Autumn’s annual rite of passage certainly will have a different look and feel to it. It’s just a matter if we get an opportunity to see it.
As we enter month six of the current coronavirus pandemic, the college football season over the past 90 days has certainly been a roller coaster ride. Two Power Five conferences — the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — recently announced they will not play a fall season and will look to attempt to possibly play a spring season in 2021. Ohio State junior quarterback Justin Fields has started a petition (223,000 signatures as of Monday morning) requesting the Big Ten to immediately reinstate the fall season.
The other three P5 conferences — ACC, Big 12, SEC — are on as scheduled, with the SEC announcing its new revamped schedule on Monday. The ACC will also have a new look as independent Notre Dame, a preseason Top-10 selection, has joined the conference for one season and is eligible for the ACC championship.
How will these three conferences attempting to have a fall football season transcend to what bettors see at their local sports book or online platform here on the East Coast?
“Right now, with the ACC, SEC and Big 12 scheduled to play, while it isn’t the entire country playing college football, it will only help sports books,” said Thomas Gable, director of race and sports book at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, which reopened its doors to the general public on July 26. “Losing all of college football would be a big blow to handle and revenue. You may not see it show up in September’s numbers or even October’s, but once the NHL, NBA and MLB wrap up their seasons, that is where the true pressure will be felt financially.
“We did have up games of the year to wager on, starting with the Aug. 29 games, but now the first game that we have on the board to wager on is Clemson at Georgia Tech on Sept. 3. The future market for college football was already dragging compared to years past, due to the casinos being closed and all of the uncertainty if football was even going to be played. Normally, during the summer months, you take a lot of future money on college football and it just isn’t the case right now.”
The Fighting Irish have always maintained its independent status and in the past have turned down reported offers to join the Big Ten. But since 2013, the ACC and its members have scheduled five games per year with ND on the football side. In 2012, ND agreed to join the ACC for all conference sports except football.
But when COVID-19 hit, Notre Dame’s schedule was hit hard, knocking several opponents off this year’s schedule, including annual rivalries with Navy and USC.
“Traditionally, Notre Dame is one of those teams that always attract a lot of interest from the betting public. If they are able to play their season in the ACC, again, it will be a plus for sports books in terms of generating handle,” said Gable. “They are just a team that attracts money from the public, who may not bet a lot of college football, but because of their affinity for the school, they will put some money on them.”
Another betting platform here in the Garden State agrees.
“We expect to see a huge increase in interest in the ACC this year due to Notre Dame joining the conference. Even though the ACC has always been a big draw, it will be center stage this year as the Fighting Irish compete for the division title,” said Jonathan Aiwazian, U.S. VP Sportsbook, UniBet. “We have them at +600 to win the conference, behind only Clemson, who is the heavy favorite at -455.”
Both teams meet in South Bend on Nov. 7.
“We have a couple of high profile matchups up on the site right now, specifically Clemson at Notre Dame and Texas vs. Oklahoma on Oct. 10. Clemson is a 7.5 point favorite and Oklahoma is a 2.5 point favorite,” said Aiwazian. “We will keep a close eye on how the schedule evolves, but we will always put our desire to see a full slate of games behind the health and safety of the players.”
Currently, some books here have not decided what they will offer bettors yet due to the fluidity of the situation. William Hill’s trading team has said with the current unknowns, it has taken all college football markets — both futures and tentatively scheduled games — off the board for now. If a season took place featuring only certain conferences while others sat out, it would open a new set of markets for futures specific to the teams playing.
Notre Dame opens its season at home vs. Duke on Sept. 12. We hope.