Long-time fans of the Varsity Blues may remember Coach George O’Leary’s famous “Over 3.5” slogan, which stood for the former University of Notre Dame coach’s famous running attack. (Yes, that’s right; Coach O’Leary, the legendary Notre Dame coach, actually used to run for the score!)
After spending 15 years away from college football, betting in the traditional sense isn’t something new for me. In fact, it’s often been said that it was my weekly NFL picks that first got me interested in betting. Since I started picking games back in 2003, I’ve amassed a large following, mainly due to the fact that I refuse to take myself too seriously and, as a result, always have fun with my picks. (If you’d like to join the club and try out my NFL picks, you can do so here.)
For those of you who are just hearing about betting for the first time or who are looking to get back into the game, welcome to The Tao of SB! In this article, we’ll discuss what the numbers 3.5 and Over 3.5 mean in betting and how you can use them to get a handle on the games this weekend.
What Is It?
To begin with, let’s discuss what these numbers mean in betting. The former University of Notre Dame coach would often run his team’s offense and defense through countless hours of practice to gain the upper hand on the opposition. Much like in football, a large portion of the points in a horserace come from the way the betting public is willing to wager on each individual horse. Consequently, for every practice, Coach O’Leary would use a piece of chalk to mark 3.5 or Over 3.5 on the ground to signify how many points he was looking to rack up that day. Today, those numbers are still used to this very day in football and horse racing, and they’ve been passed on to the next generation of coaches and bettors. Today, if you see 3.5 or Over 3.5 written on the ground before a football or horserace game, it usually means the opposing team is favored to win by that amount.
The History Of 3.5
Before we get to this weekend’s slate of NFL games, I feel like I should take a few moments to dive into the history of 3.5 and Over 3.5. For those of you who aren’t familiar, here’s a short primer:
The number 3.5 actually comes from the late 1800s, when it was first used in reference to football. At the time, it was common for teams to run up the score on their opponents during games, which eventually led to the numbers 3.5 being used to indicate a team was “up” by that amount. As you may imagine, running up the score was especially effective during the 19th century, when the forward pass was virtually nonexistent and long passes weren’t used nearly as much as they are today. This is because the defense could more easily defend against the long ball. (The forward pass was invented in 1905, but it wasn’t commonly used until the 1920s and 1930s.)
The three and a half was initially used by the English in reference to cricket scores, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that the number started being used in American sports. (The Romans were the first to use 3 in their sports scores, back in the day. In modern times, we often use Roman numerals—such as XV for XV or MCM for Marathon—but the Romans didn’t always adhere to this system, which makes it more difficult to keep track of games back in the day.)
The number Over 3.5 originates from a different sport, but it still has wide usage in American football. Specifically, in the days before the forward pass and when long passing was the primary means of scoring, it was important for a team’s QB to throw the ball as far as possible. If a quarterback reached or surpassed the three-mile marker (3.0 mi) during a game, it was considered a “long bomb”, indicating a potential touchdown pass. As you might imagine, this is mostly due to the way the game was played in the early 20th century and the amount of space the ball traveled in those days. Nowadays, most stadiums don’t have 10,000-seat capacity and there are rules in place to limit the amount of long passes, which makes it less important for a quarterback to throw the ball as far as he can. As such, most places don’t use the 3-mile marker anymore in reference to long passes, but they continue to use it for points scored via running the ball.
Betting On College Football
If there’s one place you can find every type of bettor, it’s the college football betting ring. Just look for the familiar ‘grunter’ and ‘puffer’ on the sidelines, watching the game and waiting for the action to begin. From there, they’ll do anything to stay involved in the action.
Since I mostly wager online nowadays, it’s difficult to be out on the football field with my friends, who are also sports bettors. But I still make the trek to college football games when I can, as it’s one of my favorite sports to follow. As a result, I’ve gotten to know many of the coaches and the people who work for them on a personal level. (I’ll never forget the time I spent chatting with Coach Fink about fishing, which is why the Notre Dame head coach’s name appears on my “wouldn’t miss” list whenever I do place a bet on a game.)
Because of this, I’ve been able to keep up with the trends and fads involving college football betting, which has made it much easier for me to predict the games’ outcomes. (One of the things I love about the Game of Thrones betting market is how it keeps up with the times. Just like in George R.R. Martin’s novels, the betting public is now more aware of AI and machine learning than ever before, which provides an opportunity for sportsbooks to implement a more sophisticated system of odds calculation. For example, if you look at the college football betting lines for the Michigan–Notre Dame game this weekend, you’ll notice the point spreads have all changed—mostly in favor of Michigan.)
What Is The Current Trend In Football?
As I’ve discussed, since the inception of American football in the 1800s, the score has always been a key part of the game. Today, especially in reference to college football, the line is often used as a means of determining whether or not a team is an attractive bet. For instance, let’s say I’m walking down the street and I see 3.5 written on the ground in front of me. It could easily mean the University of Florida is up by that amount and, if you ask me, there’s a good chance they’ll beat the University of Michigan. (I’d love to be able to tell you this is a joke but, unfortunately, it’s not. Between the lines, here’s what I’m seeing: The Gators are currently a 5.5 point favorite in the Michigan game and they’re also a 4.5 point underdog against the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. Personally, I think Michigan will win this game but, if I didn’t believe in loyalty, I’d have to go with Florida. You get the point.)
How Is Notre Dame Doing In 2019?
Coming back to my original point about the importance of keeping up with trends and fads when wagering on sports, I feel like it’s important to note Notre Dame isn’t doing too shabby when it comes to football this year. The Notre Dame team is a trendy pick to win the National Championship this year and they’ve got a pretty good chance of doing so, too. (I happen to agree with the Fighting Irish; they’re my number one pick to win it all this year. But that’s probably because I know what a terrible season it’s been for the rest of the country. Nobody wants to pick against popular opinion.)
Notre Dame’s offense, which is currently ranked 5th in the country, is led by quarterback Jack Fields, who is averaging 12.3 yards per attempt. The Irish also boast one of the best running backs in the country in Joe Burrow, who rushes for 1,092 yards and 17 TDs. (The team is averaging 7.5 yards per carry and Burrow is responsible for 888 of those yards.)
Along with Fields and Burrow, Notre Dame has one of the best receiver groups in the country, which features a bevy of 5-star prospects such as Chase Claypool and Jayson Doyle. The Notre Dame defense, which is also ranked 5th in the country, is led by defensive back Kendall Fuller, who is making the transition from corner to safety and leading the team in both interceptions (5) and pass deflections (9).