Don’t pick UNLV, and other important college football betting strategies

Betting on the Rebels really is a gamble, but there are smart bets to be made.

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Offensive lineman Tiger Shanks #70, head coach Marcus Arroyo and wide receiver Tyleek Collins #9 of the UNLV Rebels watch a replay on a video board in the first half of their game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Allegiant Stadium on November 27, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Cowboys defeated the Rebels 45-14.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Attempting to turn $5 into $100,000 via UNLV winning the college football national championship this season, qualifies as the epitome of a fool’s errand.

The Westgate SuperBook dangles those 20,000-to-1 odds on the hometown Rebels catching a Strip-full of neon in a bottle. They’re 5,000-1 at Station

Casinos, 2,000-1 at William Hill, 1,000-1 at the South Point.

It’s the type of novelty ticket a local might gift, maybe as a bookmark, to a UNLV alum. Why not $50 for $1 million? SuperBook executive vice president Jay Kornegay reports that nobody has taken the bait since odds opened Jan. 12.

You could be the first! he wrote. I’ll pass, I responded.

To illuminate its senselessness, second-generation oddsmaker Kenny White, in his College Football Power Ratings magazine, predicts the Rebels will not win a single game in 2021. He makes them underdogs in all 12 of their tilts.

It’s a moribund program, whose 38.5 rating places it 123rd on White’s chart of 130 Division-I teams. UNLV has had two winning campaigns in the last 26 years. It did go winless (0-11) in 1998.

And as a 45-point favorite, UNLV lost 43-40 at home to Howard to open the 2017 season. Some call that the worst D-I defeat in history.

The sorry cycle continued when Rebels boss Marcus Arroyo went 0-6 in his debut as a head coach in 2020.

Howard belongs to the same Football Championship Subdivision as Eastern Washington, featuring fantastic quarterback Eric Barriere, which White installs as a 4-point favorite at UNLV on Sept. 2.

We present select investments to bolster the college pigskin bankroll, tapping White’s wealth of information and Phil Steele’s annual.

UNLV to win it all is absurd, but we do tap the Rebels in a value angle based on White’s clarion winless call. Around town, UNLV’s victory total is 1½. I nabbed +105 on Under — if it gets lucky once, I’m still good.

At the SuperBook, the Rebels’ win total has drawn attention. Kornegay hears patrons say, “They’re terrible. They won’t win one game. Seen that schedule?” Others say, “They should be able to win two games. That’s not asking much.”

Unfair fights

White and his father, Pete, have been cooking numbers for 95 combined years. Kenny rates every player on every team, reinforcing his figures with his pop’s to ensure accuracy.

Those overall team ratings establish pointspreads and totals. Two-deep rosters reveal Alabama’s stark superiority over, say, a UNLV.

White’s average player is 0. He has 16 projected UNLV starters (not including quarterback) rated between 0 and 1. Alabama has two in that range; eight in the 1s, 10 in the 2s.

Twelve Tide reserves are rated between 1.1 and 1.9. Backup linebacker Henry To’o To’o is a 2.1, better than every Rebels starter.

An unfair fight.

Clemson (134), Alabama (133.5) and Oklahoma (132.5) rule for a reason, why the four-team playoff is such a cabal, why Group of Five bottom-feeder UNLV’s championship chances are less than zero.

None of the elite, however, figure into our key wagers, where the variance between White’s expectations and listed season-win totals is greatest.

At the top is Washington State. I swiped Under 6½ wins at -155. White has the Cougars finishing 2-10, a projected mean of 3.6. The average of those two produces a difference, to that 6½ total, of nearly four victories.


I’m on San Diego State Over 6½ at -120, since White has the Aztecs favored in every game and going 12-0. For a second year, SDSU plays on a glorified soccer pitch in L.A. while its new home is being completed.

White, though, raves about an experienced offensive line, unrelated Bell running backs Chance and Greg, and a stingy defense. He says dual-threat quarterback Lucas Johnson is more than serviceable.

Northwestern (White has going 3-9) Under 6½ at -120 and BYU (11-1, says White) Over 6½ at -140 complete our seasonlong action.

Victory totals at the SuperBook are based on 12 games being played, 13 for Hawaii. Cancellations result in refunds. Rules can vary, so confirm them with your shop before betting.

Here’s some tips

Regarding game plays, the Steele manual shows fading Bowling Green to have produced a juicy 38-15 record, delivering 21.5 units, against the spread over the last five seasons.

At a $100 unit (actually $110), that’s $2,150 in profit over five years from a single action. Few believe any improvement awaits coach Scott Loeffler’s third season. 

Those who also faded Connecticut over that stretch were 41-20 ATS, with 19 units of profit. White has UConn (81.5) and Bowling Green (80) among the worst programs in the nation — at 79, New Mexico State occupies the D-I basement.

In addition, taking Under in Miami and Toledo first halves, and Over in Maryland opening halves completes our top-five priorities. They have yielded 91.8 total units, earning the $100 bettor $9,180, over five years.

Those fortunes aren’t guaranteed to continue, but to start the season they form a proven template. We’ll provide periodic updates.

I know several professional bettors, too, who are lying in wait to pounce on the opening line of that Eastern Washington-UNLV game, believing bookies will make the Rebels 1- to 2-point favorites.

They will savor the five to six points of exceptional value with the Falcons.

But they will giggle at those farcical UNLV national-title odds. 

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