Key Matchups in College Football Driving Lines in Vegas

Oct 20, 2018 10:00 PM EDT
  • Miami (Ohio)-Army appears to be drawing heavy action from one large bet.
  • Sportsbooks will be rooting for Ohio State and Oregon in their respective games on Saturday.

There’s a handful of feature games that are interesting Las Vegas bettors for this Saturday’s college football games. Obviously the public, and therefore the sportsbooks, are focusing on games like Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio St-Purdue and Mississippi State-LSU.

There’s also some interest in the Pac-12, as well. After that, interest is all over the place — except with William Hill, which is taking a lot of action on just about the last game you could imagine … Miami (Ohio)-Army.

Who’d have guessed?

According to William Hill’s current numbers, sent out midday Thursday, this game is taking an insane 33% of the total money wagered on college football this Saturday. While no one with William Hill would comment as to why this is, vice president of marketing and PR Michael Grodsky did tell me, “We double-checked the numbers and they are correct.”

Note: Update numbers from Saturday morning show Miami (Ohio)-Army is still one of the top three games of the weekend in terms of total money wagered at William Hill.


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It’s rare to see such imbalance on a game that’s closer to the bottom of the list of games that you’d expect to interest the betting public. However, given the fact that our friend Duffel Bag Boy crushed it for $260,000 last weekend betting Army over San Jose State, his fingerprints do appear to be all over this.

While this information could not be verified, Derek Wilkinson, supervisor at the Westgate Superbook, did hear about these weird numbers from a colleague and added, “This has to be one big bet. I’m not sure from who, but it can’t be any other way. We really don’t have much action on this game. However, I do like Miami here. The line has been moving in their favor here since it opened at -9. I just moved the number here again from Army -8 to -7.5. If I was betting on this one I’d look hard at taking the underdog here.”

At William Hill that goes directly against the Westgate’s betting patterns if there are actually multiple large bets on this game as 89% of the money is on Army along with 99% of the tickets being bet on the Scarlet Knights. Definitely a head-scratcher here.

Marquee matchups

Among the games expected to get more attention, the Michigan (-7) vs. Michigan State is definitely one of the most anticipated. Jason Simbal of CG Technologies expects to see an interesting split in the wagering here.

“This is going to be a fun game,” Simbal said. “I expect to see most of the attention to be on Michigan with the public but the sharp players are licking their chops because they really want to take the Spartans at +7.5. But I think this game will hold at seven because the public will continue to pound Michigan, especially if the line drops further to 6.5. The sharps are waiting to pounce if they can get 7.5, but I don’t think they will. I expect this line to hold at 7.”

Wilkinson thinks this line should be higher. “This line would be higher if they weren’t in-state rivals,” he said. “Michigan is definitely the superior team. Even though it’s in East Lansing, I think the smart money will be on Michigan and that line will probably go to -7.5 in a day or two.” Obviously they’re not as concerned about the sharp money as CG is.

According to the numbers at William Hill, this game is tied for the second-most bet game of the day at 7%. The money coming on the game is fairly balanced with 59% of the money wagered is on Michigan State but a whopping 91% of the tickets written are on the Spartans, suggesting there are some big bets on Michigan.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan Wolverines players take the field before the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium.

The other game that’s tied for the second-most bets at William Hill is Mississippi State-LSU (-6.5).

“So many of the games we’re looking at this week we expect high scores from but this one is definitely the opposite,” Simbal said. “The total here is 45 and if this is a tight game that number may be difficult to get to. As far as the line goes, the game opened at LSU -7 and we took a pretty bet on Mississippi State right away which knocked the number down to -6.5. I’ve seen a few 6’s out there. I think the line will creep downward towards Mississippi St. It seems like people are off LSU for some reason. I’m not sure why. They only handled two ranked teams over the last two weeks pretty well but interest definitely seems to be on the Bulldogs.”

The guys at the Westgate seem to think LSU has taken a step to the next level and see the sharps coming on board. “LSU might blow this game wide open at home,” Wilkinson said. “So I think that line is going to go to at least 7. However, Mississippi State has been scoring a lot of points recently so we didn’t want to favor them by a full touchdown. It’ll be interesting to see where the sharp money goes. I think it’ll be on LSU.”

Wilkinson’s colleague at the Westgate, Superbook director John Murray, says there is a lot of interest there on the Tigers “LSU is being included in a lot of parlays already. Both minus the points and on the moneyline. The public is convinced the Tigers are the real deal. I would have to agree with them.”

William Hill is seeing 61% of the money wagered coming in on LSU but 64% of the tickets written on Mississippi State. Definitely interest from both sides there.

Underdogs getting interest 

A game that’s taking a ton of underdog interest at CG and the Westgate is the Ohio State (-13) at Purdue game. Simbal at CG sees them needing the Buckeyes surprisingly here. “I think this game is going to be much closer than people think. The primary reason is because of the action I’m seeing on this game. You can understand why the sharps would be on Purdue here. They’ve scored 30-plus points in their last four games and scored over 40 in the last two games. So, offensively, they’ve been really, really good. The number here opened at Ohio St -14. The Purdue bettors took the 14 so we moved the line to a rare -14 (-120), but they even took that. … But the main reason I say Purdue could be very live here is that we’ve seen some very well-respected, high-limit bettors here actually take Purdue on the money at +380.”

Murray said the Westgate is also taking some sharp action on Purdue. “We saw sharp money come in on Purdue +14 and that line is now down to 13. Purdue has been playing much better of late and the Buckeyes defense hasn’t impressed. They definitely miss Nick Bosa.”

At William Hill, they are definitely seeing some Purdue money, as well, as the Boilermakers have 52% of the total money while Ohio State has a massive 92% of the tickets, suggesting there’s sharp money at play there, too.

Oregon at Washington State (-3) is also getting some interest on both sides around town.

“I figured with Oregon coming off two national TV games where they looked pretty good winning over Washington, beating Cal and just getting unlucky, but still dominating Stanford,” Simbal said. “Washington State is up to a three-point favorite now. We had sharp bettors lay -1, -1.5 and -2.5 but at -3 we did start taking some action on Oregon. I think this will end up settling in on Washington State -2.5 and, believe it or not, we’ll likely need Oregon in this game.”

Wilkinson sees this very differently and expects Oregon loyalty to win out. “We actually like Oregon to win this one, but we opened it at a pick because some other books have Washington State favored by as many as two points. I think everyone will be at pick or Oregon -1 by Saturday.”

Their line is currently at -3, as well.

William Hill sees a distinct split in interest as bettors have 56% of the total money bet going on Oregon and 60% of the tickets written going on Washington State. Looks very even here.

As far as big liabilities go at the Westgate, they’ve taken some sharp action on Virginia +7.5 at Duke, Kansas +20.5 at Texas Tech, and Charlotte +17 at Middle Tennessee State.

Some of William Hill’s most lopsided games are 99% of the tickets written going on UCF (-21) at East Carolina, Vanderbilt at Kentucky (-11), Buffalo (-1) at Toledo, and Utah State-(-14.5) at Wyoming.

Credit:

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Purdue Boilermakers cornerback Antonio Blackman (14).

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