Welcome to Conference Championship Saturday. Today we have 9 title games across the college football landscape. Unlike the previous 14 Saturdays when we've had 50 games to sweat, today's short slate means each game will be extremely heavily bet. As a result, the market will be flooded with recreational money, which increases the value of betting against the public. Simply put, today is a great day to go contrarian because each game will be heavy with Average Joe action.
We saw it last night when Oregon upset Utah 37-15 to win the Pac-12 Championship. A majority of bets laid the points with the higher-ranked Utes, yet the line remained frozen at 6.5. The Ducks were contrarian in a heavily bet game and also saw a sharp line freeze with some late reverse line movement, opening at 6.5, rising to 7 but then falling back down to 6.5 before kickoff.
For gameday analysis and betting updates, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher and myself this morning from 9 a.m. ET to 12-noon on The Lombardi Line. We'll be breaking down all the late sharp action leading up to kickoff.
Until then, let's discuss where smart money is flowing for three of today's biggest championship games.
12 p.m. ET: Baylor (11-1, ranked 7th) vs. Oklahoma (11-1, ranked 6th)
The Big 12 Championship takes place at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Both of these teams sit at 11-1 and, with a win, could leapfrog into the 4-game playoff. Baylor's only loss of the year came to Oklahoma 34-31 on November 16th (although the Bears did cover as 10.5-point dogs). Baylor is looking for revenge after blowing a huge 28-3 lead to the Sooners in that game. The Bears are averaging 36.17 PPG on offense and allowing 18.42 PPG on defense. Oklahoma's only loss this season came to Kansas State 48-41 on October 26th as 23.5-point dogs. Oklahoma is averaging 44.33 PPG on offense and allowing 24.67 PPG on defense. Baylor is 8-4 ATS on the year while Oklahoma is 5-7 ATS.
This line opened with Oklahoma listed as a 10-point favorite. Pros and Joes both believe the line is too high. A slight majority of bets are grabbing the points with Baylor, which has dropped the line down to 9.5 or 9. We've also seen sharp money hit the over, driving the total up from 62 to 65. Weather shouldn't be an issue in this one. The dome is expected to be open and forecasts call for mid 50s with little to no wind. Both teams are 6-6 to the over this season.
4 p.m. ET: Georgia (11-1, ranked 4th) vs. LSU (12-0, ranked 2nd)
The SEC championship takes place at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which means the crowd will be big Georgia fans. The Bulldogs are coming off a 52-7 waxing of Georgia Tech, covering easily as 28.5-point favorites. Georgia's only loss of the year came on October 12th, losing to South Carolina 20-17 as 20.5-point favorites. Georgia is 7-5 ATS on the season, averaging 32.92 PPG on offense and allowing only 10.42 PPG on defense. LSU enters this game undefeated and just destroyed Texas A&M 50-7 as 17.5-point favorites. The Tigers are 7-3-2 ATS, averaging 48.67 PPG on offense and allowing 22.08 PPG on defense. This is a classic matchup of a great defense against a great offense.
This line opened with LSU listed as a 6-point favorite. More than two-thirds of bets are laying the points with the Tigers. This lopsided betting pushed the line up to 7. That's when you saw some sharps get down hard on Georgia at an inflated 7. The Bulldogs have value as a contrarian dog in an extremely heavily bet game. Also, history is on the Bulldogs' side: when two top 5 teams face off, the dog is 20-11 ATS (65%) since 2005 according to Bet Labs Sports. Georgia also benefits from more big-game experience. This is the Dawg's 4th straight SEC Title Game. This is LSU's first since 2011.
The total hasn't budged off the opener of 55.5. LSU is 8-4 to the over this season but Georgia 9-3 to under. Since 2005, SEC championship overs are 10-3-1 (77%)
8 p.m. ET: Wisconsin (10-2, ranked 8th) vs. Ohio State (12-0, ranked 1st)
The Big Ten Championship takes place at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. It also kicks off at 8 p.m. ET, which means it will be the most heavily bet game of the day. Wisconsin is coming off a 38-17 victory over Minnesota as a 3.5-point favorite. The Badgers have only lost two games this season and they came in consecutive weeks in late October (24-23 to Illinois and 38-7 to Ohio State). Wisconsin is 7-5 ATS on the season, averaging 35.75 PPG on offense and allowing 14.58 PPG on defense. Ohio State enters the Big 10 title game undefeated, ranked 1st in the nation. The Buckeyes are 9-3 ATS and most recently waxed Michigan 56-27 as 9-point favorites. Ohio State is averaging 49.92 PPG on offense and allowing 11.83 PPG on defense.
This line opened with Ohio State listed as a 16.5-point favorite. The public is loading up on the Buckeyes once again. However, despite three-out-of-four bets laying the points, the line has remained frozen at 16.5 and even dipped to 16 at some shops, signaling sharp liability on the Badgers plus the points. Pros and Joes have also crushed the over, pushing the total up from 53.5 to 56. The over is 7-5 in Ohio State games and 6-6 in Wisconsin games.
More sharp action
Clemson-Virginia Over 53 to 57
Hawaii 14.5 to 14 at Boise State
UL Lafayette-Appalachian State Over 56.5 to 57.5