Sportsbooks got beat up in Week 0. It was all favorites covering except for Nebraska. And the Cornhuskers’ opponent, Illinois, was the one underdog that got a lot of money. The public loves betting favorites. There’s no way for a book to make money when chalk is cashing 80% of the time.
This week’s schedule is huge. And there are a lot more games generating two-way action. Sportsbooks will have a fighting chance.
Today, I’ll focus on how sharps and the public have been betting select TV games scheduled Thursday and Friday night. I’ll be back with you Friday to go in-depth on Labor Day Weekend’s marquee matchups, including the much-anticipated Clemson-Georgia and Alabama-Miami games.
Matchups are presented in rotation order so you can make notes on your schedules. Note that very few Over/Unders have been drawing early money. I’ll only mention those when warranted.
Thursday, Sept. 2
Temple at Rutgers (-14.5, 51.5)
BTN, 6:30 p.m. ET
I opened the game Rutgers -13.5. Sharps laid that, and laid the 14 after my first line move. I’m at -14.5 now. I could make a case to go to 15, but not yet. The number is plenty high where it’s at.
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Boise State at Central Florida (-5.5, 68.5)
ESPN, 7 p.m. ET
This is an interesting one. I used this as one of my “games of the year” way back on May 22 and I opened Central Florida -10. That got pounded down by aggressive sharp money. When I re-opened the Week 1 board on July 9, I went up with UCF -4. Sharps laid -4, then -4.5 and -5. I’m at UCF -5.5 right now, though other stores are showing -5. Obviously, the South Point is exposed to a middle there. UCF winning by 5-9 points would hurt.
East Carolina vs. Appalachian State (-10, 57.5) (in Charlotte)
ESPNU, 7:30 p.m. ET
I opened Appalachian State -13. Sharps took the dog at + 13 and + 12.5. I dropped it down to 11. They took that! We’re at 10 right now. I’m seeing good two-way action at that price. I should note that, during the regular season, sharps often wait to jump on underdogs on the theory that the public will drive the favorite higher. That’s less likely to happen in Week 1 when opening lines are the softest (least-informed) they’ll ever be. If professional bettors believe an opener is wrong, they’ll take the dog right away. Sharps like East Carolina at + 10.5 or more. Appalachian State is getting enough support at -10 to create that two-way action I mentioned.
South Florida at NC State (-18, 59)
ACC Network, 7:30 p.m. ET
I opened NC State -18. My first bet was on the ‘dog, so I dropped to -17.5. Bettors laid that and it looks to me like they’re laying -18 across the market. I have a feeling the line is going to go up before kickoff.
No. 4 Ohio State (-14, 62.5) at Minnesota
FOX, 8 p.m. ET
This is, by far, the most heavily bet of the weekday games. Biggest handle by a wide margin. I opened Ohio State -13. They laid -13 and -13.5. Currently at -14, I’m writing a tremendous amount of two-way business. Really strong action both ways.
Finally, a total to talk about! The Under has been a sharp play so far. I opened at 65. They bet Under 65, 64.5, 64, and 63.5. You’ll see different numbers at different stores. I have to move based on our action at the South Point. I’m now at 62.5 to stop Under betting and try to drive some Over interest to balance the ledger.
Friday, Sept. 3
No. 10 North Carolina (-5.5, 64) at Virginia Tech
ESPN, 6 p.m. ET
A good betting game here. I opened North Carolina -5 and I’m now up to -5.5. I’m seeing both numbers out in the marketplace. Good range right between key numbers three and seven. I think it’s going to be a really good game. If you like the favorite, try to lay the 5. If you like the dog, try to get + 5.5.
Old Dominion at Wake Forest (-31, 63)
ACC Network, 7 p.m. ET
I’m including this matchup because Old Dominion is the third and final team to take the field in 2021 after not playing any games last year. Both Connecticut and New Mexico State struggled with that challenge last week; I think ODU has a better chance to compete. There was some early sharp money on ODU at my opener of + 32. Line is down to 31 now. This might be a better game than people think, as Wake Forest isn’t a juggernaut.
Duke (-6.5, 58.5) at Charlotte
CBS Sports Network, 7 p.m. ET
I opened Duke -6. The sharps laid me the 6, but they’re starting to take back the dog at + 6.5. I have a feeling this will go back and forth between those two spreads based on what I’m seeing across the market. If sharps are taking + 6.5, it must mean they’re not expecting + 7 to come into play. Another total I can mention: My opener of 60.5 has been bet down to 58.5 by sharps.
Michigan State at Northwestern (-3, 45.5)
ESPN, 9 p.m. ET
This is the second-most heavily bet game in today’s discussion. I opened Northwestern -7. It seems to be an annual rite of summer for me that I underrate Michigan State! Sharps took Sparty at + 7, + 6.5 and + 6. I dropped to 5 -- they took that. I went to 4 -- they took that. Finally at 3, I started to get some play back on Northwestern. I think this will probably settle in as a -3/+ 3.5 type game. The public will either lay the 3 or take + 3.5. Sharps that liked the dog are already in at better numbers.
Remember: If you hear from pundits that “sharps love the dog here,” that was true at + 4 or better, but is no longer true at + 3. If sharps still loved Sparty at + 3, the number would have dropped closer to pick-em.
Chris Andrews is the Sportsbook Director at the South Point in Las Vegas, and has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.