One of the most exciting betting weekends of the calendar year has arrived. College football’s “Championship Weekend” kicks off Friday evening. Two league champs will be crowned Friday, eight more Saturday.
While most media attention is on the SEC title tilt featuring No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Alabama, there’s been a lot of market action across the board this week. Here’s a look at how sharps and recreational bettors have been placing their bets so far. As always, games are presented in Nevada rotation order so you can make notes on your schedules.
Friday, Dec. 3
Conference USA Championship
Western Kentucky (-3, 72.5) at UTSA
CBS Sports Network, 7:00 p.m. ET
Regular Season Meeting: UTSA (+ 3) won at W. Kentucky 52-46
I opened Texas-San Antonio -2 and sharps have absolutely pounded Western Kentucky through pick-em all the way to the key number of 3. Wiseguys clearly love Western at -2.5 or better. On one hand, this is a bit surprising because UTSA won their regular-season meeting on the ROAD at this same price. Western Kentucky was -3 at home, LOST, but is now -3 in San Antonio?
On the other hand, sharps bet hard against UTSA last week against North Texas. UNT covered that one by about 30 points. Handicappers focusing on “recent form” see that Western Kentucky is 7-0 straight up, 6-1 ATS since that loss to UTSA. San Antonio has looked pretty shaky with three straight non-covers closing out its regular schedule. A lot of interest in Over/Unders this week. Here, my opening total of 72 is up to 72.5 from public money.
Pac-12 Championship (in Las Vegas)
No. 10 Oregon vs. No. 17 Utah (-2.5, 58)
ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET
Regular Season Meeting: Utah (-3) won at home 38-7
Another rematch. I opened Utah -3.5 and sharps took Oregon, so I dropped to the key number of 3. On Thursday morning, I took another big bet on the Ducks, so I’m down to Utah -2.5 as I write this. But, I do think the public will come in hard on the Utes at that price. Remember, this game is in Las Vegas and Utah’s crowd support travels very well. Many of those fans love to bet! I expect the South Point will be back at Utah -3 by kickoff.
Sharps loved the Under at my opening total of 60.5. They kept right on loving it at 59.5 and 58.5. You can see I moved a full point both times rather than stopping at 60 and 59. I’m now at 58, which stopped the Under interest. But, nobody’s buying back on the Over yet. Sometimes you see an Under move like that, and it’s weather related. But, this game is being played indoors at the new NFL stadium here in town.
Saturday, Dec. 4
Big 12 Championship (in Arlington, TX)
No. 5 Oklahoma State (-5.5, 46.5) vs. No. 9 Baylor
ABC, noon ET
Regular Season Meeting: OSU (-4) won at home 24-14
I opened Oklahoma State -6.5 and sharps took Baylor + 6.5 and + 6. I’m down to 5.5, but getting good play back from the public on the favorite. It’s clear that sharps like Baylor + 6 or better. Recreational bettors will want the favorite that “must win” for a chance to make the playoffs. Sharps bet Under my opening total of 48, Under 47.5 and Under 47, so I’m down to 46.5 now, and getting some play back on the Over.
Mid-American Championship (in Detroit)
Kent State (-3.5, 74) vs. Northern Illinois
ESPN, noon ET
Regular Season Meeting: Kent State (-3.5) won at home 52-47
Sharps noticed Kent State closed the season very well (4-1 straight up and ATS its last five games). My opener of Kent State -2 was driven all the way to -3.5 by smart money. And, very importantly, there WASN’T any immediate buy back on Northern Illinois after crossing the key number of three. Going to -3.5 stopped the chalk, but didn’t draw underdog bets. When reading a betting market, something NOT happening is often a very big story. NIU not inspiring interest at + 3.5 is a red flag. My opening total of 72 was bet up hard to 73, 73.5 and 74. The move to 74 stopped the train. No bets on the Under yet.
Sun Belt Championship
Appalachian State (-3, 53) at No. 24 Louisiana
ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET
Regular Season Meeting: Louisiana (+ 4) won at home 41-13
Good betting game. I haven’t moved off my openers of Appalachian State -3 and 53. That’s not due to lack of interest. Strong two-way play so far on both of those options. Why isn’t Louisiana getting more respect after winning the opener so easily? Appalachian State is 6-0 straight up, 5-1 ATS since playing its worst game of the year in Lafayette (similar to Western Kentucky having a great run after losing to UTSA).
