New Year’s Eve is just days away which can mean only two things: binge drinking and the start of the college football playoff. In the late game on Thursday, #3 Michigan State (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) will face off against #2 Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC) in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl.
Despite identical records, the Crimson Tide opened as 9.5-point favorites at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbooks. As we often see when two top ranked teams face off, public bettors have been more than happy to take Michigan State and the points. At the time of publication, 68% of spread bets had been placed on the Spartans.
With more than two-thirds of bettors taking the Spartans, you would expect that oddsmakers would make Michigan State a smaller underdog to encourage equal action on Alabama. Instead, Mark Dantonio’s team has dropped from +9.5 to +10 at Pinnacle. This reverse line movement indicates that although square bettors are taking the Spartans, sharp money has been hammering the Crimson Tide.
The screenshot below charts the movement in more detail.
You’ll notice that almost immediately after opening, there was a reverse line movement alert and steam move triggered which caused the line to move from Alabama -9.5 to -10. Public money continued taking the Big Ten champs, which caused the line to drop from Michigan State +10 to +9.5. The line remained unchanged between December 8 and December 28, when there was finally buy back on the Crimson Tide.
Since all of our sharp money indicators point towards value on Alabama -9.5, it’s important to shop for the best line. Most of the sharper offshore sportsbooks have Alabama listed as a 10-point favorite, but bettors can still find ‘Bama -9.5 at The Greek, Bovada, Carib and several others.
Using our Bet Labs software, we found several additional historical trends which point towards value on Alabama on Thursday.
- Teams receiving less than 40% of spread bets have gone 62-36 ATS (63.3%) in postseason games where the total is less than 55.
- Teams receiving less than 35% of spread bets have gone 38-19 ATS (66.7%) when their opponent is ranked in the AP Top 25.
- Favorites receiving less than 40% of spread bets have gone 11-5 ATS (68.8%) during bowl season.
We also built this basic reverse line movement betting system, which has produced consistently profitable returns.
Bettors may also be interested to know that there have only been three games in our database in which Nick Saban coached teams received less than one-third of public bets.
- November 7, 2015: Alabama (-7.5) vs. LSU – Won 30-16
- August 30, 2008: Alabama (+4) at Clemson – Won 34-10
- October 20, 2007: Alabama (+1) vs. Tennessee – Won 41-17
The moral of the story? Never doubt Nick Saban.
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.