Now that college football playoff rankings are making headlines every week, top contenders are under even more media scrutiny. You probably noticed that many of last week’s ranked powers failed to cover the spread. Georgia, Alabama, Michigan State, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Wake Forest all burned bettors.
Is that likely to continue? Do media darlings fade under pressure? Are lines “stacked” against them because oddsmakers know the public wants to bet on teams that “need” to win? Should you fade everyone on the rankings assuming that most will fall back to earth after playing over their heads for a couple of months?
Look, I’m not in the prediction business. I’m not a psychologist trying to read the mood or mindset of coaches and players. I take bets.
I can tell you that, as an oddsmaker, I’m NOT stacking my lines against contenders. I try to stick with my math. Sometimes one-sided public betting will move the number from my opener. But, you regular readers know by now that sportsbooks don’t mind taking positions against such action. We understand the 11/10 vigorish will give us the best of it over the long haul. Some weeks, it gives us more than the best of it because the public is over-betting “need,” or not recognizing when a team has been playing over its head. That was the case last week.
When you’re handicapping, focus on team talent and health. I can’t tell you how many bettors (and media pundits) talked themselves into bad bets last Saturday because contenders like Cincinnati, Ohio State or Alabama needed “style points.” Your results will improve if you keep that in mind as you evaluate games the rest of this month.
Let’s get to Saturday’s card. Games are presented in Nevada rotation order so you can make notes on your schedules.
Saturday, Nov. 13
West Virginia at Kansas State (-6.5, 47)
FS1, noon ET
This isn’t a “marquee” matchup. But, it’s my most heavily bet two-way game so far in terms of sharp action. I opened Kansas State -6 and a sharp laid that hard. I moved straight to -7. There was immediate buy-back on the underdog. One respected bettor paid -120 to buy West Virginia up to + 7.5. I’m back to K-State -6.5 as I write this. Recreational bettors are favoring the Wildcats more than the Mountaineers. But, we have a good two-way ticket count there as well. I wanted to let you know that the first game on your schedule is getting a lot of attention, even if it’s not a major TV attraction.
Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa (-5, 37)
Big Ten Network, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sharps quickly bet underdog Minnesota at my opener of Iowa -6. I dropped to -5.5 and took another big bet on the Gophers. I’m down to Iowa -5. Not much interest in the Hawkeyes even at the lower number. Remember that points are precious in low-totaled games. You don’t see many college totals lower than 37! Also, Minnesota is seen by many as a more dangerous dog than a favorite. The Gophers stunk up the joint as chalk vs. Illinois last week. But, they are 3-1 straight up, 3-0-1 ATS as dogs this season (upsetting Purdue, Nebraska, and Colorado). Slumping Iowa has failed to cover three in a row.
No. 7 Michigan (-1, 48.5) at Penn State
ABC, noon ET
This was part of my “games of the year” package earlier this year. Several months ago, I opened Penn State -7. They were expected to be the superior side entering the season. Sharps took Michigan + 7. I dropped to six. Buyback on Penn State led to a closing line of -6.5. I reopened this week at Penn State -1. Sharps bet Michigan hard at + 1 and pick-em. I’ve flipped favorites. That stopped Michigan money for now, but didn’t bring in many Penn State bets. I see other stores higher than Michigan -1. There’s been a little play Under my opening total of 48.5. Not enough to move the number. I’ll only mention totals that have moved from this point forward.
No. 19 NC State at No. 9 Wake Forest (-2, 66.5)
ACC Network, 7:30 p.m. ET
Pretty good two-way play at my opener of Wake Forest -2. The public is favoring Wake slightly as a ranked team in a bounce-back spot. Sharps like NC State enough to keep the line from rising toward the key number of three. By now, you regulars know how important that is. If sharps liked Wake, this line would have jumped from two to three pretty quickly. Any time a football point spread sits at 2.5 or 2 for a long time, sharps respect the dog.
No. 8 Oklahoma (-5.5, 62) at No. 12 Baylor
FOX, noon ET
Great betting game. A bunch of tickets both ways. My opening line of OU -5.5. hasn’t moved. Six isn’t as important of a number as three in football betting. But, it is a meaningful indicator. If sharps liked a favorite laying -5.5, they would bet the line to six quickly. Here, the tug-of-war is pulling the other way. It’s not strictly a “sharps vs. public” game. But, sharp influences are keeping the game below six. My total opened 62.5. Early money came in on the Under. I dropped straight to 61.5. Over money hit Thursday morning, putting the current total at 62.
No. 10 Notre Dame (-5.5, 64) at Virginia
ABC, 7:30 ET
Very similar to the game just above with a ranked favorite on the road laying -5.5 in a great betting attraction that’s drawing a lot of early interest. This line also hasn’t moved off the opener. The public is stronger on Notre Dame (as usual), which means the sharp “pull” on home dog Virginia is a bit stronger than we’re seeing with Baylor. Note that this was also in my “games of the year” package. Back then Notre Dame opened -6, and closed -6.5. A primetime start guarantees a high handle by kickoff.
