While a flurry of limit bets caused a point spread to move eight points and a late touchdown covered the spread for a big public favorite, Las Vegas sports books still came out ahead in Week 1 of the college football season.
"Overall, it was a decent week," said Jeff Stoneback, assistant manager at the MGM Mirage Race & Sports Book. "But it didn't start out that way. We got crushed on Thursday."
Temple's 37-7 beatdown of Vanderbilt was responsible for Thursday's crushing. The Commodores opened as 17-point favorites over the Owls. By kickoff, Vanderbilt was favored by only 8.5, and some books went down to as low as 7.5.
Stoneback estimated he took "at least eight or nine" $5,000 limit bets on Temple in addition to a few larger bets from casino players who were staying at the hotel and were offered extended limits.
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"There wasn't any money on Vanderbilt," Stoneback said. "It was disastrous."
The damage wasn't as severe at other books. Other shops quickly adjusted their Temple-Vanderbilt line, when the point spread started to shrink offshore and around town. The LVH SuperBook, CG Technology, Wynn and William Hill said their losses weren't that severe on that game.
"When you see the lines move, it doesn't always mean there are bets behind it," said Ed Salmons, head football oddsmaker at the LVH SuperBook. "We probably had more money on Vanderbilt in that game. There were a lot reasons why they were betting Temple. Vanderbilt lost their running back, the line was high, and then the weather report came over and it was going to be a torrential downpour, making the points even more important."
The SuperBook wasn't as lucky with the Navy-Ohio State game. The Midshipmen, who closed as 13.5-point underdogs, had the lead at halftime and were covering the spread for almost the entire game. But Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett threw a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas that put the Buckeyes ahead 34-17 with 2:09 left to play. It resulted in the biggest loss of the weekend for the SuperBook and several other shops.
"That was brutal how that ended," said Salmons. "We had an over-flux of public money on Ohio State."
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer improved to 31-9 against the spread (ATS) in games he has more than a week to prepare, including season openers.
Overall, though, the weekend was a success for Vegas sports books.
"No complaints," said John Avello, executive director of the Wynn sports book. "The handle was big."
CG Technology, which operates eight sports books in Las Vegas, also reported strong handle and a profitable weekend.
"The action was pretty strong all around," said Mark Goldman, Vice President of Race & Sports for CG Technology. "We had great crowds. Welcome back, football."
Sports book report
Books lost big on ...
Georgia (-10) 45, Clemson 21: Avello said he took multiple "big five-figure bets" on the Bulldogs, resulting in his worst loss of the weekend. The MGM also reported a big loss on Georgia's impressive win over Clemson.
LSU (-4) 28, Wisconsin 24: Anytime a game's final score ends on or near the point spread it spells trouble for the books, especially when there's some line movement leading up to the game. That was the case on the LSU-Wisconsin game. LSU opened as 4.5-point favorites, but the line fluctuated leading up to kickoff and ended up at minus-4 for several shops.
"We had taken some money on Wisconsin at plus-4.5 and ended up getting sided," said Stoneback. "That wasn't very good."
Books won big on ...
Florida State (-20.5) 37, Oklahoma State 31: "It seemed like every tourist in the world was on Florida State," said Goldman at CG Technology. "There was mostly public money, but there was also a little sophisticated money on Florida State as well."
Texas A&M 52, South Carolina (-10) 28: Despite a game-day flurry of sharp action on the Aggies, multiple books pointed to A&M's rout as their biggest win of the week. "It just killed so many moneyline parlays," said William Hill Director of Trading Nick Bogdanovich.
Early Week 2 college football action
Impressing Vegas: Texas A&M
No one wanted to bet on Texas A&M during the offseason. The LVH SuperBook had received only three bets on the Aggies to win the national championship before Thursday's opener at South Carolina, but that changed shortly after Kevin Sumlin's team finished rolling the Gamecocks.
"We cut them from 100-to-1 to 30-to-1 and then took a decent-sized bet on them," said Salmons. "They're down to 20-to-1 now."
When asked to characterize a "decent-sized bet," Salmons would only add, "more than three figures." The SuperBook generally takes up to $50,000 of liability on futures bets, but extended limits are offered occasionally to casino guests.
In January, the Aggies opened at 60-1 to win the national championship at the SuperBook. The action was so light that their odds had slipped back to 100-1 by mid-June.
Other notable national championship odds adjustments at the SuperBook:
Alabama: From 7-1 to 9-2
Auburn: From 15-1 to 10-1
LSU: From 20-1 to 15-1
Georgia: From 18-1 to 10-1
Ohio State: From 40-1 to 20-1
USC: From 30-1 to 20-1
Notre Dame: From 100-1 to 60-1
Florida State: From 3-1 to 7-2
Wisconsin: 30-1 to 60-1
South Carolina: 30-1 to 60-1
Odds & ends
" A bettor risked $5,000 on the Arizona Wildcats beating UNLV straight-up at minus-3,500 to win $122.50 at the SuperBook.
" Auburn, with its 45-21 win over Arkansas, has covered the spread in 12 straight games, the longest such streak in the nation. Tigers' coach Gus Malzahn improved to 21-6 ATS as a head coach.
" Baylor, with its 45-0 win over SMU, has covered the spread in 12 straight home games.
" With the Idaho-Florida game terminated, sports books were forced to refund bets on the game. Even worse, they'll also have to refund bets on the Gators' season win total, if the game is not rescheduled.
" Biggest lock of the week: Alabama-Birmingham, a 2.5-point home underdog, hammered Troy 48-10, covering the spread by 40.5 points. That's the most any team covered the spread by in Week 1, through Sunday's games.
Top 5 teams by money wagered on to win Super Bowl XLIX (via LVH SuperBook)
Top 5 by number of bets to win Super Bowl
Week 1 notables (via MGM)
New Orleans Saints (-2.5, O/U: 52) at Atlanta Falcons: There hasn't been a lot of movement on the Week 1 NFL points spreads, which have been up for months, but the Saints-Falcons game is the exception. The Falcons opened as small 1.5-point favorites, but were as much as 3-point home underdogs to start the week.
New York Giants at Detroit Lions (-5, 47), Monday night: "We took a whole lot of tickets on the Lions," said Stoneback. "Not any limit bets, but just a whole lot of tickets that added up to quite a bit of money."
Enemies of Vegas
The William Hill sports book already knows which NFL teams it will be cheering against this season. "We'll need to beat the same teams every week," said Bogdanovich. "We're going to need to beat the Saints, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, for sure. I can go to sleep now and wake up on Sunday and know who we need."