Hours after the opening lines of the College Football Playoff semifinal between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan Wolverines hit the board Sunday afternoon, an interesting divide emerged at sportsbooks in the United States and offshore.
These days, it's not often that you see a variety of lines, especially on big games. But on Sunday night, most sportsbooks had Georgia listed as 7.5-point favorites over Michigan in the Orange Bowl, while FanDuel and the Las Vegas-based Circa Sports had the Bulldogs as 9-point favorites and influential offshore sportsbook BetCRIS had Georgia -8.5.
"My number is [Georgia] -10, but others had it 8," Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director for Circa, told ESPN in a text message Sunday night, adding that he split the difference and opened the Bulldogs -9. There was no early action on Michigan at the higher number.
Across town, at the Westgate SuperBook, veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker Ed Salmons said he dropped Georgia four points in his power ratings after its poor performance against Alabama, a significant move, especially this late in the season. He also raised Michigan after its impressive blowout of Iowa. Yet, even after those adjustments, Salmons still had had the Bulldogs rated nine points better than the Wolverines.
"We definitely had Georgia more towards -10," Salmons said a few hours after opening the Bulldogs at -7.5.
Salmons believes that the popularity of Michigan nationally is playing a factor in keeping the line near a touchdown at most sportsbooks, especially those that cater heavily to the betting public.
"We think there will be a ton of Michigan support," Salmons said.
But he likes the Bulldogs.
"When I adjust that much in a week," Salmons noted about his modifications to his power ratings, "and it's still saying to bet this team, unless there's some injury I don't know about, usually it leads me to the right team."
With more than three weeks before the game kicks off on Dec. 31, the market will likely flatten out at the same line. But will that be closer to Georgia -9 or -7.5? Stay tuned.
Now, for this week's Notable Bets.
• Entering Monday Night Football, favorites are 8-5 against the spread (ATS). Heavily backed teams like the Dolphins, Colts and Cardinals each covered the spread, leading to the best Sunday the betting public has had in a month.
"The public were due -- and just in time to put me back on their Christmas card list," Craig Mucklow, director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN, calling Sunday a "tremendous day for the public."
• The SuperBook also took it on the chin on Sunday, mostly due to a VIP casino player, who hit four five-team parlays, a three-teamer and a two-teamer. The parlays featured some college games from Saturday and some early Sunday soccer matches and all closed with the Dolphins, who covered as 7-point favorites in a 20-9 win over the Giants.
"Dolphins, Cardinals, Rams all big losers for us," said John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook. "Bucs covering didn't help, either. We did well on the [Washington] Football Team beating the Raiders.
"Overall, we can't complain," he added. "We had a great day Saturday and are coming off our best November ever. And I doubt your readers would feel bad for me, even if we weren't having such a great recent run. We move on to next week. Much better slate of games."
• The total on the Monday Night Football game between the Patriots and Bills has dropped five points, from 46 to 41, with weather expected to be a factor. Forecasts are calling for 26 mph winds, with temperatures dipping to near freezing during the game.
College football notables
• Alabama opened as a consensus 13.5-point favorite over Cincinnati in a College Football Playoffs semifinal at the Cotton Bowl. Salmons was expecting support for the underdog Bearcats.
"It's not like this Alabama team is like last year's team. They're nothing like it," Salmons said. "They played their best game last week, but that doesn't mean they're going to do it next week. I think a lot of people will be supportive of Cincinnati."
• At PointsBet's online sportsbook in Michigan, nearly four times as much money has been bet on the Wolverines to win the national championship as has been bet on any other team.
In comparison, Georgia has attracted nearly double the amount wagered than Michigan nationally at PointsBet.
• Here are some of the largest reported national championship futures bets by payout on the four College Football Playoff teams:
- $10,113.13 on Alabama at +220. Bet was divided into wagers placed on back-to-back days (Sept. 8-9) with Caesars Sportsbook in Colorado. The bet would pay a net $32,362.02.
- $2,000 on Michigan at 100-1, placed Aug. 20 at FanDuel. Bet would pay a net $200,000.
- $1,000 on Cincinnati at 100-1 placed Sept. 21 with FanDuel. Bet would pay a net $100,000.
What were the odds?
-11: The Memphis Grizzlies were 11-point home favorites over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday and covered the spread by 62 points in a 152-79 win. It's the largest margin of victory in NBA history.
+3,373: The odds on a unique $1,000 two-leg parlay placed way back in October in Virginia at sportsbook WynnBET. The bettor parlayed the Dodgers (-153) over the Giants in Game 4 of the NCLS with Northern Illinois at 20-1 to win the MAC Championship. The Huskies defeated Kent State on Saturday to win MAC title, and the bettor won $34,725.49.
12-1: The New York Mets' odds to win the World Series at Caesars Sportsbook after a flurry of free agency moves, highlighted by the acquisition of ace Max Scherzer. The Mets were 20-1 entering the offseason.