On June 7, the Golden Nugget Casino released their annual “College Football Games of the Year” point spreads. The Golden Nugget’s sports book offered point spreads on 250 games starting August 29 with UNLV at Minnesota (-13) and ending December 14 with Army vs. Navy (-9).
So, I picked a random football week from the Golden Nugget’s menu (October 17–19), and laid out the 17 games GN listed along with their point spreads. Finished with a promise to come back on October 17 to see how their June 7 spreads held up.
So, here we are. One of life’s few certainties is that things change. Always. But, the question before us is, how much? It’s 132 days from June 7 to October 17, almost 19 weeks, or four and a half months. When the spreads were first posted, players hadn’t begun preseason camp. College football teams are constantly in flux: players come and go, transfer, drop out, try out. What about injuries? What about those new recruits who were so loved last winter?
According to the Aztecs football website, San Diego State has 99 players on their roster and 11 coaches on the payroll. We’ll assume those numbers are typical. There are 17 games on the Golden Nugget’s list this week — that’s 34 teams. So, multiply 34 teams by 110 players and coaches and you get 3740 people involved in this week’s college games.
How many changes, do you suppose, have been made to those 34 teams since June 7? Arkansas, Auburn, California, Oregon, and USC have new head coaches this year. Normally, new head coaches bring their people with them, which means new assistant coaches. More changes.
One thinks about the insane number of variables that come with 3740 personhoods over a four-month period. Players get injured and can’t play. Players are arrested and can’t play. Players get bored and don’t want to play. Players decide to quit football and star in a Broadway musical. Coaches decide to hustle a better job. There’s divorce. Marriage. Death. Bankruptcy. DUIs. Illness. Domestic turmoil. How can you possibly predict a point spread four months into the future?
Pictured on the left are the Golden Nugget’s June 7 and current spreads.
What’s creepy is how little the spreads have changed. Louisville lost ½ point. Arizona State lost 2 points. Alabama lost 2 points. There were two double-digit changes: Texas A&M lost 12 points, and LSU picked up 10 points. One team, Miami, picked up enough points, 7½, to get a bettor’s attention. Everybody else is in the 6½- to ½-point range. You can make an argument that the right ½ point is enough to turn a bet, and a 3½-point change is huge. But still...