You were probably thinking that football betting quieted down early this week, as everyone waited for more news on college football personnel developments or NFL COVID news. Wrong!
Recreational bettors cleaned up last week with so many favorites cashing tickets (straight bets, parlays, teasers, etc…). They’ve been anxious to reinvest in early bowl games and pro football. Traffic has been very busy at the South Point all week. Our handle this weekend will be huge.
Today we’ll talk about weekend bowl action. I’ll be back at the usual time Friday to discuss betting developments for the rest of the NFL slate. Bowl games are listed in kickoff order.
Friday, Dec. 17
Toledo (-10, 50) vs. Middle Tennessee
ESPN, noon ET
I opened Toledo -9 and sharps laid -9 and -9.5. Public money kept coming in at -10, so I tested Toledo -10.5. Finally got buyback on the underdog at that price. I’m back to Toledo -10. Some sharps like the favorite at -9.5 or lower. Dog lovers are taking + 10.5 when the hook is available. Good two-way action. I would expect the public to bet Toledo Friday morning before kickoff. Many remember the close loss at highly-regarded Notre Dame early in the season. MAC followers also know Toledo covered its last three games. Conditions are supposed to be breezy (or worse) in the Bahamas. That’s helped drive the total way down from my opener of 53.5. In steps, I dropped to 53, 52, 51 and 50. I’ve taken a little play on Over 50, but not enough to lift the line yet.
Cure Bowl (in Orlando)
Coastal Carolina (-10.5, 63.5) vs. Northern Illinois
ESPN2, 6 p.m. ET
Coastal opened at -10 and early betting took it to -10.5. I’ve been writing pretty good two-way business since the move. Coastal Carolina is one of those teams that gets a lot of market respect from media hype, but has trouble playing to inflated expectations. The team is just 1-5 ATS its last six outings. That includes outright losses to Georgia Southern and Appalachian State and an OT win laying two touchdowns to South Alabama. Northern Illinois was a feisty dog in its upset of Kent State to win the MAC Championship game. On game day, bettors that lost recently with Coastal Carolina as chalk may be less likely to lay double digits again. I’m very interested to see how betting action plays out. My opening total of 63.5 hasn’t moved. Good two-way business so far.
Saturday, Dec. 18
Boca Raton Bowl
Appalachian State (-3, 67) vs. Western Kentucky
ESPN, 11 a.m. ET
Moving to Saturday now. Another great betting game. I haven’t moved off my opener of Appalachian State -3. Pretty good two-way action. My ticket counts are almost even. I see a blanket “3” across the market as I write this. We may not move off this key number at all before kickoff. Both teams could enter with chips on their shoulders after losing conference championship games. Both were playing well before those losses. My opening total of 68 was bet down to 67.5 and 67. Decent two-way action at 67. Keep an eye on the weather. Wind would probably be a bigger problem for pass-heavy Western Kentucky.
Celebration Bowl (in Atlanta)
South Carolina State vs. Jackson State (-10.5, 42.5)
ABC, noon ET
We’ve been writing a lot of business in this one. As of now, it has the second-biggest handle of the weekend bowls (behind only Oregon State/Utah State). Deion Sanders has been making headlines as Jackson State’s head coach. I read the game is already a sell-out. Sharps have been betting against Deion. My opener of Jackson State -12 was bet down to 11.5, 11 and 10. Finally some buyback on the favorite at 10. I went back up to -10.5 on Thursday morning. My opening total of 41.5 rose to 42.5 on one sharp bet. I give a lot of respect to wiseguys in games like this featuring teams I haven’t been able to follow closely all season.
New Mexico Bowl (in Albuquerque)
UTEP vs. Fresno State (-12, 51)
ESPN, 2:15 p.m. ET
A lot of line movement here driven by off-field developments. Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer was hired away by Washington. Star quarterback Jake Haener was going to leave. Fresno brought back prior head coach Jeff Tedford and Haener decided to stay. Amidst all that. My opener of Fresno State -13.5 was bet down to 13, 12.5, 11.5 and 11…then back up to -11.5 and -12. Money-wise, I’m pretty even on both sides. But, I sure don’t want the final margin to land on 12. My opening total of 52 has been bet down to 51. Good two-way play at 51.