American Athletic Championship
No. 21 Houston at No. 4 Cincinnati (-10.5, 52.5)
ABC, 4 p.m. ET
These teams didn’t square off during the regular season. None of the last five games on this schedule are rematches. Cincinnati enters undefeated and Houston is undefeated since losing its season opener to Texas Tech. We’ve been all over the place in this one. I opened Cincinnati -10.5. My first sharp bet was on Houston, so I dropped to 10. Money started coming in very heavily on Cincinnati at -10, and then -10.5. I thought the flood was on. I jumped straight to Cincinnati -11.5. Sharps took Houston + 11.5 and + 11. I’m back where I started with a line of 10.5. Excellent two-way play, but at different point spreads. I expect we’ll be back at 11 before kickoff. The public wants to lay points with the team that “must win” to make the playoffs. Sharps would likely buy more of Houston at + 11 or better. My opening total of 55 has been bet down to 52.5 by smart money. Looks like there’s a chance for windy conditions, though temperature won’t be a concern. I have been getting some play back on Over 52.5.
SEC Championship (in Atlanta)
No. 1 Georgia (-6.5, 49.5) vs. No. 3 Alabama
CBS, 4 p.m. ET
I opened Georgia -6.5. Public and some sharp money drove the line to Georgia -7. Sharps came in on Alabama + 7 pretty hard. Some paid -120 to buy Alabama up to + 7.5. That’s a lot of points for a clash of titans in a game totaled below 50. I expect we’ll hop between 6.5 and 7 until kickoff. I’ll have to hope the final margin isn’t 7 (all customer tickets would either win or push). Georgia has been a popular play in moneyline parlays. Many recreational bettors are parlaying combinations of Georgia, Michigan and Cincinnati just to win outright as favorites in the top four of the playoff rankings. My opening total of 50.5 has been bet down to 49.5.
ACC Championship (in Charlotte)
No. 15 Pittsburgh (-3, 72) vs. No. 16 Wake Forest
ABC, 8 p.m. ET
Sharps took out my opener of Pittsburgh -2.5 very quickly. I’ve been writing good two-way business since the line of Pittsburgh -3. My opening total of 72 was bet up to 72.5, then back down to 72. This one isn’t attracting a lot of media attention, but will still draw bets as a prime time TV attraction.
Big Ten Championship (in Indianapolis)
No. 2 Michigan (-11, 44) vs. No. 13 Iowa
FOX, 8 p.m. ET
Good two-way play here. We’ve been going back and forth between 10.5 and 11. I opened Michigan -10.5. Money comes in on the Wolverines at that price, but on the Hawkeyes at + 11. That’s a very tall spread for a game with such a low total. Though, the price itself tells you how little respect Iowa is getting these days. Iowa was a dog at struggling Nebraska. Here, Iowa is a double-digit dog against a team facing one of the biggest letdown spots of all time. Big test of focus and preparation for Coach Harbaugh of Michigan. Not much betting action yet at my opening total of 44. A bit more interest on the Under.
Mountain West Championship
Utah State at No. 19 San Diego State (-6, 50.5)
FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Note the time change here. It’s listed at the bottom of the Nevada rotation, but is a noon start local time (3 p.m. ET). My opener of San Diego State -3.5 has been climbing steadily up the ladder. Sharps laid -3.5, -4, -4.5 and -5.5. Since moving to SDSU -6 I’ve been writing two-way business. Sharps clearly like SDSU at -5.5 or less. My opening total of 50.5 hasn’t budged.
USC at Cal (-4, 58)
11 p.m. ET
Though it’s not a championship game, I also want to quickly mention the write-in game USC at California (FS1, 11 p.m. ET). This was postponed because of COVID a few weeks ago. We have a lot of readers from Los Angeles in particular, and California in general. This matchup has already been drawing a handle consistent with some of the championship games. As much as Pitt/Wake Forest for example. My opener of California -2 has climbed the ladder to -2.5, -3, -3.5 and now -4. Sharps clearly expect a poor effort from USC. There hasn’t been any USC money yet to argue with them (it was all spent on Lincoln Riley!). Limited action so far on my opening total of 58. This will likely be a strongly bet “get-even” type game because of the late Saturday kickoff. Losing bettors will be looking for a bailout. Winners will have some extra cash to play with before calling it a day.
Best of luck during Championship Weekend! Look for this week’s NFL update, including Monday’s greatly anticipated showdown between the red-hot New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.