How Sharps Are Betting New Years Week Bowls by Richie “B”

A lot to get to today, as we cover the final 18 bowls being played from now through the New Year’s Day extravaganza. Because there are so many games, I won’t talk about Over/Unders unless there’s been a meaningful move. I hope the bowls played so far have been going your way.

 

FRIDAY

Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest in the Belk Bowl: We’ve been sitting pretty solidly on Wake Forest -3 since the game went up. Home state edge for the Demon Deacons. Plus, Texas A&M is going through a coaching change. That’s why sharps haven’t taken the dog. Nobody’s been betting the favorite yet either though. Wake Forest isn’t much of a “public” team. This game will either stay on the field goal, or the Aggie money that’s been biding its time in case +3.5 came up will finally hit the market.

NC State vs. Arizona State in the Sun Bowl: More concern about the Pac 12 being expressed here. North Carolina State opened at -6, but is now up to -6.5 or -7 depending on where you shop. And, that’s with the game being played in El Paso, which should bring in more ASU fans. The ACC has looked pretty good out of the gate. Even Boston College played better vs. Iowa than the score made it seem. We’ll either see a rise to a solid seven…or a tug-of-war between NC State (-) anything below seven, and old school dog lovers on the dog at +7.

Northwestern vs. Kentucky in the Music City Bowl: Some strong interest for Northwestern here. The opener of -7 has been bet up to -7.5 or -8 depending on the store. That despite Nashville being an SEC site. The home region dog ISN’T getting sharp support. In fact, the Wise Guys drove Northwestern off a key number. Maybe dog interest will firm up at the eight. This isn’t a game that the public is going to be very keen on, so we may not have much of a chance for a tug-of-war.

Utah State vs. New Mexico State in the Arizona Bowl: This will be the least bet game of the day (and weekend), as everyone waits for that huge Ohio State/USC game that’s up next. Utah State opened at -3, and has been bet up to -4. That’s a pretty strong move off a key number. Utah State is from the Mountain West Conference. Boise State and Fresno State have already scored upset wins from that league. Might be part of why Utah State has garnered that much respect around a key number.

Ohio State vs. USC in the Cotton Bowl: This is going to be one of the most heavily bet bowl games ever, for a non-championship matchup. Both programs have strong betting constituencies in Las Vegas. And, they’re both obviously big-name public teams. Ohio State opened at -6.5, but has driven through the key number all the way to -7.5. And, that’s despite USC being so close to Las Vegas that the fanbase can bet on the Trojans easily. Looks like we’re going to stay above the key number. The quants always get gradings to Ohio State, and will bet -7 or better hard. The general public will also bet the favorite. Locals will be on USC on both the point spread and money line. Sports books are preparing for a madhouse in the hours before kickoff.

SATURDAY

Louisville vs. Mississippi State in the Taxslayer Bowl: Louisville is up from an opener of -5 to -6.5. A few spots are testing -7. But, the Cardinals are a dicey favorite because of their turnover tendencies. Plus, the SEC often gets respect as underdogs of this size (though Kentucky isn’t vs. Northwestern). I think we’ll either stay below the seven, or have a tug-of-war between Louisville -6.5 and Mississippi State +7 based on what I’m hearing from sharps.

Iowa State vs. Memphis in the Liberty Bowl: The earliest offshore openers didn’t seem to realize Memphis was playing on its home field. Later openers were more realistic. Memphis is now all the way up to -4. Iowa State has made a lot of money as a dog for sharps this season, and will get some sharp support. One of those games where the Wise Guys had been looking to bet both of these teams in bowls, and were disappointed that they lined up against each other. Still some dog money out there biding its time to see if the public moves Memphis higher.

Washington vs. Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl:  This will be another heavily bet game…and would be a huge attraction if Ohio State/USC hadn’t stolen some of the Big 12/Pac 12 thunder the night before Penn State opened at -1.5, and has been bet up to -2 or -2.5. There’s definitely some Washington money waiting on the sideline to see if they can get the full +3 after public betting. There’s sharp respect for both teams. Better to say…sharps see this as a great matchup where points will be at a premium. They’d like either side as a dog. The public is much more likely to push Penn State toward a field goal because of TV familiarity.

Wisconsin vs. Miami in the Orange Bowl: Some recent interest showing on Miami, which is a surprise based on how badly the Hurricanes played against Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Wisconsin opened at -6.5. We’re now down to around Wisconsin -5, with some stores testing -4.5. Something like that…moving toward a DOG…usually means a key player for the dog is getting healthy, or somebody’s going to be out for Wisconsin. A bonus for fans if this game is entertaining too. There was some concern about that given how Miami closed the season.

MONDAY: NEW YEAR’S DAY

Michigan vs. South Carolina in the Outback Bowl: Michigan opened around -8 or -8.5 depending on the store. Most stores are down a half a point from where they opened. We may not see the key number of seven come into play unless the SEC impresses in earlier bowls. Michigan is still seen as a Big 10 power, even if they had trouble moving the ball this season. As of now, I think we’ll stay about where we are.

Auburn vs. Central Florida in the Peach Bowl: The opener of Auburn -9.5 has stayed put. That is important though, because it’s right below the key number of 10. If sharps liked Auburn, they would have bet already and driven that line up to (and maybe past) the key number. Instead, we can tell that sharp money must like the underdog, and is waiting to see if the public will bet the SEC West winners against the top mid-major. Still a few days to work itself out. We’re either staying at -9.5 because that mostly splits the action, or we’ll see a tug-of-war between squares on Auburn -9.5 and sharps on UCF at +10.

LSU vs. Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl: An opener of LSU -2 was quickly driven to the key number of -3. We’re still seeing LSU money rule the day. So, some stores are testing 3.5 to see if that brings in Notre Dame money. The public isn’t as inclined to bet the Irish given the poor finish this season. And, the bad loss at Miami looked even worse after Miami fell apart. If the SEC looks great in other bowl games, we may get all the way to four. If not, Notre Dame’s traditional betting constituency will keep the game where it is.

Georgia vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl: Sharps knew they wanted Georgia here, and acted fairly quickly. Oklahoma opened as a short favorite. Georgia has been driven all the way to -2 even though the public typically likes betting both Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy winners. Quants who run models get Georgia winning because of superior defense. I don’t expect the line to get to Georgia -3 unless the SEC looks great in earlier bowls and backers keep re-investing. This should be a very heavily bet game. And, that two just might split the action moving forward.

Alabama vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl: Everyone will have had all day to bet this one. And, we know how much interest there was the past two seasons when these teams played for the National Championship. Clemson opened at -1 or pick-em in many spots. Alabama has been gradually bet all the way up to -3. That’s both sharp and square interest on the Crimson Tide. Many quants, or just guys who use Power Ratings have had Alabama up with Ohio State as best in the country all season. They don’t mind laying anything below a field goal. The public loves getting Nick Saban cheap. I’m very aware of Clemson money that’s biding its time to see what it can get. Some of that came in at +3. Much more is waiting to see if +3.5 because available. There’s likely to be a tug-of-war on game-day…but it’s too early to tell which numbers will be in play. The Wise Guys who won big on Clemson last year are ready to back to the well.

Thanks for reading today. Be back with you at the usual time Friday to run through the NFL.

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