College Football Playoff Betting Market: Vegas Sportsbooks Need Clemson on Saturday

College Football Playoff Betting Market: Vegas Sportsbooks Need Clemson on Saturday article feature image

Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tony Jones Jr.

  • The College Football Playoff starts on Saturday with Clemson (-12.5) vs. Notre Dame followed by Alabama (-14) vs. Oklahoma.
  • Usually sportsbooks root for the underdogs to cover in games of this magnitude, but this year is different.
  • Adam Staple spoke to some of the biggest bookmakers in Vegas to see who the sportsbooks need to cover on Saturday.

LAS VEGAS — Well, the big games are finally here.

Judging by the activity at the windows around Vegas, bettors are certainly getting amped for Notre Dame-Clemson and Oklahoma-Alabama.

And with New Year’s Eve falling on a Monday, many of the sportsbooks expect the action to keep rolling in as partyers land for the weekend.

I spoke with some of the biggest sportsbooks in Sin City ahead of the weekend to get the details on the type of action they’re getting — and the teams they’ll be pulling for in the College Football Playoff.

Cotton Bowl: Clemson (-12.5) vs. Notre Dame | Over/Under: 56.5

This game is seeing a bit more two-way action around town than the later Orange Bowl. It’s hard to gauge if that’s because there’s simply more Notre Dame fans overall here or they think the Irish have a genuine shot to pull the  upset.

There was some small line movement when it was announced that Clemson’s star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence was going to miss the game due to a positive drug test. The market didn’t overreact as most places saw the line move a half-point at most.

“The public was on the Irish from the get-go here,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management at CG Technology, said. “Even before any of the scuttlebutt of any suspensions were even being discussed. The ticket count is very lopsided here.”

As is the case at other books, some Notre Dame bettors are foregoing the double-digit spread and hoping the luck of the Irish comes through.

“While there are some solid bets on Notre Dame with the points, bettors seem really attracted to the moneyline on the Irish,” Simbal said. “When the spread here was +13 the money line was only +350. Typically, when a line is at +13 the money line is normally much closer to +400. There have genuinely been zero bets on Clemson moneyline.”

Even though you’d have to lay $425 to win $100 on the Tigers moneyline, sportsbooks usually see some big, sharp bets come in on the favorites in these type of games. That doesn’t seem to be happening with this one.

“[All the moneyline bets] seem to be on Notre Dame, some decent-sized bets too like $3,000 and $4,000 at +350 on the Irish money line. So, we’re definitely going to need Clemson to win this game and likely cover. We’re currently seeing three-and-a-half times more tickets being written overall on Notre Dame over Clemson,” Simbal added.

Derek Wilkinson, a supervisor at the Westgate SuperBook, said there’s serious Irish interest at their shop but the sharps haven’t been tempted by the big number with Notre Dame.

“We’ve got a five-figure wager on Notre Dame moneyline at 4-1,” Wilkinson began. “The moneyline has since dropped to +325, but there’s definitely an accumulation of other Notre Dame bets. We need Clemson pretty significantly at the moment, but I’m anticipating some sharp money to come in on Clemson late. We’re at -12.5 at the moment and I think we could see that line bump up a little bit before kickoff.”

Things are a little different at the Rampart, according to assistant sportsbook manager Duane Colucci.

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