- The public is backing the underdog Ohio State Buckeyes meaning that bookmakers will be rooting for Alabama.
- Totals action is also split with the ‘sharps’ playing the game Under the total and the ‘squares’ taking the Over.
- Alabama is a -8 point favorite with the total set at 75.
Ohio State might be the biggest ‘public’ team in college football right now and that is evident in the wagering patterns for Monday’s college football championship game. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Todd Dewey talked to a number of Southern Nevada bookmakers who report that they ‘need’ the Crimson Tide and the Under.
The Buckeyes have plenty of reasons for the public to find them attractive. In addition to their intrinsic appeal they’re coming off a very impressive win over Clemson in the CFP semifinals. They won that game outright as +7.5 underdogs to run their record in that role to 16-3 ATS. Hard to argue with a 84.2% ATS winning run. The public is also going ‘Over’ the high total of 75 based on the perception that the game will be a matchup of two potent offenses.
The ‘sharps’ see it differently. The ‘wise guys’ in Southern Nevada jumped all over Alabama at -7 immediately after the number went up. A lookahead line on the game posted at William Hill before the semifinals had the Crimson Tide a -11 chalk suggesting that there’s line value available based almost exclusively on public perception and the ‘optics’ of Ohio State’s win over Clemson. That spiffy 16-3 ATS record as a dog also looks too good to pass up. It’s important to remember, however, that bookmakers don’t like to see 84% winning angles and are predisposed to ‘shade’ the line accordingly.
Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons told the LVRJ’s Todd Dewey that Ohio State just brings the public to the betting window:
“The public definitely likes the ’dog. On a game like this, you usually don’t see this much ’dog support. But we saw that with the Clemson-Ohio State game. Ohio State is always one of these public teams.”
“Right now we need Alabama. There are still two days of betting, but I would guess we’d need Alabama to win and cover.”
The Westgate reported several large bets involving the Buckeyes. One is already a loser–that was a $40,000 parlay on Ohio State and the NFL Buffalo Bills -6.5. The Bills won but didn’t cover in a 27-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Another Westgate client has a total of $80,000 on Ohio State from three bets on the Buckeyes at +8 and +8.5.
William Hill Nevada sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich says he’s not surprised that the sharps are on the Crimson Tide but that he expects to have a balanced book when the game kicks off. At that point, he says the dynamic is that of any high profile football game:
“I’m not surprised by the movement. ’Bama seems to be on a different level than everyone.”
“Right now we’re pretty dead even, a little high on the Ohio State money line. But I know exactly what we’re going to need: Alabama not to cover, to win the game and to go under. I’ve seen the movie a few times.”
The total also reflects a long standing dichotomy between the public and the professionals according to Bogdanovich:
“With the total this high in a game of this magnitude, the professionals are going to be betting the under for sure. The masses will play it over just because it’s Alabama’s offense and Ohio State has the firepower to keep up.
“When push comes to shove, we’ll need the under when this kicks off.”
Both veteran bookmakers are looking for a Crimson Tide cover and think that Ohio State could be in a classic ‘letdown spot’ following their big win over Clemson. Salmons thinks that ‘bama wins by double digits:
“I kind of think Ohio State had its best game against Clemson, and Alabama will somewhat contain them and eventually pull ahead and wind up winning the game by double digits.”
The long, draining COVID-19 season could exacerbate a potential Ohio State letdown even though they’ve only played 6 games this year. The roster has been hit hard by the virus to the point that there were questions over whether or not the championship game would take place as scheduled. Not being 100% mentally and/or physically just isn’t going to work out well against the Alabama juggernaut.