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Just Like Old Times: Sportsbooks Rooting Against Alabama, Ohio State on Saturday

Just Like Old Times: Sportsbooks Rooting Against Alabama, Ohio State on Saturday article feature image

Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When Circa Sportsbook director Matt Metcalf is making spreads, he doesn’t just post the number that his power ratings yield. Sometimes he creates a margin and sees how the bettors bet it.

Circa has established itself as the market-setter in college football, opening the market on Sunday for Saturday. The action flies in immediately. Bettors and other bookmakers pay close attention.

So when Metcalf punched Syracuse and Clemson into his formula, it spit out Clemson -51. Instead of starting there, Metcalf hung the Tigers at -45 to see what the reaction would be. He got some nibbles on Syracuse to cover right away.

“I mean Syracuse is a train wreck,” Metcalf said. “I’m not sure I would bet them at +60.”

The line has since settled in at +46, which will easily make them the biggest underdog they’ve been since they played Turner Gill, Mike Rozier and No. 1 Nebraska in 1983 (+38). They didn’t come close to covering, losing 63-7.

While the impression is that Clemson blows out everyone, Dabo Swinney as the coach is actually only 3-6 Against the Spread (ATS) as a favorite of 40 or more.

While DraftKings reports that it has taken 70% of the money on the Tigers covering, FanDuel (54%) and PointsBet (68%) have actually taken more money on the Orange.

Not confident in such a large margin? Maybe consider the first-half spread, which is 28.5. Swinney is 101-62-3 against the 1H spread in his career.

A Bit of Normalcy

Clemson isn’t the only National Title contender in action on Saturday. Both Ohio State and Alabama will be playing and — just like in normal times — the bookmakers will be hoping they don’t cover.

Ohio State will kick off its season as a huge favorite over last year’s chic preseason contender, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers fell way short of expectations in 2019 and bettors don’t expect them to get off an running in 2020.

Ohio State is a 26.5-point favorite over Nebraska at the time of writing and the big spread isn’t scaring off anybody. PointsBet reports that 89% of the money is on the Buckeyes to cover, while FanDuel and DraftKings have Ohio State at 87% and 75%, respectively.

Want to take a shot at Nebraska to win on a +1225 moneyline? Don’t.

The last time the Huskers beat a ranked team was three weeks before the 2016 Presidential Election when they took down No. 22 Oregon at Memorial Stadium.

Joe Public is usually all about Alabama, but last year was a little different. LSU’s meteoric rise and Tua Tagovailoa’s injury put a dent into Bama’s reputation with casual bettors.

Well, it looks like Nick Saban has the Tide back to rolling in 2020 and the public has noticed.

Alabama is a very popular three-touchdown favorite over Tennessee on Saturday even though the Crimson Tide failed to cover similarly big spreads at Ole Miss and Missouri.

DraftKings reports that 92% of the money for this game is on Alabama, while PointsBet (86%) and FanDuel (78%) are also seeing heavy support for the Tide.

Friday Night Lights

Wisconsin is another large Big Ten favorite. The Badgers are giving 19.5 points to Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium on Friday night.

The public isn’t as convinced in this one, though a key injury is impacting the market as The Badgers will be without starting quarterback and Long Island native Jack Coan.

While 57% of the money at DraftKings is on Wisconsin, 54% of the money at FanDuel and 59% of the money at PointsBet is on Illinois.

UNC-NC State Total Plummets

One of the risks you take when you set the market for a sport as popular as college football is that if you misprice a game, the money will fly in. That’s exactly what happened with the Over/Under for UNC vs. NC State, which Metcalf opened at 71.5 points. Since then, the number has cratered to 60.5.

Don’t be surprised if that number ticks back up, though, as The Action Network PRO Report shows that 90% of the money at O/U 60.5 is on the Over.

Other totals that are seeing skewed action are:

  • Kansas vs. Kansas State: 91% of the money on the Under 48.5 (per DraftKings)
  • Indiana vs. Penn State: 97% of the money on the Over 60 (per DraftKings)

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