I was wondering something yesterday: How has Auburn performed against the spread this season? Yes, Auburn has covered in each of its games so far, one of three FBS teams that has covered each week. But I wondered: by how much has Auburn covered? If I looked at “covering margin” the way we typically look at “winning margin,” what would that look like? If I tracked the cumulative covering margin from game to game each season, what would it be? More importantly, how does this compare to previous Auburn seasons? I call this Vegas Margin - it’s something I’ll track (unless we quit covering, then I’ll probably ignore this until next season) the remainder of this season. I haven’t seen this before, but I’m sure someone else has done it.
Still a bit confused? Allow me to explain.
Auburn was a 3.5 point favorite against Oregon. Auburn won by 6. That means the Vegas margin for this game was 2.5 (6-3.5).
Auburn was a 15 point favorite against Tulane. Auburn won by 18. That means the Vegas margin for this game was 3 (18-15) and the margin for the season (through two games) was 5.5 (2.5+3).
Continuing this out, Auburn covered by 4.5 points against Kent State, 12 points against A&M (reminder, we were road underdogs), and 22 (!!) points against Mississippi State. Therefore, the 2019 cumulative Vegas Margin for your Auburn Tigers is 44.
Through 5 games, this is an excellent Vegas Margin, in terms of Auburn history - the second best since 1986 (the earliest I could find betting lines). Especially when you consider the opposition! For context, the highest Vegas Margin for a previous Auburn season through only 5 games was 2005 Auburn at 46. That team destroyed South Carolina 48-7 as 15.5 point favorites and beat a Sly Croom Mississippi State squad 28-0 as 14.5 point favorites. 2005 South Carolina finished the season at 7-5, while Mississippi State finished the year 3-8. This team has taken down three consensus Top 50 opponents, including an Oregon team that is currently the favorite to win the PAC-12. Mississippi State and Texas A&M will both probably end up in bowl games, and Oregon may be a 10+ win team! Auburn covered that game!
Vegas lines give a really good indicator for how you have performed. So how does 2019 Auburn compare to previous seasons through the first 5 games? See below:
(you may need to enlarge these)
Auburn is performing very well against the spread - even when compared to elite teams.
Okay, elephant in the room. Why is 2015 so low? Well, that’s what happens when you’re 44 point favorites against an FCS team and they take you to overtime.
I will add this disclaimer about the chart above: there are 20 games between 1986 and 2008 that I couldn’t find spreads for. Most of these are games against FCS opponents (2008 UT Martin, 2007 Tennessee Tech) but a few are Power 5 opponents (2002 USC, 1987 Georgia Tech). If you happen to the spread for these games, please, please comment below and I’ll add to my database. For these 20 games, I had to consider them pushes. I had to pretend Auburn either won or lost by the exact amount Vegas predicted.
What about cumulative Vegas Margin through the whole season?
2013 really, really stands out here. That’s what happens when you cover 11 straight games to end the season. 2010, 2004, and Dye’s 80’s squads also stand out.
A reminder that Las Vegas sets these lines each week. Ideally, an odds-maker would prefer a team have a net 0 Vegas Margin at the end of the season. So the final Vegas Margin of nearly 150 for 2013 should tell you how much that team overachieved.
Stay tuned as we track the Vegas Margin for the remainder of the 2019 campaign.