Las Vegas bettors and sports book employees all had the look of a five-year old on Christmas Day as the first weekend of college football was finally happening after a long summer of anticipation.
But as the results of the games started posting, the smiles and jubilation turned to frowns for some on one side of the counter as underdogs came through in some of the most bet games of the weekend.
Bettors who took straight bet value with the dogs did well, but the majority are recreational parlay players who love the favorites and top ranked teams. That’s who the books made their big win off of over the weekend.
“We did well each of the first three days starting with Tennessee failing to cover on Thursday as our big game and then Army winning outright on Friday,” said MGM Resorts sports book hub manager Jeff Stoneback. “We got crushed with Bama rolling Saturday, but almost got all those losses back when Clemson failed to cover.”
In a prelude to all the upsets that were about to happen, No. 9 Tennessee got taken to overtime Thursday night at home by 20-point dog Appalachian State, before winning 20-13.
Then the first big favorite fell on Friday as Temple, who returned all their key offensive players from a 10-4 team last year, got manhandled 28-13 in a loss to Army who won only two games last year. Sharp bettors had been on Army from the moment numbers were posted two months ago taking +21.5 and by kickoff it was as low as +15.5.
Through Friday’s games on the regular board (not including extra board games) the favorites had gone 4-8 ATS and the UNDER was 11-1. The recreational parlay bettors love betting the favorites and OVER as well and it helped the books come into Saturday’s games with a huge cushion of cash.
“Covers by Appalachian State, Kansas State, Auburn, West Virginia and outright wins by Wisconsin and Houston paved the way for a solid opening week,” said Station Casinos sports book director Jason McCormick. “The public still cashed in heavily on Alabama. Western Michigan, Army, Southern Miss and Georgia were also tickets that players cashed in on.”
No. 3 Oklahoma got the books’ Saturday house party started by being upset 33-23 by No. 15 Houston who didn’t need the 13.5-points. The books would get another bonus when No. 5 LSU (-12) would lose 16-14 to unranked Wisconsin at Lambeau Field.
“Wisconsin, Auburn and Houston were our best games, in that order,” said CG Technology VP of risk management Jason Simbal, who was also able to overcome the one-sided Alabama wagering late.
“Yeah, everyone bet Alabama and Clemson parlays so we would have given a lot of Wisconsin money back if Clemson kicked that late field goal. We had 84 percent of the tickets and 80 percent of the money bet on Clemson.”
No. 1 Alabama (-10.5) crushed USC 52-6, while No. 2 Clemson (-8) looked sluggish in a 19-13 win at Auburn.
There were nine underdogs winning outright on the regular board which included 28-point favorite Mississippi State losing 21-20 at home to South Alabama and 18-point favorite Ohio losing at home to Texas State, 56-54. On the extra board, Washington State was a 27.5-point home favorite and lost 45-42 to Eastern Washington.
Through Sunday’s regular board games, the favorites went 17-21-1 ATS and the OVER went 11-28.
“It was sure nice to see football back because we got roughed up in baseball last month,” said Stoneback. “Saturday was much busier than anticipated; the room was full, continuous lines at the windows, people were ready for football. The only thing we really did poorly on was totals, which is an on-going weekly trend with college football.”
The Westgate SuperBook updated their college football championship odds on Sunday and while Alabama is still the favorite at 9/2 after their thrashing of USC, teams with one loss already had their odds raised. Oklahoma is now 20/1, LSU 15/1, USC 100/1 and UCLA 200/1. Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State are all 6/1 with Michigan at 8/1.
SP has a ‘ball’
South Point sports book director Chris Andrews posted Week 1 college football numbers in mid-May, the earliest ever seen in Las Vegas. When other books started posting numbers later his started to merge closer to the market as wagers pushed him.
The one game that stood out like a sore thumb with a major difference of opinion was Andrews opening Ball State as a 5.5-point road favorite at Georgia State. The market was set the other way with Georgia State as a 3-point favorite and it was bet higher to -5 by kickoff Friday night. Ball State won 31-21.
“The early numbers we’re very successful,” Andrews said, “some good, some bad, but that one (Ball State) was real good.”