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Monday, August 4, 2014
Q&A: Talking B1G odds with Bovada

By Josh Moyer

Online sportsbook Bovada updated its Big Ten title odds last week, making Ohio State even more of a favorite (10-to-11) while placing Purdue as a 300-to-1 long shot.

We decided to check in with Bovada sportsbook manager Kevin Bradley about those new odds and about B1G betting in general. Here's what he had to say:

What were some of the bigger jumps, or key changes, in the updated list of the Big Ten odds?

Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are the odds-on favorites to win the Big Ten.
Kevin Bradley: There's really nothing that stood out as a huge move in that conference. Ohio State remains the favorite at 10-to-11; actually, they moved a little bit. They've taken the most money out of every team, followed by the next two favorites -- Michigan State and Wisconsin. So I think our odds were pretty on for this conference, particularly.

The only team that sort of dropped a little bit was Northwestern. We had them at 75-to-1 at one point; now they're at 40-to-1. They've actually taken a little bit of money. They're a long shot, but there are people that like betting on those big long shots. You never know what's going to happen.

How much does the B1G take in compared to conferences like the SEC?

KB: I'd say it's pretty significant, but the SEC still remains our biggest conference by far -- even when it comes to betting on the national championship, or even if you look at game lines from week to week or win totals that we have up. It always seems like the SEC still kind of reigns over everybody else.

In your updated odds, Purdue is listed at 300-to-1 while newcomer Rutgers -- which has a pretty difficult schedule -- is 200-to-1. That's a big difference. Where do you come up with odds like those?

KB: A lot of times when we're doing these odds, we're ranking the teams just like anyone else who ranks college football teams. And we're sort of looking at what the chances are for each team to win the conference. And if we're going to have an odds-on favorite like Ohio State at minus money, the need is to balance out the odds to make them fairer to people. So, in order to do that, we'll have some teams with super high odds like Purdue. If you look at all of conferences, we'll have some teams as high as 500-to-1 to win a particular conference. It's basically looking at their schedule, looking down the road, looking at their win total, looking at some of their projected lines, that means -- realistically -- they have no chance.

In the Big Ten there are very few bets, very little money, on the huge long shots. People in the conference are sticking with the favorites -- Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, a little bit of Nebraska. But there's not too much money on the big long shots.

One team missing from your odds is Penn State, which is currently banned from the postseason. There is some talk the ban could be lifted next month, so was there any discussion about leaving the Lions in and factoring in those odds? And where would Penn State be here if it was eligible for the postseason?

KB: They'd probably be in the middle of the pack. But in those types of situations -- and obviously the NCAA, whether it's basketball or football, causes a lot of problems a lot of times with suspensions and weird rulings and that sort of stuff. Like [Jameis] Winston, when we were doing Heisman odds when he had all those charges against him, we had put him up and down because we didn't know if people would vote for him. And the [Johnny] Manziel suspension, who knew if they were only going to suspend him for half of a game? You can imagine our struggles keeping up with all that stuff because it's so shady in my opinion because you never know what they're going to do.

So we're always monitoring it but, if Penn State's eligible, we'll add them in. And a good example was I was talking to one of my guys who's keeping an eye on baseball futures, and I told them to close them down until the trade deadline was over -- because every time there was a rumor about anyone, the odds fluctuated so much. It's just safer to keep them down. So, the same thing happens in college football.

Speaking of Penn State, head coach James Franklin doesn't discuss or divulge injuries at all. How hard does that make your job, and how will that affect the lines and everything this season?

KB: It's a complete pain in the ass, especially in college sports because there's so many teams to keep up with. So, when people are hiding injuries or you don't know the status of players, we post lines a lot later and we have to be careful with our win totals and our future odds, our conference odds, because of those things. It's sort of like the NFL; a good comparison is Bill Belichick and the Patriots. We go through injury reports daily because the NFL is so big that we're super on top of that. And every guy on his team is questionable every week, and I hate it. Every week when I look at it, I scream.

So, yeah, that definitely makes our job harder. And you can just imagine once November rolls around when every sport is in full swing, keeping up with all these reports and rumors. No doubt we're on top of that as much as we can be. But there are times where we'll miss it for a couple minutes when some guys will pick off some lines or future odds -- and those things get me even more mad. But that's the name of the game.