College Football Games Of The Year Odds: Nebraska Seeing Early Sharp Money
The start of college football season is still over two months away but bettors don’t have to wait to put money down on some of 2019’s biggest games. Multiple sportsbooks released college football odds for their Games of the Year, allowing bettors to take advantage of early numbers.
CG Technology, FanDuel Sportsbook and the Golden Nugget were among the first sportsbooks to release college football betting lines for the 2019 season. Executive Director Tony Miller and Sportsbook Director Aaron Kessler have worked together since 2007 to release the college football Games of the Year lines for the Golden Nugget.
While there is more competition now than when the two first started releasing games of the year odds, especially with online sports betting being legalized in multiple states, Miller believes the Nugget still holds an edge over other properties because they have been putting out early college football lines for so long.
“We think we’re the kings of it and I think we’re really good at setting the lines,” said Miller. “We are known for it now. In the past few years we’ve had other joints put them out before us but I can tell you one place that put out lines last year didn’t do it this year because their lines were so bad. It happened again this year. Another place put them out but the lines were quite a bit off from ours. It just means more business for us because these guys try for middles.”
Tight lines lead to low handle
The Golden Nugget released lines for over 100 college football games ranging from Auburn-Alabama to Army-Navy. While sharp bettors had a lot of high-profile matchups to choose from, they only hit a handful of games over the first few days.
The reason? Miller and Kessler made the lines so tight they were similar to the numbers many sharp bettors projected for the games. That resulted in a first day of handle of just over $100,000 – the Nugget’s lowest handle since Miller and Kessler started releasing the lines 12 years ago.
“We got a lot of compliments from professional handicappers who all told me our lines are great,” said Miller. “Because of that, this year’s first day was our lowest handle in all the years we’ve been doing it because people kept saying our lines are too tight. They couldn’t find much value.”
While the lines were tight, sharp bettors still found a few numbers they could exploit. Here are the games that saw the biggest line movement in the first 48 hours after the odds were released:
Nebraska -3 vs. Wisconsin (Opened Wisconsin -1)
Nebraska +7 vs. Ohio State (Opened Nebraska +10)
Navy +8.5 vs. Army (Opened Navy +13)
Florida State -3 vs. Syracuse (Opened Syracuse -1)
Auburn +6.5 at LSU (Opened Auburn +9.5)
Utah +5 at Washington (Opened Utah +8)
Sharp bettors like Nebraska
One team the sharps like more than oddsmakers early is the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Huskers opened as a short underdog at home to Wisconsin on Nov. 16 but the line quickly moved four points to Nebraska -3. Bettors also hopped on the Cornhuskers as a 10-point home dog to Ohio State on Sept. 28. That line moved three points to Nebraska getting a touchdown.
The Cornhuskers are an interesting team in 2019. Head coach Scott Frost enters his second season in Lincoln after finishing a disappointing 4-8 last year. However, the Huskers lost five games by five points or fewer, are led by Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Adrian Martinez, and bring in a top-20 recruiting class.
Nebraska is expected to be improved in Frost’s second season but just how much better they will be is up for debate. Some think the Huskers are ready to compete for a Big Ten title now, while others believe Nebraska is still a year away from seriously challenging the likes of Ohio State and Michigan.
Based on the early betting action at the Golden Nugget, sharp bettors are in the camp that Nebraska is undervalued heading into the season. Miller said he wasn’t surprised that money came in on the Cornhuskers.
“Nebraska is one of the two teams, along with Texas, that me and Aaron disagree on this year,” Miller said. “I think both teams have a chance to make the playoffs and Aaron isn’t nearly as high on them. Nebraska is going to be one of the more interesting teams early in the year because people either really like them or think they are overrated.”
Army-Navy sees biggest line movement
Another game that caught the attention of sharp bettors is Army-Navy. The classic matchup to close out the college football regular season on Dec. 14 saw the biggest line movement of any game on the board. Army opened as a 13-point favorite but sharps bet that number down to 8.5 in just over 24 hours.
“We got the most action on the Army-Navy game,” said Miller. “We kind of expected money to come in on that one because we set the number so high. People like to take the points in that game, so they are betting what they see as value there.”
Recent trends suggest bettors were wise to jump on the 13-point spread. Seven of the last eight games between Army and Navy have been decided by seven points or fewer. Since 1980, the average winning margin in the series is 7.9 points.
All sharp money early
The college football Games of the Year spark a lot of interest among casual fans. The lines get talked about on social media and Miller said the turnout to cover the event this year was the largest he can remember.
The lines are great advertisement for the Golden Nugget but the money being bet on the games is almost all sharp action. When the lines were released, bettors got to wager a maximum of $1,000. They were allowed three bets and then had to go to the end of the line.
“It’s all pretty much sharp money at this point,” said Miller “There were only a few bets where we took less than $1,000. If they’re betting $1,000 on a game in May, it’s sharp money. A casual bettor doesn’t come to Las Vegas to place $1,000 on a college football game four or five months before it’s played. They do like to give their opinions though, so it’s a big win for us all the way around. The lines generate a lot of opinions, even if you aren’t putting money on the games.”