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Market Insights: Contrarian value in Oklahoma, Ohio State

December 28, 2019 06:36 AM

College football bowl game favorites went 3-2 ATS (60%) on Friday, with North Carolina (-6) throttling Temple 55-13, Michigan State (-4) edging Wake Forest 27-21 and Air Force (-2.5) taking down Washington State 31-21. 

The two dogs to cover were Oklahoma State (plus 5, lost 24-21 to Texas A&M) and Iowa (plus 1, beat USC 49-24). The USC-Iowa game was particularly interesting because spread bets were split down the middle and throughout the week Iowa remained steady at -2.5. But then in the final hour before kickoff huge steam hit the Trojans and moved USC from plus 2.5 to -1. However, the late sharp money was for naught as the Hawkeyes rolled without a sweat. 

Unders went 3-2 yesterday. So far this bowl season, overs have gone 10-7-1 (58.8%) and dogs 10-8 ATS (55.6%). 

Today, we have four huge bowl games, including both national semifinals. For gameday analysis and betting updates, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher and myself this morning from 9 a.m.-noon ET on The Lombardi Line. We'll be breaking down all the late sharp action leading up to kickoff.

Now let's discuss where the sharp money is flowing today.

Noon ET: Memphis (12-1, ranked 17) vs. Penn State (10-2, ranked 10)

The Cotton Bowl Classic takes place at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Memphis finished the season with eight straight wins, including a 29-24 win over Cincinnati to win the conference championship (but failing to cover as 9-point dogs). Memphis went 7-5-1 ATS on the season, averaging 40.54 PPG on offense and giving up 24.38 PPG on defense. Penn State started 8-0 and went just 2-2 in their final games, ending the season with a 27-6 win over Rutgers but failing to cover as 39-point favorites. The Nittany Lions went 6-6 ATS, averaging 34.33 PPG on offense and giving up only 14.08 PPG on defense.

The line opened with Penn State listed as a 7.5-point favorite. Despite roughly three-out-of-four bets laying the points with the Nittany Lions, the line has fallen down to 7 or even 6.5 at some books. This signals sharp reverse line movement on Memphis with pros grabbing the points, not laying them. When two ranked teams go head-to-head in a bowl game, the dog has gone 69-57 ATS (55%) since 2005. The total hasn't budged off of 60.5. The over is 8-5 in Memphis games but the under is 7-5 in Penn State games. 

Noon ET: Iowa State (7-5) vs Notre Dame (10-2, ranked 15)

The Camping World Bowl takes place in Orlando. Iowa State finished 3rd in the Big 12 and went 6-6 ATS, averaging 34.08 PPG on offense and giving up 25.33 PPG on defense. Notre Dame's only losses came against then-3rd ranked Georgia (23-17) and then-19th ranked Michigan (45-14). The Irish went 8-4 ATS, averaging 37.08 PPG on offense and giving up 18.67 PPG on defense. 

This line opened with Notre Dame listed as a 3.5-point favorite. The public can't lay off the big-name Irish and two-thirds of bets are laying the points. However, despite this lopsided support the line has remained frozen at 3.5, signaling sharp liability on the Cyclones. Some books even touched 3 throughout the week. Bowl game unranked teams vs ranked teams have gone 52-42 (55.3%) since 2005. Public recency bias also provides a buy-low, sell high opportunity on the Cyclones as Notre Dame has won five straight and beat Stanford 45-24 as 17-point favorites their last time out while Iowa State lost 3 of their last 5, most recently falling to Kansas State 27-17 as 4.5-point favorites. Sharp money has pounded the under down from 57 to 54.5. The forecast calls for 10 MPH winds. The under is 7-5 in Notre Dame games and 6-5-1 in Iowa State games. 

4 p.m. ET: Oklahoma (12-1, ranked 4) vs LSU (13-0, ranked 1)

The Peach Bowl is the first CFP semifinal and takes place at Mercedes Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Oklahoma's only loss came midseason against Kansas State (48-41). The Sooners only went 5-8 ATS on the season, averaging 43.23 PPG on offense and giving up 24.54 PPG on defense. LSU finished the season undefeated and went 8-3-2 ATS, averaging 47.77 PPG on offense and giving up 21.15 PPG on defense. 

This line opened with LSU listed as a 12-point favorite. Two-thirds of bets are laying the points with the top-ranked Tigers. This lopsided support pushed the line up to 14. That's when sharp Sooners money hit the market at the key number of plus 14, dropping the line down to 13.5 where it rests now. Oklahoma has contrarian value in an extremely heavily bet game. The Sooners also have value as a "bad" ATS team vs a "good" ATS team, which provides a buy low, sell high opportunity for brave contrarian bettors. The total has stayed steady at 76. Oklahoma is 7-6 to the under while LSU is 8-5 to over. One big Injury to watch: LSU star RB Clyde Edwards Helaiare is questionable with a hamstring injury.

8 p.m. ET: Clemson (13-0, ranked 3) vs Ohio State (13-0, ranked 2)

The Playstation Fiesta Bowl is the second CFP semifinal  and takes places at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams enter this game undefeated. Clemson went 10-3 ATS, averaging 46.54 PPG on offense and allowing only 10.62 PPG on defense. Ohio State went 9-4 ATS, averaging 48.69 PPG on offense and allowing 12.54 PPG on defense. 

This line opened with Clemson listed as a 1.5-point favorite. Pros and Joes both appear to be backing the Tigers, as Clemson is receiving roughly two-thirds of bets and have moved to -2.5. Ohio State has excellent contrarian value, playing in primetime in what will be the most heavily bet game of the year to date. However, Clemson has a big edge in experience. The Tigers are making their 5th straight CFP appearance, winning it all in 2016 and 2018. Clemson has won 28 straight games. Two-thirds of bets are taking the over, yet the total hasn't budged off 63, signaling some under liability. Clemson went 7-6 to the over this season while OSU went 7-6 to the under. One variable here: Buckeyes star QB Justin Fields put his knee at "80 to 85%" for this game.

The CFP semifinal winners will meet Jan. 13 in the national title game in New Orleans. 

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