Despite pundits predicting that football betting would decline in Las Vegas when other states started to legalize, I can report from the frontlines that sportsbooks are busier than ever entering the first full week of 2021 college action.
That was helped by having a high-profile game like Ohio State-Minnesota inspire a lot of betting Thursday night. Wait ‘til you see the handle Clemson-Georgia creates before its prime-time Saturday kickoff. I’ve said from the very beginning that I thought widespread legalization would grow all markets. That’s 100% what’s happened here at the South Point and throughout Las Vegas.
But enough about that, it’s time to look at what’s been happening in betting markets in all the marquee TV matchups through Labor Day Weekend. I’ll include Sunday and Monday nights in this report. Games are presented in Nevada Rotation order so you can make notes on your schedules. I’ll only mention Over/Unders in games where I’ve moved the line as of publication deadlines.
Saturday, Sept. 4
Stanford vs. Kansas State (-3, 53) (in Arlington)
FS1, noon ET
I opened the game at pick-em and our first bet was actually on Stanford. We took more action on Stanford -1.5. I went all the way up to Stanford -2.5 (as recently as August 14) before Kansas State money showed. When it showed, it showed hard. The line has moved all the way to Kansas State -3. I’m lopsided on K-State, but those were real bets on Stanford early on. Could those early Stanford bets have been so-called “head fakes?” It’s possible, but 1 and 2 aren’t very common final margins in the big picture. And college games can’t land on zero. Sharps are more likely to bet creatively around key numbers.
No. 19 Penn State at No. 12 Wisconsin (-5.5, 50)
FOX, noon ET
This was one of the “games of the year” we posted months ago. I opened Wisconsin -5 and we took some early money on the dog. When I “re-opened” the game recently, I went up at Wisconsin -4.5. Sharps laid -4.5 and then -5. I’m at -5.5 right now. It’s not yet a heavily-bet, game but I expect a lot of action between now and kickoff for such a high-profile Big Ten battle. Penn State money may be waiting patiently to see if it can get a 6.
West Virginia (-3, 57.5) at Maryland
ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET
Pretty good two-way action here. I opened West Virginia -4. Sharps took Maryland at + 4, + 3.5, and + 3. I went all the way down to -2.5, which brought West Virginia backers. Right now, I’m a solid 3. One of those situations where there’s two-way action, but most of it’s around the 3, which would get us middled if the game lands exactly on that number. I think a move in either direction would invite an immediate buy back. Both sides are waiting to see if they can get that key half point. We did have a move on the total here, as my opener of 56 has been bet up to 57.5.
No. 17 Indiana at No. 18 Iowa (-3.5, 46)
BTN, 3:30 p.m. ET
This was another “game of the year” option months ago. I opened Iowa -5 and took some money on Indiana, but not enough to move the line. I re-opened at the 5. Since, sharps took + 5, took + 4.5 and took + 4. I went all the way down to 3 before Iowa money started to show; now, I’m doing even business at 3.5. Points are more precious in games with low totals and 46 is low for a college game. Informed money presents itself on Iowa -3, or Indiana at + 4 or better.
No. 1 Alabama (-19.5, 61.5) vs. No. 14 Miami-FL (in Atlanta)
ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET
Here’s an interesting one. This was obviously on my “games of the year” slate, and I opened Alabama -13.5. It got bet all the way up to -17.5 back then. I re-opened at -17.5, and got bet up again! Sharps took the game all the way to -19, and then -19.5. Nobody’s beating down the doors to bet Miami, I can tell you that. It will probably take + 20 to bring in Miami money. Some play on the total here, with my opener of 62.5 getting bet down to 61.5.
No. 23 Louisiana at No. 21 Texas (-8, 58)
FOX, 4:30 p.m. ET
I’ve written a ton of business on this game. I opened Texas -10 on the “games of the year” slate. It got bet down to Texas -9. When I re-opened at -9, more money came in on the dog. I dropped to 8. At Texas -8, they started to come back the other way. As I write this, many stores in the market have moved to Texas -8.5. It will take a bet here at the South Point to lift our line. By the time you read this, that may have happened.
