There aren’t as many blockbusters in college football this week, but it’s still a fun slate with high-profile games up and down the card.
Before I review how bettors have been attacking Saturday’s marquee matchups, I want to offer thanks for all the feedback you’ve been sending to VSiN -- it’s very much appreciated. I’m honored to see responses like “utterly fascinating,” “great insight,” and “extremely helpful.” I look forward to providing these reports for you in college and pro football all season long. I hope understanding the market helps make you a more successful sports bettor.
Let’s get to work. Matchups are presented in Nevada rotation order so you can make notes on your schedules.
Saturday, Sept. 11
No. 12 Oregon at No. 3 Ohio State (-14, 63.5)
FOX, noon ET
I opened at Ohio State -14 and there’s been no movement yet. I’m seeing some other shops with 14.5, but I’m actually a little high on Oregon as I write this. I won’t match the market until I receive a bet on the Buckeyes. I watched a lot of their game with Minnesota last week that ended up pushing. Ohio State caught some breaks with obvious penalties “not” being called. And Minnesota lost a superstar running back early in the game. OSU will need to do more to impress me. I didn’t move my power rating on the Buckeyes at all.
Not much happening on the Over/Under yet. That’s largely the case in almost every game we’ll discuss today. If I don’t mention the total, it means limited action so far that didn’t cause any moves off the opener.
Pittsburgh (-3, 57) at Tennessee
ESPN, noon ET
Sharps bet me up at the opener of Pittsburgh -3, so I went to -3.5. Other sharp bettors took back + 3.5, so I’m back at 3 now. That looks like a pretty good number. I think any move off the 3 in either direction will quickly move back. Sharps liking the home ‘dog will happily take + 3.5. There would certainly be increased interest on Pitt at -2.5. We’ll see what the public does Saturday morning in this early ESPN kickoff.
Toledo at No. 8 Notre Dame (-17, 56)
Peacock Network, 2:30 p.m. ET
Toledo is one of my “teams to watch” this year. I think a lot of people have the same idea, but will wait until just before kickoff to see what line they can get. If you like Toledo, there’s no reason to bet early. I opened Notre Dame -16.5. Fighting Irish money drove the line up to -17. I told you last week that we usually have no trouble writing Notre Dame tickets. Count is about 95% so far. If I move higher, sharps will take Toledo + 17.5.
This total has moved a point, from my opener of 55 up to 56. That happened after the Notre Dame/Florida State shootout. Math guys probably got a higher grading after they put those stats in their models.
Air Force (-6, 40.5) at Navy
CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET
I haven’t moved off the opener of Air Force -6. There was a little play on the Falcons, but not enough to move the number. Other books went higher before coming back to my line. Navy looked horrible last week -- and last year, too -- but that’s a high number for a home ‘dog in a low-totaled rivalry grinder. This is one of the lowest college totals you’ll see this season. If you’re thinking about betting the favorite, remember that this point spread isn’t as cheap as it seems once you adjust for context.
No. 10 Iowa at No. 9 Iowa State (-4, 45.5)
ABC, 4:30 p.m. ET
Big game. I had it as one my “games of the year” back in the spring. I opened Iowa State -7 at that time and sharps bet Iowa down to + 6. When I “re-opened” the game recently, I was at 4.5 and sharps bet Iowa down to + 4. I do think Iowa State money is “waiting” to show up, just in case the line drops further. The public saw that Iowa crushed Indiana last week without realizing the stats were much closer, and that Indiana’s quarterback wasn’t right. I had heard he wouldn’t be at 100%. Be sure you watch what happens with this line Saturday before kickoff. Iowa State investors haven’t had their say yet.
No. 5 Texas A&M (-17, 50.5) at Colorado
FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
We’ll learn more about Texas A&M’s true playoff chances here. The Aggies started slowly vs. Kent State last week (10-3 lead in the third quarter), and now have to deal with a major conference opponent … at altitude. I opened Aggies -17. I’m showing a higher ticket count with A&M, but I’m seeing some 16.5’s at other stores. I think 17 is OK. I won’t move unless respected play lines up on one side.
NC State (-2.5, 55.5) at Mississippi State
ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET
Did you see how Mississippi State had to rally from 21 points down in the fourth quarter last week just to steal a win from Louisiana Tech? I wasn’t impressed. I opened NC State -3. The market spoke for the home ‘dog, so I’m down to Wolfpack -2.5. I may have to move to -2. I don’t mind a position on NC State. I think they may be a sleeper team this season. And they had a couple extra days of preparation after routing South Florida 45-0 last Thursday.
No. 15 Texas (-7, 56) at Arkansas
ESPN, 7 p.m. ET
I opened Texas -6. They laid me the 6, they laid me -6.5 and they’re even laying me -7 so far. I can understand the support. Texas impressed me last week against Louisiana, but this is a high number for a road favorite in a “rivalry renewal” game (a true renewal because they’ll be SEC rivals in the near future). Arkansas has had this game circled for years. I would expect to see ‘dog money start to show if + 7.5 (or better) comes into play. Should be a lot of betting action on game day for this prime-time attraction.
Washington at Michigan (-7, 48.5)
ABC, 8 p.m. ET
I opened the game Michigan -6.5 when there were a lot of -6’s out there. Customers laid the 6.5, so I went to 7. I’m getting a little back on the ‘dog from sharps, but not enough to move the line yet. Washington was beaten by Montana last week … and it wasn’t a fluke. Game previews all day Saturday will be reminding bettors of that game, which could bring in a lot of Michigan money before kickoff. If the public has a good afternoon with favorites, they’ll likely re-invest with the Wolverines as seemingly affordable home chalk.
No. 21 Utah (-7, 49) at BYU
ESPN, 10:15 p.m. ET
A lot of action here. This was another of my “games of the year” several months ago. Back then, I opened Utah -6.5 and never moved. Got played both ways. I recently re-opened at Utah -7. Same thing. Both teams are very well-supported here in Las Vegas. Many respected voices see Utah as a serious threat to win the Pac-12. BYU fans aren’t used to seeing their side getting his many points at home. Bookmakers love seeing high-handle games like this.
Stanford at No. 14 USC (-17.5, 52.5)
FOX, 10:30 p.m. ET
We got a lot of business on this one, too. I thought Stanford was dismal last week vs. Kansas State. I opened USC -18. Sharps took the ‘dog for a pretty good whack. I’m down to 17.5. I’ll have to take another Stanford bet before I drop to 17. My read of the market right now is that sharps will probably move the line down to 17. The public provides a lot of play in these night games (prime time here in Las Vegas), and would likely take USC -17.
Handle was great for us last week at the South Point (about 30% higher than I expected). Sportsbooks across Nevada (and the country) were happy. We usually need ‘dogs and Unders, and there were a lot of Unders last week. Good mix of results overall. Great to see such an enthusiastic start to the season.
See you Friday for a breakdown of Sunday’s NFL games. And next week at this same time for Sept. 18 marquee matchups like Alabama-Florida, Auburn-Penn State, Michigan State-Miami, Purdue-Notre Dame and Cincinnati-Indiana.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.