In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the worst storm to hit the east coast in decades, the primary concern is with the safety of residents and the preservation of as much property as possible.
But the sports world must deal with the storm also. Most of the college football games to be played in North and South Carolina have been canceled or postponed, with only two Thursday games, Boston College at Wake Forest and Old Dominion at Charlotte, plus Georgia Southern’s tilt at Clemson (in far western South Carolina) still on the schedule.
In addition, Virginia agreed to move its home game against Ohio to Nashville, Tenn., to escape any possible effect from Hurricane Florence.
Among the canceled games are three matchups that involved top 25 teams: East Carolina at Virginia Tech, West Virginia at NC State and UCF at North Carolina.
The games that remain have seen some interesting line movements.
Why does bad weather affect gambling lines and totals?
If you’ve ever watched a football game in poor weather conditions, you probably know the answer to this. A wet field makes it difficult for quarterbacks to throw, receivers to catch and ball-carriers to hang onto the football. It also makes secure footing difficult. All of these situations are advantages for the defense.
However, even moreso than rain or wet grounds, wind can wreak havoc on offenses and thus game totals. Hurricane Florence is certain to bring strong winds to areas a considerable distance away from the direct path of the storm. Throwing into wind is difficult, but throwing with the wind can also throw off a quarterback’s timing and his touch on the ball. But the worst kind of wind for an offense is a sideline-to-sideline crosswind, which makes any route, long or short, difficult for both quarterbacks.
The line of a game usually won’t be affected too much by the threat of bad weather, with a couple of possible exceptions. Teams that run a large percentage of the time — there aren’t many left, but Army and Navy are two notable examples — won’t be as affected as teams that throw a lot. The other exception is in the case of large spreads of 28 points or more. The favorites in those cases will have a more difficult time scoring enough points to cover and so the line might drop slightly.
Possible weather-affected games
Old Dominion at Charlotte
4 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN3
Opening line: Old Dominion -2, O/U 48
Current line: Old Dominion -1.5, O/U 41
Clearly, the weather situation has had a great impact on the total in this game, as it has gone down a full touchdown since opening.
It’s unclear whether that movement is because of anticipated rain and high winds, or — and this might be more likely — because the game was moved up and should be completed by the time inclement weather hits. The teams expected to play on Saturday and had to rush through game-week preparations to play on Thursday afternoon. That typically would be an advantage for the defenses and might be a reason why the total moved so much.
The line of the game doesn’t appear to have been affected much by Hurricane Florence, with Old Dominion still a slight favorite despite having to make the trip to Charlotte two days early.
Boston College at Wake Forest
5:30 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN
Opening line: Boston College -4, O/U 53.5
Current line: Boston College -4.5, O/U 56
In this game we see an opposite effect, with the over/under actually climbing 2.5 points from its open. There are a couple of theories for this: One is that unlike with Old Dominion and Charlotte, these teams always expected to play on Thursday and so they should have normal offensive gameplans in place.
The second is that the game was originally forecasted by bookmakers with Hurricane Florence already in mind. When the game was moved up to stay clear of the weather, the total rose a couple of points accordingly.
Georgia Southern at Clemson
Noon ET Saturday, ESPN2
Opening line: Clemson -34, O/U 49
Current line: Clemson -33, O/U 47
These lines haven’t been affected much, but keep in mind Clemson is in western South Carolina, near the Georgia border and so Hurricane Florence might not have a great impact on this game. However, the total has indeed dropped a couple of points and Clemson is favored by a point less than it was on the opening line, both signals of possible weather interference.
Some rain is expected in Clemson on Saturday, but the forecast calls for it later in the day and it shouldn’t affect this game much. That brings up another point: Beware of betting lines moving because of the perception of bad weather, when there might not be much that affects the game. It’s possible there is actually value on the over in this game if the weather forecast continues to stay clear for Saturday afternoon.
Ohio vs. Virginia
4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ACC Network
Opening line: Virginia -7, O/U 49
Current line: Virginia -3.5, O/U 53.5
School officials agreed to move this game to Nashville, Tennessee, to avoid any troubles with Hurricane Florence during the game or traveling to or from it.
The first and most obvious effect of the move is that Virginia, a 7-point favorite as a home team, loses the typical 3.5 points for home-field advantage as the game has been moved to a neutral site.
As for the total, again we see the possible impact here of moving a game out of a possible inclement-weather zone into a place and time where there should be good weather: It has risen from 49 to 53.5. This could also be in response to the expected closer game, meaning both teams are more likely to continue scoring for all 60 minutes of the contest.
UCF at North Carolina
Opening line: UCF -14, O/U 58
Closing line: UCF -14.5, O/U 51.5
East Carolina at Virginia Tech
Opening line: Virginia Tech -29, O/U 53.5
Closing line: Virginia Tech -27.5, O/U 47.5
Southern Miss at Appalachian State
Opening line: App State -16, O/U 51
Closing line: App State -16, O/U. 46
Marshall at South Carolina
Opening line: South Carolina -12, O/U 51.5
Closing line: South Carolina -12, O/U 47.5
West Virginia at NC State
Opening line: West Virginia -3.5, O/U not available
Closing line: West Virginia -3.5, O/U not available
Obviously there is no available betting on these games — if you already placed a wager, check to make sure your book has canceled the bet and returned your funds — but it’s an interesting exercise nonetheless to see the effect on the lines in games that were expected to be played in close proximity to Hurricane Florence.
Weather forecasts are far from perfect a week out, so the opening lines might not have accurately been adjusted for the weather. After some bets came in, all three games with totals available quickly dropped at least four points in each case.
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