You regulars know that the Big Ten is a very popular betting conference. A huge Big Ten schedule this week is driving heavy traffic to betting windows for obvious showcases like Penn State/Ohio State and Michigan/Michigan State. But, even a game like Purdue/Nebraska is getting bet like it’s a marquee national matchup.
Throw in top-ranked Georgia facing huge rival Florida in the SEC and Notre Dame playing again in prime time against TV-friendly North Carolina and this could be our biggest Saturday open-to-close yet this season.
Let’s look at market activity so far in all the big games. Matchups are presented in Nevada rotation order so you can make notes on your schedules. Be sure to check kickoff times for the attractions you’re most interested in watching and betting.
Saturday, Oct. 30
No. 9 Iowa at Wisconsin (-3.5, 37)
ESPN, noon ET
This was part of my “games of the year” package first posted several months ago. Back then, I opened Wisconsin -5. Took two-way action at that price and closed the same. This week, I re-opened Wisconsin -3. We’ve taken a lot of Wisconsin bets so far. I moved to Wiscy -3.5. I could easily be at -4. But, my personal Power Ratings have the game closer to pick-em. I don’t mind taking a position on Iowa + 3.5 when the 11/10 is in my favor. Sharps who liked Wisconsin got in early at -3. Those preferring the dog would love + 4, but will probably have to settle for + 3.5. I opened the total at 37. We’ve taken some Under money. Not enough to move the line. I am seeing 36.5 at other shops. Overall, we haven’t taken a lot of Over/Under bets on the games we’ll be discussing today. I’ll only mention the relevant handful.
No. 6 Michigan (-4, 50.5) at No. 8 Michigan State
FOX, noon ET
This wasn’t part of the “games of the year” package. Nobody was imagining this past summer that Michigan/MSU would feature two of the top eight teams in the country! I opened Michigan -4.5. Sparty has been a popular choice for sharps and the public. I dropped to Michigan 4. People are still betting the dog. We might have to go lower. I expect this rivalry showdown to be heavily bet between now and kickoff. We just haven’t found the price yet that brings Michigan money to the counter. My opening total of 50 was bet up to 50.5.
Louisville at NC State (-6.5, 56.5)
ACC Network, 7:30 p.m. ET
I opened NC State -7 and took a big bet on Louisville and dropped to 6.5. We’ve been getting played back on NC State since the line move. Nobody’s taking Louisville + 6.5. I see 7’s popping up elsewhere. Could be a game that jumps between 6.5 and 7 between now and kickoff, with all the action either on NC State -6.5 or Louisville + 7. That’s common around key numbers like three and seven. Be sure you take the time to get the best line for any game you bet.
No. 22 Iowa State (-7, 48) at West Virginia
ESPN + , 2 p.m. ET
This was also one of my “games of the year.” Back then, I opened Iowa State -8. Sharps took West Virginia + 8 and West Virginia + 7. I closed at six. This week I re-opened Iowa State -7. We’ve taken a lot of bets on the Cyclones. But I haven’t moved off the seven. (I had a big player buy a half-point for -120 for a 10K bet on Iowa State -6.5.) This is another game where I don’t mind taking a position on the dog with 11/10 in my favor. Iowa State is in a letdown spot after its crowd rushed the field following the win over Oklahoma State. My Power Ratings have the game closer than a TD at this site. I think sharps would jump hard on West Virginia + 7.5 if it ever became available.
Florida State at Clemson (-9.5, 47.5)
ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET
Clemson opened at -10. Sharps took Florida State. I’m down to 9.5. There isn’t any play back yet. The public has no interest in betting Clemson these days. Sharps were happy with FSU + 10, but put their wallets away at 9.5. They may wait to see if the public shows up to lay points on game day. If not, there may be more sharp play at FSU + 9.5 if it’s obvious that’s the best dog lovers will get.
Virginia at No. 25 BYU (-2.5, 63)
ESPN2, 10:15 p.m. ET
The betting appeal of former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall returning to Provo with Virginia put this on my “games of the year” list. Back then I opened pick-em. Sharps bet BYU so hard I went straight to -2. They laid -2. I closed at three. This week I re-opened BYU -2.5. I’ve been getting good play both ways. We’re pretty well split both ways between sharps and recreational players too. No obvious divide. It is telling to me that BYU wasn’t supported enough to cause the market to go to -3. That Virginia gets THIS much support at + 2.5 suggests meaningful money is on the dog. Any time a line sits at 2.5 for a few days, there must be some skepticism about the favorite. “Soft” 2.5’s get taken out immediately.
UCLA at Utah (-6.5, 60.5)
ESPN, 10 p.m. ET
Also part of my “games of the year” package. I opened Utah -3.5 and sharps laid -3.5 and -4. I was still taking bets on Utah when I closed at -4.5. This week, I reopened Utah -6.5. I’m getting two-way play at that price. There are no indicators for sharp play either way…which tells us that the wise guys would really like UCLA if + 7 ever becomes available. As we saw at -2.5 with BYU. If a line sticks just below a key number for this long, the sharps must not love the favorite. That 6.5 would have disappeared quickly if pro bettors thought Utah offered value below seven.
