Opening Line Report - Week 13
By Marcus DiNitto
Based on the opening line and early wagering for Saturday’s Iron Bowl, the betting market is showing Auburn plenty of respect heading into its matchup against Alabama (CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET). The Tigers opened as five-point home underdogs at the Wynn, where sharp bettors backed Auburn, pushing the line down to +4 on Sunday. The number moved a half-point in Alabama’s direction on Monday, but there are only sporadic examples of the Crimson Tide being this short a favorite over the last several years of Nick Saban’s tenure.
“The game that opened your eyes was the Georgia game,” John Avello, sports book director at the Las VegasWynn, said of Auburn. “For them to manhandle Georgia 40-17, that’s just a huge accomplishment.”
Meanwhile, Avello and Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons have different takes on the strength of unbeaten Alabama’s schedule. To Avello, the Week 1 win against Florida State has become less impressive as the Seminoles have squandered into mediocrity this season, and it’s clear to most college football observers that the SEC is down this year. Salmons, though, stresses FSU was a different team with a healthy Deondre Francois, evidenced by the 7.5-point spread in that season-opening game, and says wins vs. LSU and at Mississippi State are strong bullets on ‘Bama’s resume.
Said Avello, “They’re still Alabama, they still have quality athletes, and they still win most of their games by a significant margin. But Mississippi State (31-24) and LSU (24-10) maybe were a little tighter than they may have liked.”
Here’s a quick look at four more games on the Week 13 college football card:
Miami (-14) at Pittsburgh
Miami survived another scare last weekend, coming back from two separate 14-point deficits against Virginia to prevail at home, 44-28. Now, the Hurricanes go on the road to play Pittsburgh eight days before the ACC championship game against Clemson.
A 4-7 team generally doesn’t strike fear into one that’s yet to lose, but Avello calls Friday’s tilt a “very dangerous” spot for Miami.
“I’m not big Miami fan. They’ve had a good season, but they seem to lose focus during the course of a game,” Avello said, offering close calls against Georgia Tech, Syracuse, North Carolina and Virginia as evidence. “You can’t trust this team. They have a rough time putting good games together.”
Avello also notices a different Pittsburgh team than the one whose only wins through its first seven games came against Youngstown State and Rice.
“Pittsburgh has more confidence now, and I think it’s going to be a tough game for Miami,” he said.
While the spread has stayed put at 14 through early wagering at his shop, “there could be dog money before it’s all said and done,” Avello said.
Ohio State (-12) at Michigan
The Wynn opened Ohio State -11.5 and took sharp underdog money that prompted a move to -11 on Sunday. Bettors laid the points Monday, however, pushing the line past its opener to -12.
While Michigan typically rises to the occasion and gives its fiercest rival all it can handle, Avello isn’t sure Jim Harbaugh’s squad is good enough to keep this year’s game close.
“I don’t think they are, and you normally wouldn’t hear that out of my mouth,” Avello said. “Michigan has no offense. They can’t find the right quarterback...Defensively, they’re pretty good, so what they’ll do is stay in a game, like they did with Wisconsin (a 24-10 loss), and then all of a sudden a team wears them out a little bit and gets a lead, and they have no way to come back.”
From Salmons’ point of view, Michigan will need to play a near-perfect game to put money into the pockets of their backers, something they didn’t do in their three losses – to Michigan State, Penn State and Wisconsin. Against the Badgers, for example, they allowed a punt return for a touchdown and they fumbled the ball near the Wisconsin goal line.
“The way they play offense, Michigan can’t afford to do that,” Salmons said. “It’s hard to see them score a lot of points against Ohio State, but the pace of the game is going to be slow and Michigan does play really good defense; and the crowd will be behind them early and they’ll get a lot of juice from that in the first half. They’re going to have to play a perfect, clean game, and if they do that, they’ll give themselves a chance to at least cover. If they get down early, it’s not going to go well , but Michigan’s got enough talent on defensive side to stay in the game.”
Added Avello, “We’ve seen enough of these (Ohio State/Michigan) games to know that you (shouldn’t) give too much value (when betting), but right now, I don’t know how the Michigan team’s going to be able to contain them for four quarters. Ohio State should be able to score in the 30s at least. How does Michigan get to the 30s?”
Georgia (-11) at Georgia Tech
Early action at the Wynn went against favored Georgia, as the Bulldogs were bet down from an opening line of -12. Bettors, however, shouldn’t count on Georgia looking ahead to next week’s SEC title game.
“They’ll be clearly focused for this game,” Avello said. “The Auburn game, I don’t know what happened to them there, that was not a good game for them, but they bounced back last week against Kentucky and played much better (in a 42-13 win).”
For bettors looking to lay the points, sooner may be better than later. Avello anticipates action on the favorite as kickoff approaches.
