Bowl season kicks off this weekend with a slate of five games, but perhaps none are more interesting than the poorly named Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Although most bettors will be focused on the two College Football Playoff games, it’s often times the less visible games that offer value to bettors.
In Saturday’s most heavily bet game, Utah (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) opened as a 3-point favorite over Brigham Young (9-3) at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook. Despite their identical records, public bettors have been hammering the Utes in early action.
Although Utah has received 76% of spread bets at our seven contributing sportsbooks, BYU has actually dropped from +3 to +2.5. This reverse line movement is an excellent indicator that sharp money loves the Cougars in this matchup.
The line graph below, which is available to Sportsbook Insider subscribers, displays how public betting has affected the line at Pinnacle.
The overwhelming public support on Utah is even more confusing when you look at the recent trends. The Utes have lost two of their past three games while the Cougars have won seven of their past eight.
In the past, we have explained that public bettors tend to overvalue ranked teams — especially when they’re facing an unranked opponent. Additional research found that this edge was magnified during the postseason.
Using our Bet Labs software, we found that unranked teams have gone 41-28 ATS (59.4%) in bowl games. This trend indicates that there could be value fading #22 Utah.
Bettors should also consider that Utah will likely be without arguably their best player — running back Devontae Booker. The 5’11” senior, who racked up over 3,300 total yards and 23 touchdowns over the past two seasons, is listed as doubtful with a knee injury.
Although most of the sports betting marketplace is still offering this game at BYU +2.5, there are a handful of square sportsbooks where you can grab the hook. At the time of publication BetUs, Bovada and Sportsbook.com were still hanging BYU +3. This is particularly significant because “3” is the most common margin of victory.
Earlier this week we contributed an article to ESPN Insider which detailed where contrarian betting value lies during college football game season. The featured system, which explains how favorites and ranked teams have been overvalued, has posted an all-time record of 33-14 ATS (70.2%). There are four current game matches, including one on this game.
It’s also worth noting that just 26% of bettors are taking the over in this matchup. This comes as something of an anomaly, since the a majority of public bets almost always take the favorite and over. Despite this public betting, the total has increased from 53.5 to 54 at Pinnacle. Once again, this reverse line movement indicates that there could be value on the over.
These numbers are subject to change before kickoff, so bettors should be sure to visit our free college football odds page for the latest lines, injuries, public betting trends and more.
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David Solar is the Content Manager for Sports Insights and can be reached directly at David@SportsInsights.com