Bowl Game Early Action Report: Sharp Money, Big Line Moves and Key Numbers

Bowl Game Early Action Report: Sharp Money, Big Line Moves and Key Numbers article feature image

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cal quarterback Chase Garbers

  • Betting lines for college bowl season haven't been out long, but bettors are already making an impact.
  • California-TCU and Florida-Michigan are among the matchups that have been affected by early action.

We’re now two days removed from selection Sunday, meaning it’s been about two days minus an hour or two since betting lines have been available for bowl season.

And while the first bowl game is still more than one week away, plenty of market activity has already taken place to help shape the lines for some of these games.

>> All odds as of Dec. 4 at 12:45 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time college football odds and track your bets.

Birmingham Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Memphis (-4)

Dec. 22, 12 p.m. ET | ESPN

This game has been one of a couple in which the spread has already passed through a key number. After opening at -2.5, Memphis jumped to -4 as of Tuesday morning, passing through the all important three-point spread.

Sixty-one percent of early bets have taken the Tigers, but the real catalyst for the line move has been the 91% of money that has landed on them.

Cheez-It Bowl: Cal vs. TCU (pk)

Dec. 26, 9 p.m. ET | ESPN

Oddsmakers gave TCU an initial edge in this game at a line of -2, but have since come back on that decision.

Unlike Memphis, it has not been a majority of bets or money that’s caused Cal to gain two points as the Golden Bears are drawing just 32% of early tickets and 48% of dollars.

That discrepancy, however, means that bigger bettors — the ones more likely to be sharps — are playing Cal, or at least played the Bears as underdogs, which was enough for books to eliminate the spread.

Sports Insights’ Bet Signals triggered a move on Cal at +1.5, confirming the early sharp action.

Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Vanderbilt (-4)

Dec. 27, 9 p.m. ET | ESPN

Being the Texas Bowl, this game should bring a sizable Baylor crowd. If nothing else, though, it looks to be bringing a sizable amount of Baylor money so far.

Vandy opened anywhere from a 6- to 7-point favorite in this game, but with early action rushing to Baylor’s side, oddsmakers have been forced to significantly reduce this spread.

The number of bets have actually been fairly split, with Baylor getting only a slight majority at 53%. As for actual dollars, 96% have landed on the Bears to cause the line move.

Alamo Bowl: Iowa State vs. Washington State (-3.5)

Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET | ESPN

A similar story is unfolding in the Alamo Bowl. Like Vanderbilt, Washington State saw its line open in the -6.5 range. And while bets have been split, with the Cougars even seeing a slight 51% majority, the actual money wagered has been anything but.

Ninety-one percent of early dollars are behind the Cyclones, which has this line rapidly approaching the key number of +3.

Peach Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan (-7.5)

Dec. 29, 12 p.m. ET | ESPN

Following its 62-39 shellacking at the hands of Ohio State, Michigan hasn’t drawn as many bets as expected in the Peach Bowl. Opening as 6-point favorites over Florida, the Wolverines have attracted only 48% of bettors.

Once again, money trumps bets, as those bets have accounted for 74% of dollars wagered, causing oddsmakers to push this spread through the key number of seven to -7.5.

Belk Bowl: Virginia vs. South Carolina (-4)

Dec. 29, 12 p.m. ET | ABC

The market percentages haven’t been quite as eye-catching in this matchup, with 59% of bets and 62% of dollars landing on Virginia. The line movement, however, has been significant considering those figures.

Once again, a 6.5-point opening number has fallen about two points thanks to some early sharp action. A steam move was triggered by Sports Insights’ Bet Signals, which, cooperating with the majority of money behind the Cavs, has resulted in a line fall.

Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Missouri (-7.5)

Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m. ET | ESPN

Oklahoma State opened as a double-digit dog in the Liberty Bowl, with most books listing the Pokes at +10. The line has obviously fallen considerably since that time, with the majority of bets and dollars hitting Okie State.

Sixty-six percent of tickets, accounting for 81% of the money wagered on the game, have taken the points, meaning not only are the Cowboys landing more bets and dollars than Mizzou, but they’re also drawing the bigger bets.

It’s important to note that lines can fluctuate between 9.5 and 7.5 points pretty freely, as 8- and 9-point scoring margins are relatively rare in football. So the next move on this game could be very telling, especially if it continues in the same direction to +7.

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