“I think there’ll be Georgia money,” he said. “I don’t know if the college football fan base is in love with Georgia Tech. I don’t know if they’re going to back them even as a home dog here.”
Notre Dame (-2) at Stanford
Notre Dame opened -2.5 at the Wynn, with immediate action on the dog moving the line to -2. It was the opposite story at William Hill, which opened ND -2 and moved the number up to -2.5.
After lighting it up for most of the season, the Irish offense has slowed considerably the last two weeks. For a team still clinging to slim hopes for a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff, it’ll have to get its offensive groove back against defensive-minded Stanford.
The primetime game will continue to draw the two-way action indicated by the early lines moves at various Vegas shops.
“I can see some good money written on this game on both sides,” Avello said.
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NCAAF Opening Line Report
By: Patrick Everson
Week 12 of the college football season featured a bunch of huge pointspreads and very limited good matchups. On the flip side, 13 is a lucky number, with a lot of big games on the docket this week, including a major SEC showdown. Covers checks in on the opening lines and early action with Dave Mason, brand manager for offshore sportsbook BetOnline.ag.
No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 6 Auburn Tigers (+4.5)
Alabama heads into the annual Iron Bowl carrying the only unblemished record among the contenders for the four-team College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide (11-0 SU, 5-6 ATS) had what amounted to a bye in Week 12, taking FCS outfit Mercer to the woodshed in a 56-0 victory to cash as a massive 49.5-point home favorite.
Auburn has two losses, but also holds an impressive win over then-unbeaten Georgia in Week 11 and therefore still harbors some CFP hopes. The Tigers (9-2 SU, 5-4-2 ATS) also had a gimme game in Week 12, dumping Louisiana-Monroe 42-14 as a 38-point home chalk.
“There is little doubt that Saturday's Iron Bowl will be the biggest-bet college football game on Thanksgiving weekend,” Mason said. “Alabama has owned this rivalry recently, winning the game outright by double digits in five of the last six years. Despite ‘Bama’s recent dominance, Auburn is taking on the most bets out of any college team so far. Just 29 percent of early bettors are on the Tide.”
No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines (+11)
Ohio State leads the Big Ten East Division and needs to wrap up a spot in the conference championship game to remain among the CFP prospects. The Buckeyes (9-2 SU, 5-6 ATS) thumped Illinois 52-14 laying 41 points at home Saturday.
Michigan is hoping to play spoiler against the Buckeyes in The Game, one of college football’s most-storied rivalries. The Wolverines (8-3 SU, 4-6-1 ATS) hung around through three quarters at Wisconsin, but ultimately fell short 24-10 as a 6.5-point underdog in Week 12.
“Speaking of one-sided rivalries, Ohio State has a five-game winning streak over Michigan,” Mason said. “The Game will most likely be the second-most-bet game on Saturday, after the Iron Bowl. The house will be huge Wolverine fans, as 85 percent of early bettors are on the Buckeyes.”
That helped tick the line up to 11.5 Sunday evening.
No. 15 Washington State Cougars at No. 14 Washington Huskies (-9.5)
Washington State controls its fate in the Pac-12 North Division, heading into the Apple Cup showdown Saturday night. The Cougars (9-2 SU, 7-4 ATS) enter this instate clash off a bye week, after fending off Utah 33-25 as a 1-point road fave on Week 11.
Washington can’t win the division and therefore can’t make it to the Pac-12 title game, but would love to wreck its rival. The Huskies (9-2 SU, 6-5 ATS) got all they could handle from Utah on Saturday, pulling out a 33-30 victory on a last-minute field goal.
“While the Iron Bowl is getting the most early action, (this game) is getting the most lopsided early action,” Mason said. “It's looking like we will be rooting for the Huskies, considering 90 percent of early bettors are taking the Cougars and the points.”
South Florida at Central Florida (-10.5)
Central Florida remains undefeated, but has no shot at the CFP and will instead hope to stay on course for the American Athletic Conference title and a spot in a bigger-name bowl game. The Knights (10-0 SU, 6-3-1 ATS) coasted past Temple 45-19 giving 13.5 points on Saturday.
South Florida (9-1 SU, 4-6 ATS) could get to the conference title game with a victory over UCF. The Bulls topped Tulsa 27-20 in Week 12, falling way short as 24-point chalk.
“Despite their impressive SU records, neither team has been generous to their loyal bettors recently,” Mason said. “South Florida failed to cover the number in each of its last four games. Meanwhile, after starting the season on a torrid covering rate, Central Florida is just 1-3 ATS in its last four. Not a ton of early action yet, but 60 percent of early bettors are on Central Florida.”
The Knights were up to -11.5 Sunday evening.
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