Which Team Does the Major Line Move Favor in the BCS National Championship Game?

Two of the most storied programs in college football history will face off tonight as #1 Notre Dame (12-0) takes on #2 Alabama (12-1) in the BCS National Championship. Each school has produced a plethora of legends with names ranging from Montana to Nagurski, from Bryant to Namath; but players for both squads will try to make their own indelible mark in the record books with a victory tonight.

Despite Notre Dame’s #1 ranking in the polls, Alabama opened as a 7.5-point favorite at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook. This helps to explain why, according to our College Football betting trends, 65% of spread bets have taken the Fighting Irish and the points. However, what’s really interesting is the line movement on this game.

Although Notre Dame is currently receiving two-thirds of spread bets, the line has actually moved 2.5 points to the key number of 10. This reverse line movement (when the line moves against the public betting data) indicates that sharp money has come in on the Crimson Tide.

During the regular season the public loves betting on favorites and overs, but that trend does not always hold up during bowl season. Since 2003, no title contender has received more than 62% of spread bets and no team has been favored by more than a touchdown. With Notre Dame receiving 65% of spread bets as a 10-point dog, it appears that both of those trends will come to an end tonight.

Using our historical archive, we have analyzed years of BCS National Championship Betting data to see who has the edge in tonight’s game between Alabama and Notre Dame.The table below, with line data taken from Pinnacle, shows the betting trends from the past nine BCS National Championships. The teams highlighted in bold covered the spread.

Favorite Dog Opening Line Closing Line Dog Betting % Fav Betting % Closing Total Final
Alabama  LSU  LSU -1.5 Alabama -2.5  62%  38% 41 21-0 Alabama
Oregon Auburn  Auburn -2.5  Oregon -1  44% 56% 73.5  22-19 Auburn
Alabama Texas Alabama -5.5 Alabama -3.5 49% 51% 44.5 37-21 Alabama
Florida Oklahoma Florida -3 Florida -4 42% 58% 69 24-14 Florida
LSU Ohio State LSU -5.5 LSU -3.5 42% 58% 46.5 38-24 LSU
Ohio State Florida Ohio State -8 Ohio State -7  44% 56% 47 41-14 Florida
USC Texas USC -7.5 USC -7 52% 48% 69 41-38 Texas
Oklahoma  USC USC -3 Oklahoma -1 44% 56% 52 55-19 USC
Oklahoma LSU  Oklahoma -6.5 Oklahoma -6.5 45% 55% 48.5 21-14 LSU

As you can see, six straight SEC teams have successfully won the National Championship while also covering the spread — a fact that would appear to bode well for ‘Bama. You can also see that sportsbooks have done an exceptional job in setting the line for the past nine title games. Last year, 62% of spread bets took the LSU Tigers, only to see Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide win in easy fashion. Other than that game, no team has received more than 58% of spread bets.

Interestingly, these teams combined for a 24-1 record, but managed just a 13-12 mark against the spread (ATS). It’s also intriguing to note the total. The current over/under is set at 40.5, which would rank as the lowest title game total in our database. Considering this game pits the nation’s top ranked defense (Alabama allows just 10.3 points per game) against Manti Te’o and the nation’s second-ranked D (allowing 10.7 ppg), that modest total is hardly a surprise.

So who do you like in tonight’s title game? Is the public right to jump on Notre Dame? Will the Tide roll to their second straight national title? We invite you to leave your analysis in the comments section below.

4 comments on “Which Team Does the Major Line Move Favor in the BCS National Championship Game?
  1. I took Bama with 10 units at -7.5. Was hoping the public pushed it down to 6 to come back and grab more. Had no idea this was going the other way. Interesting.

  2. Aside from LSU, when the line moved AGAINST the opening favourite by at least 2 points, from open to close, (AUB, ALA, LSU, USC), the favourite has WON.
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    Right now the line has moved WITH ALABAMA from two points from -7.5 to -9.5
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    So instead of the line moving against the FAV…
    It’s instead moved 2 points against the DOG.
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    I don’t think the rule is about the line moving 2 pts against (where Notre Dame would take it)
    I think it’s about the line moving 2 pts against the FAV (where the polar is true w/ Alabama)
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    ALABAMA to cover.
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  3. Alabama to cover HINGED that it stays where it’s at or continues to move further ATS.
    If it comes back against Alabama to -9.0 then it’s a no deal all bets off.
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    Game time decision.
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    Alabama -9.5

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