The Safest Bet in Sports

I’ve promised that I would never place a 100% win probability on any game on this site, and that will always be true here. My goal is to determine the likelihood of outcomes and identify the safest picks. But what makes a pick safe? When it comes to sports, especially at a non-professional level as is the primary focus here, there really doesn’t appear to be a truly safe pick. But when a specific match-up features the same result, year after year, it becomes difficult to believe that a different outcome will occur in the next event.

This week, Michigan State plays at Michigan. This will be the 11th meeting in which Mark Dantonio is the Spartans head coach. In the previous 10 meetings between these two teams, against the spread, he is 10-0. His team covers when they’re favored and when they’re underdogs. Home or away; doesn’t matter. Here’s what I’m talking about:



Sources for graphics above:

I include the 2nd graphic to show that the line opened at Michigan -4.5, which MSU did cover. The first graphic shows that the line closed at Michigan -3.5, which MSU did not cover. At that point we’re really splitting hairs though; this streak is truly incredible.

The opening line for this game on October 7th is -12.5 in favor of Michigan. I’m not saying this is a guaranteed cover for MSU, but I mean…10 in a row? Something is going on here that the Vegas oddsmakers have failed to recognize for a decade. Will this year be any different? I wouldn’t bet on it.

3 thoughts on “The Safest Bet in Sports”

  1. Line is down to Michigan -10. I’d consider it at that and definitely would if it drops to single digits. This kind of feels like a 21-10, 24-13 slopfest.

    1. This year is a tougher call because there are two factors in play that we haven’t seen before: Michigan is coming off a bye, and it’s a road night game for Michigan State. The bye week may not be significant as it affects all teams differently, but night games are a slight advantage statistically for the home team (roughly 62% win probability for home night games compared to 60% for all home games). Keep an eye on the weather too; early forecasts call for rain which tends to be an equalizer in that it leads to lower scoring games.

      1. I think in this instance the bye week is a boost to Michigan as it gives O’Korn more time to get first-team reps and the confidence that he is the guy coming off of a successful Purdue showing.

        The night game factor is a boost for Michigan, too, as you noted. As we’ve talked, I think Michigan would’ve defeated Iowa by two scores had they played at noon last season, but the night game atmosphere at Kinnick was definitely an equalizer. Ditto Iowa’s game against PSU a few weeks back. It took a 4th down pass that was literally an inch away from being tipped for PSU to escape Iowa City with a win.

        That said, the weather could neutralize those slight Michigan advantages if it rains. Latest weather reports show a 55% chance of rain but are far from certain in their assertion of precipitation. Michigan, as the favorite, obviously does not want it to rain. (Also I’m going to be there and don’t want to sit in rain. At least it’ll be warmish still.)

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