Stanford’s Unbeaten Season Pays Off for Bettors Prior to Oregon Showdown

Stanford University’s football team has helped bettors cash winning tickets for more than a year as it piles up victories on the field.

With Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck at quarterback, Stanford has gone 14-0-1 against oddsmakers’ point spreads in its last 15 games, including an 9-0 mark this season.

A bettor who had placed a $100 wager on the Cardinal in the first game of the run and let the winnings ride on each game since would have won $854,125, according to RJ Bell, the chief executive of Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com. The hot streak hasn’t gone unnoticed by bettors, many of whom have made a profit on Stanford at the expense of Las Vegas’s sports books.

“They’ve been a thorn in our side all year,” Jay Rood, the sports book director at the MGM Mirage, said in a telephone interview. “Everybody likes going to the cashier’s window and they’re becoming extremely popular from a wagering standpoint.”

Next up for Stanford, which is ranked fourth in college football’s Bowl Championship Series standings, is No. 7 University of Oregon on Nov. 12 at Palo Alto, California. The game features two of the three teams that have gotten the most public betting support in Las Vegas this year, with Louisiana State University as the third. Stanford is favored by 3 1/2 points at home.

“When you get down to basics, the public bets for two reasons -- they bet for objective reasons that are on the field, and then they bet for reasons that are not objective,” Bell said. “Stanford and Oregon are two of the three teams that have been bet the most.”

16,384-1 Odds

Bell estimates the odds of a team randomly winning 15 straight games against the spread is 16,384 to 1. The purpose of the point spread is to get an even amount of money bet on each team, reducing risk for the bookmakers, which profit on wager fees in addition to bettor losses.

Stanford has won eight of its nine games this season by 25 or more points. The only team to stay within 10 points was Southern California, which lost 56-48 in triple overtime two weeks ago. Stanford had been a 7 1/2-point favorite and covered the spread when USC lost a fumble in the third overtime after the Cardinal scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

In order to keep its chances of playing in the national championship game, Stanford doesn’t need to cover the spread against Oregon. It just needs to win the game.

While Stanford is fourth in the BCS, it hasn’t been able to pass the University of Alabama, which slipped only one spot to third following last week’s home loss to top-ranked Louisiana State. A win over Oregon (8-1) may help the Cardinal gain ground in the polls and computer rankings that determine the BCS standings and title-game participants.

‘Play Better’

“We’ve played well this year, but in this game we’ve got to play better than we’ve played all year,” Stanford coach David Shaw told reporters on a conference call this week. “That’s just a fact.”

With a victory, Stanford could also avenge its only loss in the past two years -- a 52-31 defeat at Oregon on Oct. 2, 2010. That came three weeks before the Cardinal last failed to cover a point spread in a 38-28 home win against Washington State.

Since then, Stanford has delivered a winning ticket every game for bettors.

“You just can’t slow it down until the bettors get burned by them and so far they haven’t,” Rood said. “I guarantee you we’re going to need Oregon when it’s all said and done.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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