By Zack Schlegel
Oregon State vs. Oklahoma State
Friday, August 30th, 2019
7:30 p.m. — Reser Stadium, Corvallis OR
Betting Line: Oklahoma State -14.5, o/u: 72 (via Bovada)
I can only speak for myself when I say this, but why does it feel like it’s been an entire month since the Miami vs. Florida game was played last Saturday? How dare they tease us with two sloppy yet incredibly stimulating football games, only to make us wait nearly 120 hours for more action. Thankfully, the wait will be over soon. We can throw week 0 behind us right there in the backseat with the rest of the MLB regular season, and anxiously look forward to the first full weekend of college football action.
The Pac-12 got off to a brutal start when Arizona QB Khalil Tate was tackled just short of the goal line on the final play of their game at Hawaii. The score would’ve potentially sent the game to overtime, or given the Wildcats a chance to end the game on a 2-pt conversion attempt.
The conference will have a number of chances this weekend to reclaim their dignity and make a statement to the rest of the college football world moving forward. The Beavers will have an opportunity to make one of those statements this Friday night at Reser Stadium, when they host Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State.
Vegas opened this game with Oklahoma State as a 16.5-point favorite in most books. That line has been slowly bet down to 14 or 14.5 depending on where you like to lay your cash. The initial money line for the game had Oregon State at +500 ($100 bet wins you $500), and is currently sitting around +425.
Last season, the public saw Oklahoma State do whatever they wanted on offense against a Texas team that is apparently “back”. The Cowboys led 31-14 at halftime, Biletnikoff award finalist Tylan Wallace recorded 222 yards receiving (2 TD’s), they dominated time of possession, and racked up 500+ yards of total offense in a 38-35 victory.
Every one of the five games thereafter was either a win or a one possession loss. One of those losses was on the road at Oklahoma. The Cowboys converted a 4th down that resulted in a touchdown with just over a minute to go. The score made it a 48-47 game, and Oklahoma State lost on a failed 2-pt conversion attempt to win it. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that Tylan Wallace kid again. He put up another 220 yards and 2 TD’s in the loss.
The public unfortunately did not see the Beavers 24-point fourth quarter performance, on their way to a stunning come from behind victory on the road at Colorado in late October. Nor did they spend any amount of time watching Oregon State lose by an average of 26.5 points per game in all of their 10 losses in 2018 — unless they were laying the lumber with the other team and the cover was in question late in the fourth quarter.
So, which side is the public on in this game? Oklahoma State. Why is the line moving the opposite direction? Sharp money. In the magical world of sports betting, there is always a public side and a sharp side, and sometimes they may be on the same side. Neither side is always right, but the sharp money always carries more weight. There could be 70% of the total ticket count on the Cowboys, but if a few well respected sharp bettors hammer the Beavers line, the liability forces sports books to adjust accordingly.
The movement from Oklahoma State -16.5 to -14.5 is a result of sharp action on Oregon State, as sharp bettors are seeing value in grabbing the Beavers getting over two touchdowns. Now the question becomes, at what point does this number swing the value to the side of the Cowboys? I would assume that anything under the key number of 14 would trigger a broken dam, and a flood of Oklahoma State action. I would be surprised to see that happen, unless it is a strategic attempt by sharps to massage the line to a more favorable number on Oklahoma State.
Head coach Mike Gundy has been great at motivating his teams in the underdog role, going 5-0 ATS when they were getting points in 2018 (4-1 outright). However, as a favorite the Cowboys struggled, going just 1-6 against the number. In their last 10 non-conference games, Oklahoma State has boasted an impressed 9-1 record ATS, and they’ve managed to cover five of their last seven games against the Pac-12.
Taking a look at second year head coach Jonathan Smith’s squad, the Beavers were able to cover a couple more games than they won last season. Oregon State went 4-8 ATS in 2018, covering just one of their six games at home. Since 2012, the Beavers are 9-14 ATS as a home underdog.
The total in this game opened at 72 and jumped as high as 76 in the market. Interestingly enough, in the last few hours of writing this I witnessed that number drop all the way back down to 72 — suggesting some heavy action today on the UNDER. The trends suggest otherwise. Since 2010, the OVER has been cashing over 60% of the time for both of these teams when facing non-conference opponents.
I usually tend to lean on the Over in non-conference match-ups due to the unfamiliarity the teams have with the other offense. Conference opponents are more knowledgeable of each other’s schemes and tendencies, and are therefor better equipped to stop the opposing offense consistently.
Both of these teams have something to prove this season. As well as Oklahoma State played a year ago in some big games, they still finished with a disappointing 7-6 record. Vegas set the bar at a disrespectful 2.5 wins for Oregon State in 2019, so you have to imagine the Beavers are hungry to prove them wrong. The Cowboys come in with more momentum after their bowl victory to end the 2018 campaign, but this game has the feel of a mini Super Bowl for Beaver Nation.
If Oregon State is going to keep this game close or even pull off the unlikely upset, they will need to play mistake-free football on offense, bend don’t break on defense, and establish the run game with Jermar Jefferson. Currently Oklahoma State’s point total for the game is set at o/u 44.5 points. I can almost guarantee that if the Cowboys go over that point total, they will win the game. Oregon State will not be able to win a track meet.
I can see the Beavers getting into the 30’s in this game like they did against Ohio State a year ago. If they play well on defense, that may be enough for them to cover. My heart is pulling for Oregon State to hang in the game and make for an entertaining fourth quarter. I believe that the Beavers can make this a very exciting game heading into halftime, which is why I do like them +7.5 in the first half. However, I see the team with the most explosive play makers and the far superior head coach making the plays they need to pull away in the second half.
The margin for error is far too slim for the Beavers, and early season mistakes could cause this game to get out of hand at any point. Oregon State makes this a game for the first half, but watches the Oklahoma State lead surge late, burning Beaver ticket holders.
Final Score: Oklahoma State 49, Oregon State 27
Leans: Oregon State 1H +7.5, Oklahoma State -14.5, and Over 72
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