Purdue at Nebraska (-8, 53)
ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET
This originally wasn’t going to be part of the list today. But, we’ve been getting surprisingly heavy play. I opened Nebraska -7.5 and sharps laid that, which is very important because they were pulling the line away from a key number. I went to -8. I’m still taking bets on Nebraska even though I’m seeing some 7.5’s available. I also took strong sharp play on the Over at my opening total of 52. I’m up to 53 now. Really good action for a game the mainstream media is largely ignoring this week.
No. 12 Kentucky (-1.5, 47) at Mississippi State
SEC Network, 7 p.m. ET
I opened Kentucky -1 and early money was on the favorite. I’m now writing pretty even business at 1.5. Sharps haven’t stepped in yet. The public is on Kentucky. Sharps may be more interested in playing this game on the money line if a juicy number becomes available.
No. 20 Penn State at No. 5 Ohio State (-18.5, 60.5)
ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET
This was obviously on the “games of the year” listing. Ohio State stuck at -12 the whole way, with good two-way play through the offseason. This week I re-opened Ohio State -18.5. The public is betting the Buckeyes, but not enough to move the number. Sharps aren’t playing yet. They may wait to see if something as high as + 20 becomes available before kickoff. Recreational bettors will be thinking “Ohio State or pass” after the Nittany Lions played so poorly against Illinois last week. This late starting time provides plenty of opportunity for the line to go up through the day. Sharps are masters of timing their bets, whether it’s hitting openers immediately or patiently waiting for the best number just before kickoff. This total has been bet up from 60 to 60.5.
No. 19 SMU at Houston (pick-em, 62)
ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET
Great betting game. Though, it’s going to be overshadowed by what’s happening in the Power 5 conferences. I opened pick-em. Good two-way action. No indicators yet for sharp or public sides. Too bad this wasn’t on a Thursday or Friday night.
Texas at No. 16 Baylor (-3, 61.5)
ABC, noon ET
Here’s a case of a 2.5 getting taken out right away. I opened Baylor -2.5. It was quickly bet to -3. That’s what happens when sharps see value below a field goal. And, that’s why you can be sure sharps DIDN’T see value on favorites in other games that sat at -2.5 for a few days. I’m still taking Baylor bets at -3. I do think Texas + 3.5. would get bet heavily (sharps and the public) if it became available. No indicators yet it will go that high. Longhorn fans will probably have to settle for + 3.
No. 10 Mississippi at No. 18 Auburn (-2.5, 66)
ESPN, 7 p.m. ET
I had Auburn way overrated before the season started. I was probably too low on Ole Miss. My “games of the year” opener was Auburn -6. Sharps took Ole Miss at + 6 and + 5. I closed 4.5. This week, I reopened Auburn -2.5. We’re still there. Good two-way play. But, by now, you know what a steady -2.5 means. Sharps don’t like the favorite and will be looking for ways to take the underdog.
No. 1 Georgia (-14.5, 51) vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)
CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET
I knew Georgia was going to be good this year. I didn’t think they’d be THIS good. I opened the “games of the year” line at Georgia -6. Sharps laid -6 and -6.5 and I eventually closed at -7. You’ve seen today that sharp betting over the summer usually hints at what’s ahead in the regular season. Even if you don’t bet “games of the year” lines yourself, pay attention to line movement. That by itself will make you a smarter analyst at the start of a new season. This week I re-opened Georgia -14. That was bet up to -14.5, mostly by public money. Recreational bettors love the Bulldogs. Sharps aren’t buying back yet on Florida at + 14.5. That, in itself, is an endorsement of how great Georgia is. Sharps are likely waiting for + 15 or better on the dog.
North Carolina at No. 11 Notre Dame (-3.5, 62.5)
NBC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Remember when North Carolina was going to make a run at a top 10 ranking with a quarterback who could win the Heisman Trophy? I had Notre Dame at pick-em in my “games of the year” package. Good two-way play back then. Line never moved. This week, I opened Notre Dame -3. Sharps laid the field goal. I went to -3.5. Writing a lot of business at the new price. I see some fours elsewhere in the market. Important that early smart money pulled the game away from a key number. Sharps that liked Notre Dame wanted to get in before the public. We never have trouble writing Notre Dame tickets. North Carolina is drawing interest at + 3.5 or better. This will be a heavily bet game by kickoff thanks to its prime time start.
Fresno State at No.21 San Diego State (-1, 44.5)
CBS Sports Network, 10:30 p.m. ET
This is a prime time game here in Las Vegas. Sportsbooks will be full this week with bettors enjoying a strong late card. While recreational bettors too often see late starts as “bailout” games, you should take some extra time handicapping them. They offer an opportunity to press up after a good day. I’m not telling you to force plays, or hope lady luck keeps smiling on you. But, if you’re confident of a late bet based on solid handicapping, you can turn a good day into a great day by keeping your head in the game for the full card. I opened San Diego State -1. Still there. Mostly split action between the public on SDSU and sharps on Fresno State.
I hope you have a great Saturday playing this blockbuster slate. I’ll be back with you tomorrow for a complete market report on Sunday and Monday NFL. Thanks again to all of you who have been providing great feedback. To all of you first-time readers, welcome! I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow and through the season.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.