How to bet Alabama-Notre Dame 

January, 7, 2013


For the past few years, we here at the blog have offered up a list of eight factors handicappers consider when analyzing college football bowl games. Like everything in betting, it's a stew of facts and figures and hunches with a little bit of psychology thrown in. In other words, no different than the analysis that goes into every decision we make, whether it's what to have for breakfast or who to vote for or whether we think Robert Griffin III should have been playing Sunday. So now, having been through nearly three dozen bowl games, we are finally focused on the one that matters: Alabama versus Notre Dame for the BCS title.

The line on this game has been a story all its own. Long before the game was set, bookmakers around the world had an opinion on the point spread. It was unanimous that the Tide, even with their one loss, should be 9- to 10-point favorites over the undefeated Irish. Then a funny thing happened in the SEC championship game: Alabama looked vulnerable against Georgia, especially against the run, as Dawgs back Todd Gurley gained more than 100 yards and averaged more than 5 yards per carry. Suddenly, that nearly 10-point spread looked a little bit too high to some bookmakers.

"If you watched Alabama play all year there was a point where you thought they were a real special team and better than last year's team," Ed Salmons, a sports book manager at the Las Vegas Hotel, told me on my podcast in mid-December. "But they played a bunch of crappy teams that made them look better than they were, and when they did hit better teams, they didn't look as unstoppable. Teams like Alabama, you are quick to give a lot of credit, it's the perception thing and then they went out and won their first few games by big numbers and you are building more perception into this juggernaut that can't be stopped. Then you started to see cracks against LSU. Then they played Georgia, and Georgia ran the ball down Alabama's throat. So now my thinking is that Bama is not the force you can't score against. If Georgia can do it, Notre Dame can do it."

Salmons and the LVH opened the title game at Bama minus-7.5. But if you want to know how the betting public perceived this game, consider which way the number went: up. The line is currently back to being anywhere from Bama minus-9 to Bama minus-10. And while bookmakers will tell you that moving from 7.5 to 9.5 is not all that big of a move, it is an indication that, despite Bama's missteps at the end of the year, the early action still favored the Tide.

Is it right or wrong? Let's break it down, according to the factors that matter to wiseguys.