Betting lines are guided by expectations, and expectations are built on public perception. Ask anyone interested in college football about the 2013 Texas A&M Aggies, led by returning Heisman Trophy winner, “Johnny Football” (Manziel), and you are almost certain to conclude that the public has vaulting expectations for A&M. Some might tell you they will be National Champions while Johnny Football wins another Heisman. That could mean trouble for college football bettors who choose to back Texas A&M with real money. In this article, we will preview Texas A&M’s 2013-2014 college football betting prospects.
The Aggies Against-the-Spread (ATS)
Predicting a college football team’s ATS success in the off-season can be difficult, but we have discovered some correlations worth examining. A losing ATS season is usually the result of failing to meet expectations. Those expectations can be measured by a decline in straight-up (SU) wins (from the previous season), a great preseason ranking, and an excellent ATS season immediately prior to the one in question. In 2012, the Aggies were 11-2 SU. After a team wins 11 college football games in a season, it is quite tough to increase that number- even tougher when a team plays in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Looking at A&M’s 2013 schedule, trying to justify 12 wins (a modest, one-game improvement over last season’s SU win total) seems improbable when the Aggies have to face Alabama the second week in September, Ole Miss in Oxford, and LSU in Death Valley. That list is without some less-lauded potential ‘tripwires’ like Rice in their season opener, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. (Do not scoff at Rice; they were one of the youngest teams last year, yet they matured, won their last five games in a row, and have one of the most experienced teams in the FBS entering their 2013 opening game against Texas A&M.) In short, we seriously doubt the Aggies will exceed their 2012 SU win total in 2013.
While we are still months away from the release of the 2013 Preseason Associated Press (AP) Poll, nearly all indicators suggest that Texas A&M will be a preseason top-5 team. The College Football odds makers for 2014 BCS National Championship futures bets have Texas A&M as the team with the fourth lowest odds to win it all. (More on their BCS chances below.) This is more evidence that expectations are exceedingly high for he Aggies.
Finally, going 8-5 ATS in 2012 was Texas A&M’s second best ATS season in more than 10 years. Coming off of a profitable ATS season for the Aggies has added danger considering the hype surrounding returning quarterback deity, Johnny Manziel. Before Johnny, the last underclassman quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy was Sam Bradford at Oklahoma in 2008. The following season the Sooners of 2009 went 4-7-1 ATS. Bradford was injured for the better part of the season, but A) that can happen to anyone, even Johnny Football, and B) over the past 10 seasons, teams with returning Heisman Trophy winners have had losing ATS years in all but two of those seasons.
2014 BCS National Championship Futures Bet
As this is being written, Bovada has Texas A&M at 10-to-1 to win the 2014 BCS National Championship. In a previous article, we outlined our BCS Championship 60% Rule, where all BCS National Champions had at least three of the following five criteria before starting their championship seasons:
1) an upperclassman quarterback
2) a top-20 scoring defense one year prior
3) a preseason top-10 ranking
4) membership in the Southeastern Conference (SEC)
5) a head coach who had been at the school for two to four years.
While the Aggies have a great quarterback in Johnny Manziel, he will still be an underclassman in 2013. Only once has a BCS Champion had a sophomore quarterback, and that was Alabama’s A.J. McCarron in 2011. The difference between Manziel and McCarron is startling when considering the contribution of each to his offense. Manziel was responsible for 70.46% of the Aggies’ offensive production in 2012, while McCarron accounted for just 46.76% of Alabama’s 2011 offensive output. The more the onus on a single player, the easier it is to scheme against that player. Additionally, the more an offense depends on one player, the greater the damage if that player misses any playing time due to injury, suspension, etc.
Having a great scoring defense is so critical to winning the BCS. Knowing that 13 out of 15 BCS Champions had top-10 scoring defenses the year they won it all, makes it hard to imagine that Texas A&M’s 2012 defense (ranked 26th in scoring) will make the significant leap to the top 10 when they look to return only five defensive starters in 2013. They are losing five of their top-six solo tacklers, their top-three tackles-for-loss leaders, four out of their top-five sack leaders, etc.
Mentioned earlier, Texas A&M will have a top-10 preseason ranking. They are now proud and respected members of the SEC. They also have Coach Kevin Sumlin who is entering his second year in Aggieland. Looking to the 60% Rule, Texas A&M meets three of the five predictive categories (60%), so they are not a team without a chance.
Early Preseason ConclusionsPart of what makes playing in the SEC so bittersweet is the schedule: the bitter means having to face some of the toughest competition in the FBS, but the sweet lies in knowing that if a team can manage to get through unscathed, they have a direct line to the BCS National Championship game. While Texas A&M can benefit from SEC membership, coupled with a great preseason ranking, the expectations for the Aggies are simply too high to expect a good year against-the-spread. Beyond the hype, they return the fewest number of starters in the SEC. Knowing how critical scoring defense is to BCS National Championships, it is unlikely that a team with only five returning defensive starters can improve enough to win it all. However, all the other college teams play with 11 on a side- only Texas A&M plays with that 12th Man.