Watching Key Numbers Is An Early Lesson For Football Betting Beginners

Written By Matt Schoch on September 3, 2021

Football bettors with action on the first primetime Big Ten Conference game of the season may have earned a rite of passage in sports betting tips Thursday night.

And it’s a lesson that might be coming soon to bettors across the state. And possibly the hard way.

The local slate of opening games for Michigan, Michigan State and the Detroit Lions’ schedules all have point spreads that are dancing around key numbers in the sports betting world.

Where and when you place your bets is sometimes just as important as who you’re betting on.

Being alert is among the most important tips for a newbie as the first full football season with Michigan online sports betting gets going in earnest.

There are some other lessons to take in, and we’ll try to cover a few of them here.

Sportsbooks pay close attention when key numbers are involved

We are not the first folks to learn about key numbers; the sportsbooks are all over them.

Football lines are often changing throughout the week leading up to kickoff, but oddsmakers are very careful when adjusting around key numbers.

Our sister site, TheLines.com, has a fantastic resource about key numbers that’s worth a look. (And the site is worth a bookmark, too, to be honest).

The short version is this: Be careful with spreads such as 3 and 7, and also keep an eye on the next level of commons spreads, such as 6, 10 and 14. Even numbers such as 4 and 17 are worth noting because of the nature of football scores.

Football watchers won’t be surprised to know these are the most common margins of victories. For more introductory pointers, see our NFL betting tips page.

Sportsbooks are well aware of this scoring reality, and if they do move a spread from 2.5 to 3 points (and then again to 3.5 later), there better be a good reason (usually heavy action). You’ll also note that anytime spreads move to or across those numbers, there’s usually a huge “tax” to pay in the form of heavy juice (or vigorish) to grab the side with the more favorable common margin.

Michigan, Michigan State, Lions all around key numbers for openers

We know that Michigan sports bettors will be disproportionately betting on the home teams this season.

We’ll be watching the Spartans, Wolverines and Lions more than most, so it makes sense we’ll want some skin in the game. Or maybe even putting our guards up with an emotional hedge: Bet against your team, and even when your heart loses, your account benefits.

On Friday afternoon, Michigan State was a 3.5-point underdog at BetRivers Sportsbook. At BetMGM Sportsbook, Northwestern is favored by 3. A 3-point loss by MSU (very possible!) could result in a big score for one bettor and a push for another.

For Saturday, Michigan was a 16.5-point favorite Friday afternoon against Western Michigan at BetRivers. At BetMGM, you have to lay 17 to take the Wolverines.

Again, this 17-point margin could easily unfold!

And for the Lions Week 1 opener on Sept. 12 against San Francisco, the 7-point key number is in play.

At DraftKings Sportsbook, you can bet the 49ers on Friday afternoon at -7 and still get a push with a 7-point win. If you like the Lions, most other books still have them at the opening 7.5-point number.

The bottom line for your bottom line: It’s worth your time to shop around for the best line and keep track of the movements throughout the week. Our comparisons below help hammer this point home.

Michigan State at Northwestern NCAAF odds

Michigan vs. Western Michigan NCAAF point spreads

49ers at Lions: Week 1 NFL odds

Ohio State football bettors could’ve won or lost based on timing

No. 4 Ohio State handled business Thursday night against Minnesota, though it was a bit dicey at times. In the end, the Buckeyes triumphed against P.J. Fleck and the Gophers 45-31.

Notably, the game ended with a 14-point margin, one of the more common football differentials out there.

This result meant a push for some gamblers, as the line hovered around 14 points in favor of OSU in much of the lead-up. However, there was also a portion of savvy bettors who may have benefitted from line shopping, or solid timing of their wager.

Ohio State opened as a 13.5-point favorite at some books and closed at 14.5.

If you locked in at 13.5, that means you won your OSU bet (and lost with Minnesota). Conversely, at 14.5, you lost with the Buckeyes and won with the Gophers.

The most savvy of bettors could possibly have even won on both sides by grabbing MIN +14.5 and OSU -13.5.

Other sports betting tips to get you started

If we can go back a bit here, there’s also some other essential information to know.

Let’s go back to the basics and direct you to some handy resources:

Avoiding #trendz is probably the way to go

Here’s another important entry in sports betting tips to know early on: For the most part, one of the common things to avoid is “trends.” A lot of the coverage out there surrounding betting involves trends that may be interesting, but are not necessarily actionable.

Here’s a made up one that is obviously not true: Say Michigan has covered the spread 10 of the last 11 meetings against Ohio State.

Does that mean you should bet the Wolverines this November at the Big House? It really shouldn’t!

Those were different teams in different seasons, and those results shouldn’t have much of an impact on the 2021 game.

Other stats such as “The Lions usually hit the over (point total) in September games” really don’t matter, either. It’s a whole different coaching staff and roster in Allen Park. It really doesn’t matter what the Lions have done in the past.

Now, there are trends about specific teams in specific years that could be helpful when making bets, and you could maybe do some mental gymnastics to make certain trends matter to you when making a bet.

But by and large, trends are largely unhelpful for placing wagers and should be ignored. Especially in early September.

Week 1 NCAA football odds

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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