By Todd Fuhrman
We've waited long enough for college football to resume and tonight the 2012 season kicks off highlighted by an SEC East showdown in Nashville. Throughout the season our goal at OKTC is to expand your gambling knowledge base and provide a perspective on football often ignored by the mainstream media. As a former bookmaker and man with a plan here in Vegas, my goal is gather all the pertinent content from the front lines and disseminate that to everyone in this space. Sure, the lines don't tell the entire story, however, knowing who my colleagues have their eyes on each week will give you a better idea of what to expect on any given weekend this fall.
This week we caught up with the head linesmaker from Betonline Dave Mason to pick his brain about Week 1 of the college football season and what the early betting patterns tell us about the upcoming games.
OKTC: Where are you seeing the most betting action this weekend and are there any lopsided games starting to develop a few days before kickoff?
"As usual there are plenty of games that are currently lopsided: The biggest three we're seeing are: South Carolina (-6.5) vs Vandy… Michigan (+14) vs Bama… Miami – OH (+23) vs Ohio State. The majority of the $ is on South Carolina (82%), Bama (76%), Ohio State (73%). Interesting to note that even though there is far more money on the Tide, most of the bets (53%) are on the Wolverines.
When you read comments like this from an industry insider the trained eye picks up a few key points: clearly the side of the professionals in the marquee matchup of the opening weekend is Alabama. Every dollar in the sports betting market isn't created equally so a bookmaker who sees more money come in one side despite a ticket imbalance adjusts his lines accordingly based on what the wiseguy dollars tell him.
Have you seen any real sharp action come in on certain sides for this weekend?
"Took a sharp bet yesterday on Vandy +7, moved to 6.5 despite the public pounding their opponent (South Carolina). Minnesota was a sharp play at 7.5 bet up to -8 versus UNLV. Nebraska early at -17 now currently as high as 20. There is only one total that has sharp $ on it so far (limits still too low for big sharp plays)."
It's not surprising to see the professionals rallying behind Vanderbilt in a game many have deemed one of the biggest in school history. The last 4 meetings between these teams were decided by only 19 points and with points at a premium, no wonder there's an appetite to grab the seemingly live home dog. Despite the compelling evidence to back the Commodores, I personally remain skeptical here given the pressure may actually be on Vanderbilt tonight instead of the visiting Gamecocks. James Franklin has all of Nashville believing in the black and gold so I firmly believe tonight's result will tell us a lot more about where the program is headed in 2012.
Early in the year there are obviously plenty of speculators taking shots in the futures market (both conferences and BCS) so are there any teams you guys will be rooting against right out of the gates?
"The team we’ll be rooting against to win it all is Wisconsin at 48-1. We are also exposed on Florida State (9-1) and Georgia (16-1). As far as conference odds, we don’t want NC State (16-1) to win the ACC nor do we want Rutgers (5-1) to win the Big East. We'll also be rooting against Oklahoma St (13-1) to win the Big 12 and Tennessee (25-1) to win the SEC."
Futures markets don't always tell the true story on who wise guys believe can win the national title and respective conferences because they're often speculative value plays . The primary objective in assessing the merits of long shots is finding a team that has a chance down the stretch, offering arbitrage opportunity down the stretch. I'd imagine Vols fans have to be excited knowing the books will be rooting against Coach Dooley's even though liability on the Vols was built before the dismissal of Da'Rick Rodgers.
Bettors always want to know which games are attracting the most action in sports books: besides the top 10 showdown between Alabama and Michigan, where are you seeing the biggest betting volumes?
"The games with the most volume so far are South Carolina vs Vandy and Michigan State vs. Boise State."
This should really come as no surprise to the casual observer given that both games Mason mentioned are weeknight tilts that will be featured on national TV. It's normally a safe assumption that no matter what sides are matched up in these marquee stand alone games the books see betting handle far exceeding that of an inter conference showdown between Duke and Georgia Tech at 12 EST on a Saturday.
While we normally know what games the public wants to bet, what game can we call the "Mr. Irrelevant" for Week 1 this year?
"The Mr. Irrelevant game of the week is currently Troy-UAB. For every one bet placed on the Troy game, just over 18 bets have been placed on the Bama game."
it goes to show that if you see a major line move on a game outside the public scope, it's definitely worth paying attention to on game day. Like I used to tell long time customers and those curious about the way we do business: a sports book can't expect to win every single decision on the board instead our objective as bookmakers is to win the big ones and mitigate damage on the others. Never forget the professionals only need to find one soft number a week to turn a profit while the house needs to protect its assets on well over 100 games each and every weekend.