The NCAAF betting public is split down the middle for Saturday’s Army-Navy Game. That hasn’t stopped the Black Knights from moving onto the magic number seven. Are they still the value pick in this matchup?

Jason’s record on NCAAF picks for 2012, up to December 5:

14-10 ATS

2-0 ML (+3.95 units)

3-6 Totals

Curiouser and curiouser. According to Wednesday night’s consensus numbers, the Midshipmen (7-4 SU, 4-7 ATS) and the Black Knights (2-9 SU, 3-8 ATS) are each getting 50 percent support for Saturday’s big game. But the Knights have moved from +7.5 to +7 since I wrote about the opening odds earlier this week.

Not that much of a mystery, actually. Money moves the line, and our consensus figures tally the number of bettors, not the amount of money wagered on either side. Also, the aforementioned 50/50 split is based on a small handful of books, including 5Dimes, where Navy was priced at –8 (+110) and Army at +8 (–130).

Magical Thinking 

Betting Odds

Sports bettors tend to act a bit strangely when the football odds are floating around the magic number seven. Well, strangely might be the wrong word. It’s human nature to be risk-averse, so anytime there’s a chance to grab a team at –7 instead of –7.5 or –8, people seem willing to pay more for the privilege than it’s actually worth.

Let’s consider those College Football odds at 5Dimes, which were also available at Sportbet and Island Casino. If you’re betting on Navy, you’re betting $100 to win $110 that the Midshipmen will win by at least eight points. Now, according to the Wizard of Odds, the fair price to buy that point would be just under 16 cents in the NFL. Points are more plentiful in college, so it’s fairly safe to say you’d make more money in the long run by accepting the larger spread, rather than betting $110 to win $100 at Navy –7. 

But what about Navy –7 (+100)? Now we’re talking. Matchbook had that line available Wednesday night, and if I were on the Midshipmen, that’s the line I’d take. As for the Black Knights, I see our friends at Pinnacle are offering Army at +6.5 (+100). That’s not all that much different from +7 at regular vigorish; that half-point would be worth about 12 cents in the NFL. Army +7 (–105) at Bodog and Bovada is the best NCAAF betting line I see, and once again better than paying the premium to go with Army +8 (–130).

Play the Damn Game

Okay, you’re probably tired of splitting hairs over vigorish. But again, that’s human nature, and being a handicapper is all about taking advantage of the nature of other bettors. How many of them even think about the juice in these situations?

As for Saturday’s contest (3:00 p.m. ET, CBS), I was on Army at +7.5, and now I have to decide whether I still like the Knights at +7. The updated efficiency stats show Navy moving up from No. 87 to No. 83 after beating the Texas State Bobcats (+13 away) 21-10, although they dropped the cash for the third game in a row. Army moved up a spot to No. 109 despite losing 63-32 to the Temple Owls (+3.5 away).

This is why you shop early, folks. The rationale is still there to take Army on neutral ground at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Just don’t be surprised if it ends up in a push instead of a win.

NCAAF Picks: Army +7 (–105) at Bovada