Vegas Sportsbooks Not Expecting To See Any Pittsburgh Money, Sharps on Georgia
- Vegas sportsbooks won a $2 million swing on USC's backdoor cover against Notre Dame last weekend.
- Duffel Bag Boy ended up losing what would have been a $950,000 win on the Fighting Irish.
- Sportsbooks are rooting for Pittsburgh and Northwestern in the conference title games.
LAS VEGAS — It was a $2 million backdoor cover.
A “meaningless” late touchdown by USC against Notre Dame last Saturday night. The score, which came with 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter, gave the Trojans a backdoor cover and caused more than $2 million in wagers on Notre Dame to swing from bettors to the books.
William Hill had a seven-figure swing, MGM reported a high six-figure swing and CG technologies had a $500,000 swing.
“We were Trojans fans no question about it,” Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “It was so loud in the book when Notre Dame scored. But after USC went down and scored, you could hear a pin drop here.”
Duffel Bag Boy
While the sportsbooks were big winners on Saturday night, perhaps the biggest loser was Duffel Bag Boy. After a couple-week hiatus, this season’s most infamous big bettor was heavy on the Irish with $50,000 and $100,000 straight bets at -11 at both MGM and William Hill, respectively.
He also lost two $50,000 three-team parlays with Notre Dame, Southern Mississippi -13.5 (who covered easily vs UTEP) and Buffalo -15 (covered easily beating Bowling Green last Friday) at both locations and then also lost two $10,000 four-teamers of Notre Dame, Southern Miss, Buffalo and Memphis -8 (they also covered easily beating Houston Friday night).
Had Notre Dame covered, Duffel Bag Boy would have cleared $950,000. Ouch.
This weekend features a 16-game college football slate, including 10 conference title games.
We spoke with some of the biggest bookmakers in Las Vegas to see what the betting traffic has been like for the key games on Friday and Saturday.
Big 12 Championship odds: Texas vs. Oklahoma (-8) | Over/Under: 77.5
On paper this game looks like it should be closer than it is. Yet, the line has stayed strong in support of the Sooners, despite the fact that they lost to the Longhorns in the regular season.
What seems to be attracting bettors to Oklahoma is the numbers it has put up recently. For the season the Sooners are averaging over 50 points per game and are coming off a wild win over West Virginia in the regular season finale.
Another thing that could be pushing tickets towards Oklahoma is that the Sooners need a win to keep any hopes of making the College Football Playoff alive.
While other sportsbooks are seeing a lot of Sooners support, Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management at CG Technology, said their books have seen two-way action, but there’s a catch.
“Oklahoma opened as an 8 point favorite which is where we have it now. But there’s a story behind that,” Simbal opened. “As soon as the line came out we had a customer try to bet the Oklahoma moneyline at -300 for pretty much as much as we were going to let him. So we gave him a pretty sizable bet and moved the line to -330 and -9 with the spread.”
Since CG was the only shop in town to move to -9, they took some action on Texas at both +9 and +8.5.
“I think that was mostly value shoppers looking for a good number,” Simbal explained. But since then, we actually haven’t taken that much now on Oklahoma. My feeling is that people are waiting for the sharps to come back in on Texas. I still wouldn’t be surprised if, by late Friday or early Saturday the Oklahoma money comes in heavy which could push this line back to -8.5 or even -9. In my history doing this, when we get such a heavy bet that early in the week, it’s often because that’s the right side. I guess we’ll see.”
According to Derek Wilkinson, a supervisor at the Westgate SuperBook, he is seeing only Oklahoma support there. “We already took a decent, five figure bet on Oklahoma at -7 which is where our line opened. We’re [moved it to] -7.5 and I think that line is only going to go up. Oklahoma just scores too many points for Texas to keep up,” Wilkinson said.
Tony Miller, the executive director at the Golden Nugget sportsbook, is more focused on the total. “I know this is a pretty high number but while I know Oklahoma will dominate and put up some big numbers, I don’t think they could stop a high school team right now on defense. I could easily see this game go well into the mid 80’s. But I still think the Sooners should win comfortably,” Miller noted.
