat. I could be wrong, and the market could overreact and prevent me from getting down more at those numbers, but all I’m trying to do is make the best decision possible from incomplete information.