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Betting public rolling with Crimson Tide, Buckeyes

College football kicks into high gear this week, but the action at sportsbooks has been piling up for months.

John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, said after two seasons hampered by COVID-19, the betting handle on college football has returned to pre-pandemic levels at his books.

“The public action is back,” Murray told ESPN.

As of mid-August, Caesars Sportsbook had taken seven national championship bets on long-shot teams that would pay $1 million:

  • $2,000 on Central Florida at 500-1 placed in late February by a bettor in Louisiana.

  • $1,000 on Utah State at 1,000-1 placed in mid-April by a bettor in New Jersey.

  • $1,000 on Utah State at 1,000-1 placed in mid-April by a bettor in New Jersey.

  • $1,000 on Utah State at 1,000-1 placed in mid-April by a bettor in Illinois.

  • $100 on UMass at 10,000-1 odds placed in New York.

  • $100 on UMass at 10,000-1 odds placed in New York

  • $100 on UConn at 10,000-1 odds.

The largest bets Caesars has taken are on Alabama and Ohio State, the two consensus favorites. The sportsbook reported taking a $100,000 bet on Alabama at 2-1, and a $50,000 on Ohio State at 3-1.

Here is an odds-and-ends look at how the college football betting market has shaped up this offseason:

The favorites

National championship

Alabama is the consensus favorite to win College Football Playoff, with odds as short as +150, followed closely by Ohio State (+300) and Georgia (+425). Those are the only three teams with single-digit odds.

Alabama and Ohio State account for nearly 64% of the money wagered on BetMGM’s odds to win the national championship and have each attracted nearly six times as much money as any other team.

The SuperBook has posted a prop on if the national championship game will be between Alabama and Ohio State. The “Yes” is +340 and the “No” -410.

At FanDuel, USC has attracted more bets to win the national championship than any other team.

Heisman Trophy

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is the consensus favorite to win the Heisman at +200, followed by Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at +430. USC quarterback Caleb Williams is next at +700.

Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. has attracted more bets — and more money wagered — to win the Heisman than any other player at some sportsbooks. Anderson is +2,200 at Caesars Sportsbook.


Here are the favorites to win each conference:
AAC: Cincinnati Bearcats (+160)
ACC: Clemson (-120)
Big Ten: Ohio State (-250)
Big 12: Oklahoma (+190)
CUSA: UAB (+140)
MAC: Toledo (+300)
Mountain West: Boise State (+220) and Fresno State (+220)
PAC-12: Utah (+180)
SEC: Alabama (-150)
Sun Belt: Appalachian State (+220)

*Odds via SuperBook

Coaches: Kansas State coach Chris Klieman has the best record against the spread (ATS) as a favorite of any coach with at least three years of experience. Teams coached by Klieman are 10-4-1 ATS as favorites. Kent State coach Sean Lewis (10-5 ATS) and Tulane coach Willie Fritz (35-19 ATS) have also exceed the betting market’s expectations when favored.

On the other hand, Cal coach Justin Wilcox is 7-14-1 ATS as a favorite. Arizona State coach Herm Edwards (9-16 ATS), and UTEP coach Dana Dimel (15-26 ATS) also have struggled to meet the betting market’s expectations when favored.


  • Underdogs covered the spread in 49.3% of games last season. Underdogs had covered the spread in more games than favorites in four of the previous four seasons.

  • UMass opened at 10,000-1 to win the national championship and represents Caesars Sportsbook’s largest liability. The liability on the Minutemen includes two $100 national title bets from customers in New York. UMass, which is now 5,000-1, is 2-26 over the last three seasons.

  • Coaches: Wilcox has struggled as a favorite, but has been great in the underdog role. Cal has gone 23-9 ATS as an underdog under Wilcox. Florida coach Billy Napier is 12-5 ATS as an underdog, and Arizona State’s Herm Edwards is 12-6 ATS as an underdog.

  • Coaches who have struggled to live up to the betting market’s expectations as an underdog include: Tennessee coach Jose Heupel (2-7 ATS), Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton (5-13 ATS) and Western Michigan coach Tim Lester (5-10-1 ATS).

Odds & Ends

• John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, reported taking season-win total bets last week from a customer “I really respect” on under 11.5 wins for Alabama and over 9.5 wins for Michigan.

