By now every reasonable member of the American sporting press has weighed in on the unprecedented nature of the scandal that has brought down the House of Paterno and rocked to the core what was long considered an outpost of fair play and decency in the otherwise depraved and godless college football mileau. Now it’s apparent to everyone outside of Happy Valley that this was a complete sham and by comparison the garden variety recruiting scandals that typify big time college football look downright quaint. Ultimately, JoePA and his band of child sodomizers and enablers may have provided cover for all the more brazen violations of NCAA regulations—trivial offenses like free tattoos and game worn gear on Ebay just won’t muster much of the public’s attention by comparison.
As a handicapping and betting specialist I occupy a more forthright and honest niche in the sports journalism landscape than most. My world is fairly cut and dried—I don’t have to assume a veneer of morality when the subject of steroids is brought up and suggest that Roger Clemens should be drawn and quartered only to turn around and speak of the ‘redemption’ of Michael Vick with a straight face. There is no ‘redemption’ for anyone who enjoys killing and torturing helpless living creatures for fun and profit, yet the mainstream media hack will never evoke this subhuman practice—along with the fact that he really wasn’t a good guy before all of that—to suggest that he may not have the toughness in character to lead a NFL team. I don’t have to stoop to this sort of duplicity since the world of handicapping and betting focuses on actionable information and how it impacts the game for wagering purposes.
From that perspective, the strangest thing about the Penn State scandal involving Jerry Sandusky’s fondness of young boys and what is beginning to look more and more like a cover up of the same is that none of the fallout of the week has had much of an impact on the betting line. The game opened with Nebraska a -2 point road favorite and was bet up to -3′ before settling at -3 just about everywhere as of this writing. A few books (mostly offshore locations) took it off the board briefly, but they were in a small minority. In a perverse way, maybe there is no substantive reason to take the game off the board—everyone knows that JoePA has been little more than a figurehead for years so his absence won’t impact the playcalling or preparation. One of college football’s most storied programs may be crumbling before our eyes, but in terms of Saturday’s game there’s no way to quantify what this means.
Immediately after the JoePA firing a number of ‘squares’ on Twitter opined that Nebraska would be the ‘lock of the century’ and that laying any number of points would be justified. I’m not so sure—the Cornhuskers’ coaching staff and Nebraska administrators seem terrified at the prospect of becoming collateral damage in the sordid scene. University officials have been in constant contact with their Penn State counterparts worrying about security for players and fans. Athletic director Tom Osbourne has suggested that their fans not wear the school colors to the game due to fear of inciting the drunken mob looking for trouble that will surely be in attendance on Saturday.
More problematic is the mental and emotional state of the Penn State players, coaches and fans. There have been some unsubstantiated rumors that a number of senior players will refuse to play in protest of Paterno’s dismissal. Receivers Coach Mike McQueary—who reported the sight of Sandusky furiously sodomizing a young boy in the Penn State showers to Paterno while a graduate assistant—has been the subject of a number of death threats. Originally he was to coach from the pressbox but now will not be in attendance at the game. Interim coach Tom Bradley has looked like a man condemned to die at his press conferences this week and there’s no clue how players and fans will react to him on the sidelines. They could rally around him for the good of the program, but just as easily consider him the ‘enemy’ with players defying his orders and fans pelting him with rocks and garbage.
There’s not a prop about this on the betting board, but I still maintain that it’s only a 50/50 chance that the game comes off at all. It’s hard to see the benefit from playing—it’s too soon for ‘closure’ or ‘healing’ and the pack of liquored up jackals that jammed the streets of State College on Wednesday night could view this as their ‘D-Day’ and set out for the game with every intention of starting a disturbance. Should Penn State fall behind, their anger will only become exacerbated. Nebraksa will likely demand massive security precautions and a strong police presence could serve to infuriate the Penn State faithful. There’s a better chance of playing an honestly fought college football game at a Hell’s Angels rally than there will be in State College this weekend.
‘On paper’ and eliminating the myriad emotional/subjective factors this wouldn’t be a bad spot for the home dog. The public is squarely behind Nebraska and there’s always the chance that Penn State’s players could play with courage and toughness for whatever reason. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can get a handle on the many ‘intangible’ subplots that could potentially impact the outcome of this game, let alone figure out how to leverage them for betting purposes. If there’s a coherent way to approach this game from a handicapping standpoint, I’ve yet to see it.
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