Independence Bowl (in Shreveport)
UAB vs. No. 13 BYU (-7, 55)
ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
Another game with very good action. I opened BYU -7 and sharps took the dog, so I dropped to 6.5. Recreational bettors laid that back, so I’ve returned to where I started at BYU -7. We know wiseguys like the dog at + 7. UAB covered its last three games and went 7-2-1 ATS its last 10 games. BYU has played a high-profile schedule this season, but went just 2-5 ATS its last seven games. BYU looks to have superior talent. How do you get up to play UAB in Shreveport when you just beat USC in the Coliseum? That’s the handicapping challenge every year in many of these early bowls. Do you bet superior talent on the favorite, or the likelihood of superior motivation for the dog? My opening total of 54.5 is up to 55.
Lending Tree Bowl (in Mobile)
Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty (-9, 58)
ESPN, 5:45 p.m. ET
May not be a high-handle game, but good two-way action so far. Sharps took Eastern Michigan + 9 on my opener, so I dropped to Liberty -8.5. A buyback has me back where I started. Very little action so far on my opening total of 58. Telecast will give you a chance to scout Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. He knows he needs a big performance after closing the season with losses to Ole Miss, Louisiana, and Army. Monitor the weather forecast. Currently a very good chance for thunderstorms Saturday in Mobile.
Los Angeles Bowl
Oregon State (-7.5, 68) vs. Utah State
ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET
My opener of Oregon State -8 was bet down to -7.5. We’ve been writing really good two-way business since then. I see the spread dropping further at other shops. No reason for us to drop given our current bet mix. A lot of smart money on the Over here. My opener of 64.5 was bet up to 65. Over money continued strong, so I moved straight to 67. Then, a respected regular customer made a large bet on Over 67. I’m currently at 68. We are taking some bets on Under 68. That’s the highest number in the world right now. Fine by me if more people want to bet Under 68 to help offset that big Over bet. Could be a very entertaining game. Oregon State went 7-4 ATS its last 11 games. Utah State is 6-1 ATS its last seven, including that big upset of San Diego State in the Mountain West Championship game.
New Orleans Bowl
Marshall vs. No. 23 Louisiana (-5.5, 55)
ESPN, 9:15 p.m. ET
I gave Louisiana some consideration for “home crowd” in this short trip from Lafayette. The program is 4-1 straight up in the New Orleans Bowl since 2011. My opener of Louisiana -6 was bet down to -5.5 -5 and -4.5. Chalk interest finally showed at -4.5. Favorite was bet back up to -5 and -5.5. Louisiana lost its head coach Billy Napier to Florida after winning the Sun Belt this season. Everyone seems happy that co-offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux was promoted to take his place. This total is way up from my opener of 51.5. Sharps hit early, so I moved all the way to 53.5. They kept right on betting Over 53.5 and 54. I’m now at 55. I’m finally taking some Under bets. But, I see other shops moving even higher.
Monday, Dec. 20
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Tulsa (-9.5, 53.5) vs. Old Dominion
ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Not a lot of early betting because this one’s still a few days away. Sharps took Old Dominion at my opener of + 10. I’m down to 9.5. My opening total of 53 has been bet up to 53.5.
We’ll pick up with action for Tuesday and beyond in my next college bowl market report. That’s scheduled to hit the website late Monday afternoon. I want to give sharps and the public time to bet those games more decisively.
If you’re wondering about the College Football Playoff, here’s a quick look at where we stand now…
*Georgia opened -7 vs. Michigan. That was bet up quickly to -7.5 and I’ve been writing really good two-way business at 7.5. Bettors who think Georgia and Alabama are the class of the country don’t mind laying the hook. Dog lovers that have been riding Michigan of late can’t believe they’re getting more than a touchdown with the hottest team in the country (Michigan covered its last three games by 25, 21.5 and 27.5 points.)
*Alabama opened -13 vs. Cincinnati. That was bet up quickly to -13.5 and I’m still taking mostly Alabama bets. It’s inevitable that we’ll get to -14 at some point. I believe sharps are waiting to see a full + 14 before taking this dog.
I look forward to covering all the bowl betting action for you these next few weeks. I’ll see you again Friday afternoon for a complete breakdown of weekend NFL.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.