Week 1 of NFL football: Books 50-50

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Even though there was a nice mix of favorites and underdogs winning on the first weekend of college football action, the Las Vegas sports books found themselves either a small winner or break even for the day.

Usually when the favorites only go 20-18 on weekend, the sports books can expect to do very well. But on Saturday it was more a matter of what favored teams covered allowing the public to have their share of success.

“Bettors did very well on a few of the high profile teams with large points spreads and the parlays between those teams negated what could have been a really good day for us,” said South Point sports book director Bert Osborne. “The combination of Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama and Stanford was a popular choice among the public and all four covered the spread quite easily.”

The two late feature games on Saturday with Boise State-Georgia and Oregon-LSU were the most heavily bet games of the weekend, but didn’t have much of an impact to the bottom line.

“The public split with those games,” said Las Vegas Hilton Super Book director Jay Kornegay. “The action was great on each, but the majority of bettors took the sides of Boise State and Oregon. Even with all the large handle on those games, we really wouldn’t have been hurt too much, nor won too much, with any of the possible outcomes because the games were pretty evenly balanced.”


One of the best decisions of the first week was UNLV covering 35½ points at Wisconsin on Thursday night, despite the Badgers appearing to having the game in control from the start in their 51-17 win. The early line from last month was Wisconsin -32, but by the start of last week (when most of the action was taken until kickoff) that number was long gone.


Friday night’s spectacular game was also good for the sports books with 4-point underdog Baylor winning outright 50-48. Not only was TCU a popular play with the public, but surprisingly, so was the UNDER.

It’s almost a natural reaction for recreational bettors to bet the OVER of any sporting event, but the total in this game dropped from 56 to 52½ by kickoff spurred by both sharp and small money.


Another good decision for the sports books was Auburn not covering 23½ points in its 42-38 home win, a game that the visiting Aggies had controlled all afternoon but allowed two touchdowns in the final three minutes to lose.

For Kornegay, he was rooting for the upset not only because it was a small team from the WAC beating an SEC team on their home turf – not to mention the defending national champions – but because it would have wiped out all kinds on money-line parlays.

“We get a lot of play on money-line parlays with the big favorites in college football and that upset would have wiped out quite a few on the day because Auburn was linked to a lot of them, ” said Kornegay who had Auburn listed as a -2200 favorite with 14-1 odds given on Utah State to win straight up.

After everything was tallied for the sports books, the day was kind of a wash.

“It was give and take all weekend, a grind.” said Kornegay. “The handle was great, the crowd was pumped that football was finally back, but overall, we didn’t have any major decisions.”

Lightning Factor

Weather played a factor in two games where action was refunded. Michigan beat Western Michigan 34-10 on Saturday and it looked to be an easy cover for the masses laying 14½ points, but with 1:27 left in the third quarter the game was stopped because of a lightning storm that had moved into the area. Both coaches agreed for the safety of the fans to just call the game final and evacuate the 110,056 fans from the stadium.

The same story occurred Sunday night in Morgantown where West Virginia beat Marshall 34-13, but the game was halted with 14:35 left in the fourth quarter after four hours of delays. West Virginia was a 23-point favorite and appeared to be on its way to a cover having gone on a 14-0 run when the game was stopped.

In Nevada sports books, the rule is that a game must be played at least 55 of the scheduled 60 minutes for action, therefore making all tickets on these games a refund. Bettors who laid the points with Michigan are sure to be a little upset while those with Western Michigan tickets appear to have a gotten a gift.

There are also going to be several unclaimed refunds from bettors just because they don’t know the rule or they saw the score figuring they lost. After 90 days, all those unclaimed funds go to the casino bottom line.

Another game was almost stopped on Saturday, but each team agreed to weather the storm. Notre Dame was one of the more popular plays of the day in its home game against South Florida.

Ticket count ratios were high on the Irish and the only thing keeping the game at minus-10½, despite the sports books being long on that side, was respecting the sharp plays made on South Florida at +11. Many of the sports books chose to be on the side of the sharps in this one refusing to go back to +11, despite mounting risk.

For all the Notre Dame supporters, they almost got a gift wish from Touchdown Jesus as lightning forced two separate delays in the game totaling over three hours. The delays killed all the momentum South Florida had as they waited in the locker room at halftime for over two hours.

Notre Dame played like a much better team in the second half outscoring the Bulls 20-7 to at least cover the half-time line (-8) for their supporters, but still eventually lost the game 23-20. The real gift from Touchdown Jesus for Notre Dame bettors would have been to have the game cut short to get a refund like the few Western Michigan bettors got.

Pac-12 Ratings to Drop

Despite going 8-4 over the weekend, the Pac-12 took a major blow in their conference ratings with their four losses. UCLA fell to Conference-USA’s Houston, Oregon lost to the SEC’s LSU, Colorado lost to the WAC’s Hawaii and the biggest blow of all came when Oregon State lost at home to Sacramento State from the mighty Big Sky. The Beavers will also get a loss to the Big-10 this week when they visit Wisconsin on Saturday.

Even USC’s 19-17 win as a 24-point home favorite against the Big-10’s Minnesota won’t rate favorably for the conference.

It’s early in the season, but when those BCS computers start churning out numbers at the end of the year to decide who plays for the big money, a team like Stanford could get the shaft because of their affiliation with the conference and its members poor play against others.


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