In today’s most heavily bet game, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) will take on the Washington State Cougars (8-4) in the National Funding Holiday Bowl. Tonight’s match-up comes with added intrigue and drama, as Minnesota briefly threatened to boycott their bowl game. Back on December 15th, the Golden Gophers announced a boycott to protest the suspensions of ten players following a sexual assault investigation by the school. They ended their boycott after two days, but these suspensions have had a tremendous impact on the spread.
Washington State opened as 6.5-point favorites at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbooks when the line was initially released over three weeks ago. Early public money pounded the chalk, with the Cougars receiving 77% of spread tickets and 90% of spread dollars. Despite this one-sided public betting, the line remained unchanged until December 13th when the ten suspensions were handed down.
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The most notable players among these suspensions were starting safety Antoine Winfield Jr and a trio of cornerbacks: KiAnte Hardin, Antonio Shenault and Ray Buford. Those are devastating losses when you consider that Washington State quarterback, Luke Falk, has thrown for over 4,000 passing yards in consecutive seasons. In fact, Falk’s 4,204 passing yards ranks fifth in the nation this season.
These suspensions caused the line to move from Washington State -6.5 to -7.5 which is a particularly significant move since “7” is one the most important key numbers for football bettors. The line remained unchanged until December 15th when sportsbooks took this game off the board due to the threatened boycott. When Pinnacle finally re-opened the game on December 22nd, Washington State was listed as a 10-point favorite.
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As you can see, public money has been hammering Washington State since they re-opened as 10-point favorites. According to our public betting trends, the Cougars have received 71% of spread tickets and 77% of spread dollars. Despite this one-sided public betting, Washington State recently dropped from -10 to -9.5 at Pinnacle. This reverse line movement indicates that sharp money likes Minnesota +10.
You will also notice several “$” icons on the chart between December 24 and 26. These represent smart money alerts triggered on Minnesota. With more than three-fourths of total dollars wagered taking Washington State -10 and the line moving in the opposite direction, we can conclude this is the perfect example of “sharps vs. squares.” Although public money is all over the favorite, sharp money on the underdog has been the primary factor driving the recent line movement.
The table below displays the breakdown of these ticket percentages at contributing sportsbooks.
It’s worth noting that sharp sportsbooks (including CRIS) are currently offering Washington State -9 while square books (like Bovada and Sports Interaction) are offering Washington State -10. Once again, this highlights the importance of having access to multiple sportsbooks and always shopping for the best line.
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