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Early College Football Playoff Action: Bettors Backing the Irish Against Clemson

Dec 14, 2018 1:12 PM EST
Credit:

Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Ian Book

LAS VEGAS — We are still over two weeks away from the College Football Playoff but the betting market is beginning to take shape.

I spoke with some bookmakers around Vegas to get an idea on what teams are seeing support in the early betting.

Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Clemson (-13) | Over/Under: 55

Early action so far seems fairly split for this one. We’re still over two weeks away from this game being played and the books expect much more action to come in as we get closer to kickoff but getting periodical updates from the books is always interesting to see the trends since it’s primarily the sharper bettors driving the early action.

“The money has mostly been coming on Notre Dame so far,” Jason Simbal of CG Technologies said. “The spread has pretty much been 11, 11.5, and 12 so far. But most of our action has definitely been on Notre Dame with bettors taking the points.”

In addition to grabbing the points with the Irish, Simbal said bettors believe Notre Dame have a chance to pull the upset.

“Moneyline bets for this game have certainly been stronger than on Oklahoma against Alabama. The public definitely thinks the Irish have a better shot at an upset than the Sooners,” he continued. “Clemson is -440 on the money line compared to Alabama who is -550 and Notre Dame money line at +350 is a big liability for us so far. We’re exposed on futures bets as well on Notre Dame not even including the money line bets so even though we expect to see a lot more money come in on Clemson as we get closer to the game time we could actually be rooting for the favorite here as of now.”

Things are a bit more balanced at the Westgate, according to sportsbook supervisor Derek Wilkinson.

“We’ve taken large wagers on both sides of the game so far,” the Westgate supervisor noted. “Right now we need ND by a slim margin, but I think that’s going to increase as the game approaches. Clemson is too strong for Notre Dame in my opinion. We’re at Clemson -12 right now, but I think that line should be 13 or 13.5. It’ll probably get there by kickoff but a lot will depend on how the wind is shifting in the days leading up to the game.”

Orange Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Alabama (-14) | Over/Under: 80.5

The action, not surprisingly, is mostly coming in on Alabama even this far out from kickoff. Bettors seem fairly confident that the Sooners are just another stepping stone for the Crimson Tide.

“This line has stuck at -14 and I think that’s as high as it’ll get,” Wilkinson said. “Alabama may very well cover that by a mile, but you just can’t open a playoff game too high or else you’ll get tons of wise guy bets on the other side. Right now we basically break even on that game, but we all know we’re going to need Oklahoma. We expect action leading up to the game to be fairly predictable.”

Simbal echoed at that sentiment. “So far we’ve seen decent two-way action that leans slightly towards Oklahoma which we kind of expected early on. The money is slightly in favor of Oklahoma here as well. We have taken a few smaller moneyline bets on the Sooners like around $100 and less. We were at -500 on Alabama on the money line which was pretty much the best price you could find around town for a while. Then we took a $10,000 bet from a sharp player so we went back to -550.”

Even though the Crimson Tide will likely be the more popular bet in that game, Simbal said they are ‘Bama fans from this point on.

“We have a couple of things going for us here at CG, We need Alabama to win the Championship in a big way because we have a big red number towards Notre Dame in our futures bets and smaller red numbers towards Clemson and Oklahoma here as well. While a lot of other books around town took some huge futures bets on Alabama, we weren’t one of them so we’re actually likely to be Crimson Tide fans.”

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