The public in Las Vegas has sided with the Alabama Crimson Tide, but there's still plenty of support for the underdog Clemson Tigers -- the "sharp side" -- as game day arrives for the College Football Playoff National Championship (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Alabama is a seven-point favorite and is attracting the majority of the money. Three times as much money had been bet on the Crimson Tide than the Tigers at the Westgate SuperBook, mostly because of a "big" bet from a VIP casino guest. At William Hill's Nevada sportsbook, 82 percent of the money is on Alabama to cover the spread. But the action at other shops is much more even and includes big money on both sides.
As of Sunday night, the MGM sportsbook had taken two six-figure wagers on the national championship game, one on each team, according to vice president Jay Rood. John Avello, executive director of the Wynn, said he's also taken big bets on both sides.
"It's basically a wash right now," Avello said.
At Caesars sportsbook, only $6,000 more money had been bet on Alabama than on Clemson.
"Every time we take a big bet on one side," a Caesars sportsbook manager said, "we get another to balance it out on the other."
Clemson is around a plus-230 underdog on the money line. Enough bettors have taken a stab on the Tigers to pull the upset at that price that the books are rooting for Alabama to win but not cover the spread. Known as the "bookmaker's dream," the favorite winning but not covering the spread is often the best-case scenario for books in big games like the Super Bowl or national championship game. And it is again Monday night.
"That's what we're rooting for," CG Technology vice president of race and sports Jason Simbal said.
CG Technology especially needs Alabama to win the first half, after a bettor risked approximately $40,000 on a series of money-line bets on Clemson being ahead at halftime. On Dec. 6, a bettor at William Hill put $25,000 on the Tigers to win the national championship at 6-1 odds. The futures ticket would pay $150,000.
Ed Salmons, head football oddsmaker at the SuperBook, said the sharp money has gravitated toward Clemson plus-7 and the under. The total opened as high as 53.5 but had been bet down to 50.5 as of Sunday night. Simbal said two unrelated sophisticated players bet the under last week at his book.
Rood said he expects more than $1 million to be wagered on the game at his shop. That's comparable to the least-bet NFL wild-card game from the weekend.