Texas Tech (-1, 65) at Houston
ESPN, 7 p.m. ET
This matchup has been overshadowed by many others Saturday, but it’s the prime-time game on ESPN so I wanted to include it. Gives me a chance to mention that I took one of the biggest bets all summer on Texas Tech to go Over its Regular Season Win total. Here at the South Point, we only count conference games. I had Tech at 2.5 conference victories in the Big 12, with the Under priced at -150 on the moneyline. (You can tell I wasn’t very optimistic about Tech’s chances). I had a customer bet $5,000 on the Over at + 130, then $5,000 more at + 120, and again at + 110, -105, -120 and -135. All $5,000 each! A huge move on the moneyline couldn’t dissuade him.
For this Texas Tech, Houston game, my opener was bet down from Tech -2.5 to -1. The total is down from 65.5 to 65.
No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 3 Clemson (-3, 51) (in Charlotte)
ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Obviously this showcase showdown was on the “game of the year” list. I opened Clemson -4. Sharps took Georgia + 4 and + 3.5. I’m now at 3. Pretty good two-way business. I’m hoping I don’t have to move off the 3. That 51 is a low Over/Under for a college blockbuster, which makes Clemson by exactly 3 more likely. To me, this has “field goal game” written all over it. I opened the total at 52 and they bet me Under 52 and Under 51.5. I’m at 51 right now.
No. 16 LSU (-3, 65.5) at UCLA
FOX, 8:30 p.m. ET
A lot of business on this one. When the “games of the year” came out, I opened LSU -2. Sharps laid -2, -2.5 and -3. I went up to 4, and they laid that. I started getting money back on UCLA at + 4.5. More recently, with the hurricane hitting Louisiana and disrupting team preparations, sharps bet UCLA at + 4, 3.5 and + 3. I’m down to 2.5 as I write this. I dropped my opening Over/Under of 66.5 down to 65.5 on one bet.
BYU (-12.5, 54) vs. Arizona (in Las Vegas)
ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET
BYU always travels well. We’ve seen that firsthand here in Las Vegas for local bowl appearances. I did downgrade BYU in my Power Ratings from last year, but Arizona could be very bad this season, and may not be competitive against the Cougars. I opened BYU -11. They laid -11, -11.5 and -12. I’m at -12.5 right now, but I’ll go to -13 if I see other stores rise that high. Sharps are already in on the favorite at prices they like. Visitors from Provo will have to pay a higher premium between now and kickoff.
Sunday, Sept. 5
No. 9 Notre Dame (-7.5, 56) at Florida State
ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Another great betting attraction. With the “games of the year,” I opened Notre Dame -6. Sharps climbed the ladder, laying chalk all the way up to -9.5. Then the line started coming back down, with dog money hitting FSU + 9.5, + 8.5, and + 8. I was at + 7.5 for awhile, but dropped the game to seven as I was writing this. (Oddsmakers know how to multi-task!) Fighting Irish fans will like seeing the seven. We usually don’t have to go begging for Notre Dame money. Already a lot of action, so this will be a very high-handle game by Sunday night.
Monday, Sept. 6
Ole Miss (-10.5, 76) vs. Louisville (in Atlanta)
ESPN, 8 p.m. ET
I opened Ole Miss -8, and sharps laid that. I jumped straight to -9 … they laid that. I jumped to 10 … and they kept betting. Finally, a trickle of Louisville bets came in at + 10.5, so I went back to 10. It’s a bit early for the public to bet the total. We’re getting some two-way action so far on the total at 76. Generally, the public wants to root for points, while sharps want to bet Unders when they think a total has gotten too high. We’ll definitely see that in play Monday before kickoff.
Have a great Labor Day weekend! I’ll return for the opening kickoff of the NFL season with the Cowboys and Bucs in our next report.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.