SEC Championship odds: Georgia vs. Alabama (-13) | Over/Under: 63.5
Alabama is the best team in college football but the Crimson Tide are 1-2 against the spread in their last three games.
Georgia, while clearly the second-best team here, has had a very solid season, and basically need a win over Alabama to punch a ticket to the playoff.
Wilkinson said that this one is shaping up to be a pros vs. joes game.
“We took some sharp money on Georgia right away,” Wilkinson commented. “We’ve moved the line down to -13 for now. I think the public is going to like Alabama at less than a two touchdown favorite, but the sharp money is going to be on Georgia. We’re anticipating this line to go to 12.5 or stay at 13 throughout the week. Most of the money will still be on ‘Bama though and that will all likely come in early Saturday.”
The Golden Nugget has seen a more balanced ticket count, according to Miller. But he doesn’t think that will be the case as we get closer to kick.
“I do expect ‘Bama money to come in as we get closer to kickoff on Saturday. The public has been betting them all year and I’m sure they’ll hit them hard in the first half again. I’m sure come Saturday we’ll need Georgia to cover but not win,” Miller said.
Simbal was surprised at the lack of Georgia support at their shops.
“I was honestly very surprised by this game. I thought more people would be on Georgia. I was figuring the line would be at 11.5 or 12 by now but I guess my numbers were a bit off because it opened Alabama -13 and they’ve been betting them ever since,” Simbal noted. “It’s now up to -13.5 here. I thought maybe somebody would want to try Georgia at +400 or something. Nope, they’ve been betting Alabama money line at -500. We just took a $5,000 bet on Bama moneyline to win $1,000 so they’re not backing off at all. With Alabama lately, the eye test suggests you bet Alabama or you don’t bet. So that seems to be what people are doing.”
ACC Championship odds: Clemson (-27.5) vs. Pittsburgh | Over/Under: 53
Nobody seems fooled by this game as all the action has been on Clemson. Most people in Vegas just Pitt as the poor schmucks that had the misfortune of finishing first in the ACC Coastal Division.
Wilkinson says this game isn’t a huge concern.
“Although we haven’t taken any major bets on it yet, we’ve already moved up with the market to -27.5,” Wilkinson explained. “This game is being played in Clemson’s backyard and Pittsburgh looked pretty bad last week against Miami. I think that line will either stay at 27.5 or possible go a little higher. I also think Clemson is going to cover it fairly easily.”
Simbal says CG bettors are staying far away from Pittsburgh despite the huge spread.
“If anyone would like to bet the Panthers, I invite them to come down and play them, please!” Simbal explained.
Big Ten Championship odds: Northwestern-Ohio State (-14.5) | Over/Under: 61
Obviously the Buckeyes need this game in the worst way. The Buckeyes are coming off a huge win over Michigan to give them a shot at the College Football Playoff.
A win may not even be enough for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have been inconsistent throughout the season so they’ll need to pass the “smell” test and win this game in impressive fashion and then hope Georgia and Oklahoma stumble.
This game is a complex puzzle that even the bookmakers are having trouble solving.
“We’ve been trying to figure out if Ohio State’s Power Ranking improved by over 3 points based on one win against Michigan. We’re honestly not sure, but we are sure that to get the Committee’s attention they’re going to have to win this game by a lot,” Simbal said. “We also have to look at the start time of the game. The other key games will have been completed already. So the Buckeyes could have absolutely nothing to play for if Georgia wins or plays a close game against Alabama or Oklahoma crushes Texas. In terms of the betting, the line opened at -14 and it got pushed up to -14.5 which is where we have it now. The early money seems to indicate the line was correct in setting Ohio State up as a two-touchdown favorite.”
Wilkinson noted that the Westgate has seen money coming in for both teams but Miller said the Golden Nugget will be rooting on Northwestern.
“We’re definitely going to need the dog here. The public is going to hammer the teaser here to 8.5, 8 or 7.5. But I certainly expect the line to only continue go up on Saturday,” Miller noted.