NCAAF Game of the Week: Alabama at Auburn
This could be one of the most exciting weeks for College Football in a long time. Last week #6 Oklahoma State and #3 Ohio State were knocked off against ranked opponents, while #7 Oklahoma and #8 Florida barely eked out victories. Fourth-ranked Notre Dame hung on to defeat Boston College by 3-points, but clearly members of the College Football Playoff selection committee weren’t impressed, as the Irish dropped two spots.
Based on the most recent poll, Clemson would face off against Iowa and Alabama would take on Oklahoma in the first two playoff games. Although there haven’t been any look ahead lines published at the time of publication, it’s interesting to see that Baylor (+1500), Michigan State (+1200) and Notre Dame (+850) all have better odds of winning the National Championship than Iowa (+1800).
Looking at this week’s lines, there are a number of fantastic rivalry games which could impact the title picture including Ohio State/Michigan, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State and Notre Dame/Stanford. However, perhaps no game is more interesting than the Iron Bowl.
Alabama, who leads the all-time series 43-35-1, opened as a 13-point favorite at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook and have received 88% of spread bets and 72% of moneyline bets. The screenshot below, which is available to our Sportsbook Insider Pro members, displays the individual breakdown from our seven contributing sportsbooks:
With nearly nine out of every ten bets taking Alabama, the Crimson Tide have moved from -13 to -14.5 at Pinnacle. This 1.5-point line move is particularly interesting because “14” is one of the most important key numbers for football bettors.
We also spoke with Michael Grodsky from the William Hill sportsbook in Las Vegas, who said they were receiving similar one-sided public betting. After opening Alabama -13.5, they have taken 94% tickets and 92% of total dollars wagered on Nick Saban’s team which has moved the line to Alabama -14.
The screenshot below charts the line movement at Pinnacle for Saturday’s game:
It’s easy to understand why the betting public would pound Alabama, especially given the recent struggles of Auburn. The Tigers have gone just 7-17 ATS over their past two seasons and nearly lost to Jacksonville State earlier in the season. On the other hand, Alabama has won eight straight games following an early season loss to Ole Miss and feature the Heisman favorite in running back Derrick Henry (-260 at 5Dimes).
These two teams are clearly going in opposite directions, but we always recommend buying on bad news and selling on good. We have also observed a number of historically profitable betting trends which indicate that Auburn could be offering value as a double-digit home underdog.
In the past we have discussed how underdogs have performed well in divisional/conference games, as the familiarity between teams disproportionately benefits the team getting points. That edge is amplified when you focus on large underdogs in games with low totals.
Speaking of totals, there also appears to be value on the under in Saturday’s showdown. Pinnacle opened the over/under for this game at 48.5 and, despite 86% of bettors taking the over, the total remains unchanged.
Last week we published an article for ESPN which explained how there was value on the under in divisional showdowns, but we wanted to know whether this was also true for College Football bettors. We found that the under has gone 2,640-2,520 (51.2%) in conference games and 621-542 (53.4%) when both teams went over the total in their previous game. By tacking on a contrarian filter and examining unders that receive less than 30% of public support, our winning percentage jumps from 53.4% to 55.5%.
There have been conflicting bet signals triggered on the spread, but there definitely appears to be value on the under in this game.
These numbers are subject to change before kickoff, so bettors should be sure to visit our free NFL 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