Posted on August 23, 2019, by Travis Pulver
If Christmas is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ the month of September runs a close second to it for college football fans and sportsbooks.
Why? Because college football is officially back. For fans, that means spending Saturdays cheering on our favorite teams. But for sportsbooks, it means something else— money.
The season has just started, so there is no telling how good some teams will be. So, it is not unusual to see a whole lot of movement on the lines and spreads for some games. What that often translates to for sportsbooks is revenue.
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Vic Salerno, the founder of sportsbook operator US Bookmaking, had this to say in a recent ESPN interview:
“September has always been great. The casual bettors love to play parlays and teasers and other propositions, which we have a higher take-out on. By the time it hits October, a lot of them have run out of bullets.”
According to an article by ESPN’s David Pardum, Nevada sportsbooks have won more money in September the last five seasons ($190.3 million) than in October and November combined (190.1 million). While they have had a net loss in October and November 11 times, they have never had a losing month in September.
So, what does this mean for gamblers? Should they not bet on games in September? Would it be smarter to wait until October before you start putting your money on teams? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bet at all in September.
But if you do, you should be aware of the trends common for the month of September. However, at the same time, you should keep in mind that past performance does not necessarily correlate to future results.
For one, expect a lot of line movement in the first month of the season. Oddsmakers are just like fans in that they need to see how a team is going to perform before they can generate more accurate lines. The line will move less and less as the season goes on making it harder and harder for underdogs to cover.
Your massive point spreads (50+ points) are more likely to be in the first month of the season—which makes total sense. That is when the powerhouses schedule their non-conference games typically against much weaker opponents.
According to ESPN Stats and Information (via Pardum), the average margin of victory is 20.4 points during the first month of the season (and including the late August games) dating back to 1978.
This is definitely something to keep in mind when looking at point spreads. But it is also important to keep in mind this takes the 50+ point wins many schools have over lesser teams and the close, hard-fought games won by just a point.
What should this tell us about betting the spread on these early games? Well—nothing. Teams are just as apt to cover the spread in September as any other month (right around 49-50 percent); the same could be said for covering the over on point totals (between 47 and 51 percent for the season).
Does that mean betting games is just a crapshoot?
Of course not. But it does mean you need to do your homework for Week One as much if not more than every other week. But the more aware you are of who you are betting on and how they tend to perform, the less likely you will be to lose money.