• Utah’s season-win total has attracted more action than any other team at PointsBet, where 98% of the bets and 97% of the handle is on the Utes to win more than 8.5 games. Since opening in May, the price on the Utah over has grown from even-money to -160.

Week 1 point spreads that moved the most at the South Point casino in Las Vegas:

TCU at Colorado Buffaloes: The Horned Frogs have gone from -7.5 to -11
Notre Dame at Ohio State: The Buckeyes have gone from -14 to -17
Army at Coastal Carolina The Chanticleers have gone from -5.5 to -2.5
Miami (Ohio) at Kentucky: The Wildcats have gone from -20.5 to -17.5

  • The average spread margin — the difference between the margin of victory and closing line — in college football is 8.2 points over the last five seasons.

  • The most common margin of victory in college football is three: 9.3% of games over the last five seasons have ended with a margin of victory of three. Seven is the next most common margin of victory, followed by 10 and 21.

  • Games involving at least one FBS team have averaged 56.3 points scored over the last five seasons. Last season, games averaged 55.2 points, the lowest in the last five seasons.

  • 52.3% of games last season stayed under the total, the highest percentage of unders since 2017.

Coaches who cover and those who don’t (minimum three seasons)


Liberty’s Hugh Freeze 72-41-1 ATS
Kansas State’s Chris Klieman 22-13-1 ATS
Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck 64-43-3 ATS


Western Michigan’s Tim Lester 23-32-2 ATS
UTEP’s Dana Dimel 47-65-0 ATS
Maryland’s Mike Locksley 28-37-0

Home games


Kent State’s Sean Lewis 12-5 ATS
Liberty’s Hugh Freeze 39-19-1 ATS
Colorado’s Karl Dorrell 26-13-1 ATS


Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins 9-21 ATS
Ball State’s Mike Neu 11-21 ATS
UTEP’s Dana Dimel 20-33 ATS

Road games


Ohio State’s Ryan Day 8-3-1 ATS
Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery 29-11-1 ATS
Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi 25-11-1ATS


USC’s Lincoln Riley 7-13-2 ATS
Maryland’s Mike Locksley 11-19 ATS
Texas’ Steve Sarkisian 15-24 ATS
Western Michigan’s Tim Lester 10-16-1 ATS

Conference games


Ohio State’s Ryan Day 16-9-1 ATS
San Jose State’s Brent Brennan 23-13-3 ATS
Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo 43-24-2 ATS
Colorado State’s Jay Norvell 24-14-2 ATS


Western Michigan’s Tim Lester 14-23-1 ATS
Maryland’s Mike Locksley 18-28 ATS
UTEP’s Dana Dimel 29-44 ATS

Non-conference games


Northern Illinois’ Thomas Hammock 6-2-1 ATS
Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck 24-9-1 ATS
Michigan State’s Mel Tucker 5-2 ATS


Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins 4-13 ATS
Georgia Southern’s Clay Helton 6-13 ATS
San Jose State’s Brett Brennan 6-11-1 ATS

In August/September games


Liberty’s Hugh Freeze 25-10-1 ATS
Northern Illinois’ Thomas Hammock 5-2-1 ATS
Tulane’s Willie Fritz 22-11 ATS
West Virginia’s Neal Brown 16-8-3 ATS


Georgia Southern’s Clay Helton 6-15 ATS
Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins 7-13 ATS
Indiana’s Tom Allen 6-11 ATS

After a loss


Colorado State’s Jay Norvell 16-8-2 ATS
Florida’s Billy Napier 8-4 ATS
Central Michigan’s Jim McElwain 27-14 ATS


Indiana’s Tom Allen 8-21-1
Ohio State’s Ryan Day 1-2-1 ATS
Kentucky’s Mark Stoops 18-33-2 ATS


Highest over percentage

UCLA’s Chip Kelly (60%)
Western Kentucky’s Tyson Helton (59%)
Ohio State’s Ryan Day (58.8%)

Highest under percentage

Cal’s Justin Wilcox (64.8%)
Louisiana-Monroe’s Terry Bowden (63.3%)
Florida’s Billy Napier (61.5%)

*ESPN Stats and Information researchers Darayus Sanjana and Zack Rosenberg contributed to this article.

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