Colorado at UCLA (-17, 57)
Pac 12 Network, 9 p.m. ET
We have a lot of readers from Los Angeles, so I try to include UCLA and USC games each week. USC’s matchup with California was postponed by covid protocols in Berkeley. Here, UCLA opened -15.5 and sharps laid that, then kept betting at -16. I moved straight to -17. That slowed down Bruins bets, but didn’t create any Colorado interest. I’d expect this one to close higher with the late kickoff. It’s going to be “UCLA or pass” for most Vegas bettors.
Washington State at No. 3 Oregon (-14, 57.5)
ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET
Only public money on the favorite so far at my opening line of Oregon -14. Sharps aren’t betting yet. That tells me they’re hoping to get + 14.5 (or better) before kickoff. Oregon is one of those “must-win” teams in the playoff rankings. Wiseguys know Wazzu has been money for weeks. State has covered six games in a row, with outright upsets of California, Oregon State and Arizona State. It will be very interesting watching betting markets for this game Saturday afternoon and evening. Sharps are waiting to pounce.
No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 13 Auburn (-5.5, 50)
ESPN, noon ET
Another game that’s been sitting at 5.5 all week. Once again, I’m writing good two-way action in a big TV matchup. You can assume again that the public is slanted toward the favorite, while sharps are pulling on the dog with enough strength to keep the line below six.
No. 14 Texas A&M (-2.5, 57) at No. 16 Mississippi
ESPN, 7 p.m. ET
Two more SEC West teams ranked in the mid-teens. By now you know what I’m going to say whenever a game’s been sitting at 2.5 for a long time. Sharps like the dog. If they liked the favorite, the game would have been bet to three quickly. Wiseguys will either take + 2.5 or bet Ole Miss on the money line to win straight up. If public interest on the favorite does eventually lift the line to a field goal, sharps would race to the betting window. My opening total of 56 was first bet up to 56.5 and then to 57 Thursday morning.
No. 1 Georgia (-20, 56) at Tennessee
CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET
I opened Georgia -20.5 and sharps took Tennessee at that price. I had multiple guys pay -120 to buy up to + 21. I’ve dropped the line to Georgia -20. The public is definitely taking the favorite. Ticket count will go to Georgia. The line is coming down anyway because sharps prefer the dog at anything over 20.
Purdue at No. 5 Ohio State (-20.5, 62.5)
ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
I’m shocked. Ohio State is one of those “must-win”, highly-ranked favorites that the public usually loves to bet. But, my current ticket count is about 2/1 for Purdue! The Boilermakers have become a public dog after upsetting Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan State. Purdue looked great last week against Sparty. Recreational bettors often take teams that just played well on TV (like they bet Sparty last week off the Michigan win). I opened OSU -21. Sharps took that pretty hard, so I dropped straight to -20. I took enough Buckeyes bets to rise up to -20.5. Be sure you shop around on this one. I’m seeing prices anywhere from 20 to 21.5. You can lay less than three TDs, or take more than three TDs depending on which side you prefer.
Miami (-2.5, 60) at Florida State
ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET
This was part of my “games of the year” package. I was very high on Miami during the offseason. I opened Miami -9! We took some bets on the Hurricanes. I could have lifted the line, but decided not to and closed Miami -9. I reopened Miami -2.5 this week. Another game sitting at 2.5 for a long time. The public is betting Miami. Sharps are waiting to see if they can get FSU at the full three. My opening total of 60.5 was bet down to 60.
UAB at Marshall (-5, 55)
CBS Sports Network, 3:30 ET
I’m including this one because it was also part of my “games of the year” package. I try to feature something from every conference in the offseason. This was actually bet very aggressively back then. I opened Marshall -6. A guy I respect bet UAB. I moved all the way down to Marshall -4.5. Sharps bet UAB + 4.5, + 4, + 3.5 and + 3. I closed at Marshall -2. Turns out I may have been right after all. I reopened this week at Marshall -5. We’ve taken decent two-way action at that price.
Nevada at No. 24 San Diego State (-3, 45.5)
CBS Sports Network, 10:30 p.m. ET
I opened San Diego State -2, which sharps laid and also laid -2.5. I’m currently at SDSU -3. You can see what I mean about sharps laying -2 or -2.5. quickly when they like a short favorite. They want three to be a win, not a push. A stale 2 or 2.5 means sharps don’t like the favorite. I have been getting some play back on Nevada + 3 from other sharps. This could be a game that hops between 2.5 and 3 all the way to Saturday’s late kickoff.
Best of luck with your college football bets on Saturday. I’ll be back with you to look at Sunday and Monday night NFL.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.