Peterson: Wagering on 2020 college football is more of a gamble than usual
Remember the picture of prominent Iowa legislators Tony Bisignano and Jack Whitver placing the state of Iowa’s first legal sports bet last August at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino? Bisignano bet on the New York Yankees, and Whitver — who was a standout wide receiver at Iowa State — picked the Cyclones to win the 2019 Cy-Hawk game.
They didn’t do a lot of research with their picks. They didn’t need to — however, that may change as Iowa’s bettors plan strategy for Year Two.
Some football programs are reporting eye-opening numbers of positive COVID-19 tests, before contact workouts have even started. It’s not going to stop, either, so just how does that pertain to someone wanting to plop down a couple of bucks on a game when the season is scheduled to start at the end of August?
Beware: While positive outbreaks will be sporadically announced (they’re not mandated), no names or positions will be attached, no matter whether it’s one positive test or many. Schools won’t say if it’s the starting quarterback, the 1,000-yard rushing running back, an all-world defensive end, or a walk-on member of the scout team.
So, how do you place even a reasonably-informed wager?
You scan the social media for information. You talk to someone whose neighbor heard from a buddy the names of out-of-action players. You go with it. You cross fingers.
“The better schools are going to power through this year, because they’ve got the depth,” said Kenny White, publisher of the 2020 College Football Power Ratings magazine. “There’s going to be COVID cases. Kids will be out of the lineup. The bigger schools will be able to plug a guy in that’s just as good as the starter.”
Still, there’s more uncertainty than usual at the betting window and on the betting app.
Let’s say it’s Thursday of game week when word spreads, either officially or on social media, that a significant number of players aren’t playing. You’d planned to bet that team to win, but now you’re stumped.
You’re not likely getting specifics from the schools, considering coaches prefer keeping that type of information secret. The only way you’re likely getting data accurately is from the player, and that seems remote, too. NFL teams put out a weekly injury report for players. Colleges don’t, and won’t.
According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, colleges can’t disclose protected health information without players’ consent. Colleges legally can, however, disclose weekly availability reports — who’s available to play and who isn’t — without citing specific injuries, sickness or other factors that could sideline a player. So far, that’s just an occasional topic of discussion.
“I’m going to bet, regardless,” said Trent Condon, co-host of the Miller and Condon radio show on KXnO. “When I hear rumors, rumblings and see things on social media as well — I’ll take that into consideration.”
In Iowa casinos, $355.3 million has been wagered since legal sports gambling was allowed. People will bet, even without official word on who’s in and who’s out.
“I’m a power ratings guy,” White said. “I’m looking at what every team’s record would be if they had to use their second-string in every game.”
That's the strength in numbers wagering mentality. Which team has the best backup quarterback, a second-team running back just as good as the starter, multiple veteran linemen and an adequate No. 2 placekicker?
And how about this:
With some stadium crowds capped at 50%, is there still a three-point home-field advantage? Will total scores be lower, because the pandemic altered training and practices? Will sloppy play lead to more points? Offenses ahead of the defense, or vice-versa? Will schools play conference games only? Will there be a season?
What’s Condon’s advice?
“I’m not a huge money player,” he said. “I don’t go into it looking to get rich, It’s strictly entertainment for me.
“If you’re looking to make money – don’t bet.”
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.