Welcome to Week 16 of the college football season, also known as Conference Championship week. Today, we have a small Saturday slate with only 15 games to choose from. Luckily, we also have a pair of NFL games to get down on.
For extensive Saturday betting analysis be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher, Mike Palm, Thomas Gable and myself this morning from 10 a.m.-noon ET on The Lombardi Line. We'll be dissecting all the big matchups, the top lines moves and breaking down late sharp action leading up to kickoff.
In the meantime, let's discuss several Saturday pro and college gridiron matchups receiving sharp action from respected bettors.
12 p.m. ET: Oklahoma (7-2, ranked 10th) vs Iowa State (8-2, ranked 6th)
This is the Big 12 Championship game and it will be played at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. After a disappointing 1-2 start to the season, Oklahoma has ripped off six straight wins, most recently beating Baylor 27-14 but failing to cover as 23.5-point home favorites. Similarly, Iowa State is riding a five-game win streak and just crushed West Virginia 42-6, easily covering as 6-point home favorites. Both teams are only allowing about 22 PPG on defense. The difference comes on offense, where the Sooners are averaging 43.4 PPG compared to the Cyclones averaging 34 PPG. This line opened with Oklahoma listed as a 6.5-point favorite. The public is split down the middle and doesn't know who to take. But despite this even ticket count, we've seen the line fall from Sooners -6.5 to -5.5. This signals respected wiseguy action backing the Cyclones and the points, forcing books to adjust the line in favor of the dog. Iowa State has value as a short conference dog. These two teams met back on October 3 and Iowa State won 37-30. Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell is 30-17 ATS (64%) as a dog in his career at Iowa State.
12 p.m. ET: Northwestern (6-1, ranked 14th) vs Ohio State (5-0, ranked 4th)
This is the Big Ten Championship game and it will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. Northwestern just took down Illinois 28-10, covering as 13.5-point home favorites. Their only loss of the season came on Nov. 28 when they fell to Michigan State 29-20. Meanwhile, Ohio State enters undefeated and just waxed Michigan State 52-12, easily covering as 22.5-point road favorites. This game is a contrast in styles as Ohio State has the much better offense (46.6 PPG vs 25.3 PPG) while Northwestern has the better defense (14.6 PPG allowed vs. 23.2 PPG allowed). This line opened with Ohio State listed as a 21-point favorite. The public is rushing to the window to lay the points with Ohio State, expecting an easy blowout win and cover. However, despite this lopsided betting we've seen the line tumble from Buckeyes -21 to -18.5. This signals sharp reverse line movement on the road dog, with pros backing Northwestern plus the points. Northwestern is one of the top contrarian plays of the day as they are only receiving roughly one-third of bets in what will be an extremely heavily bet game. We've also seen some under money show up, dropping the total from 59 to 55.5.
3:30 p.m. ET: Mississippi (4-4) at LSU (4-5)
This SEC showdown features a pair of big name schools differing motivations. Ole Miss started the season a disappointing 1-4 but has since won three straight, most recently beating Mississippi State 31-24 but failing to cover as 9.5-point home favorites. Ole Miss hasn't played since Thanksgiving but could earn a Bowl game with a win today. Meanwhile, LSU just pulled off their biggest win of the season last week, upsetting Florida 37-34 and winning outright as 23-point road dogs. But this will be LSU's final game of the season after a self-imposed postseason ban. This line opened with LSU listed as a 1.5-point home favorite. The public is split down the middle, yet we've seen this line completely flip from LSU -1.5 to Ole Miss -1 or -1.5. At one point, this line moved all the way to Ole Miss -2.5, before settling back down to -1.5 or -1. Essentially, Ole Miss is receiving sharp "dog to favorite" line movement.
More Saturday moves
Washington State-Utah Under 57.5 to 55.5
Wisconsin -11 to -12.5 vs Minnesota
Clemson-Notre Dame Under 61.5 to 59.5
Boise State-San Jose State Over 54.5 to 56.5
Penn State -14.5 to -15.5 vs Illinois
Tulsa + 15.5 to + 14 at Cincinnati
4:30 p.m. ET: Buffalo Bills (10-3) at Denver Broncos (5-8)
This AFC non-division matchup is the first of two Saturday NFL games. The Bills (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) have won three straight and just took down the Steelers 26-15 on Sunday night, covering as 2-point home favorites. If the playoffs started today, Buffalo would be the 3 seed in the AFC. Meanwhile, the Broncos (5-8 SU, 8-5 ATS) aren't quite mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but it would take a miracle for them to sneak in. However, Denver is coming off an impressive 32-27 win over the Panthers last week, winning outright as 4-point road dogs. This line opened with Buffalo listed as a 5-point road favorite. The public is all over Bills Mafia, which pushed this line up to Bills -6.5 or even -7. Once the number got that high, a ton of respected Broncos money showed up, dropping the line back down to 5.5. where it stands now. The Broncos have value as a contrarian home dog in a heavily bet game. December home dogs + 6.5 or more are 4-1 ATS this season and roughly 55% over the past decade. Pros and Joes are both targeting this over, which has increased the total from 48 to 50. The Bills are 9-4 to the over this season. The Broncos are 7-6 to the under. Weather shouldn't be an issue at Mile High. The forecast calls for low 40s with little to no wind.
8:15 p.m. ET: Carolina Panthers (4-9) at Green Bay Packers (10-3)
This NFC non-division matchup is the second of two Saturday games. The Panthers (4-9 SU, 7-6 ATS) are out of the playoff race and have lost two straight and seven of their last eight, including a 32-27 loss to the Broncos last week as 4-point home favorites. On the flip side, the Packers (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) have won three straight and currently own the 1-seed in the NFC playoffs. Green Bay just beat Detroit 31-24 last week, although they failed to cover as 9-point road favorites. This line opened with the Packers listed as 9-point home favorites. The public has no issue laying the points with Aaron Rodgers, yet we've seen this line fall to 8.5 or even 8 at some shops. This signals some respected liability on the Panthers plus the points. Carolina has value as a contrarian bet in a primetime game. Road dogs off a loss are 36-29 ATS (55%) this season and Teddy Bridgewater is 6-3 ATS this season as a dog and 23-6 ATS (79%) as a dog in his career. The total has ticked up slightly from 51 to 51.5. Both teams have been profitable to the over, with Carolina 7-5-1 and Green Bay 7-6. The forecast calls for cold weather (mid 20s). Believe it or not, cold weather overs have been a sneaky smart bet historically.