Where is Sharp Money Falling in the National Championship Game?

Airing the first College Football Playoff games on New Year’s Eve majorly backfired with total viewership dropping by more than 30%. This head-scratching scheduling decision, which drew widespread criticism from fans and media alike, has also affected betting behavior but not as significantly.

After tracking 214,819 bets on the two semifinal games last season, we tracked 202,042 this season — a dip of 6.3%. The table below displays the number of bets in these marquee games.

Date Description Favorite Underdog Number of Bets
1/1/15 CFP Semifinals Oregon Florida State 112,644
1/1/15 CFP Semifinals Alabama Ohio State 102,175
1/12/15 National Championship Oregon Ohio State 102,267
12/31/15 CFP Semifinals Alabama Michigan State 113,478
12/31/15 CFP Semifinals Clemson Oklahoma 88,564
1/11/16 National Championship Alabama Clemson 26,360*

As you can see, the New Year’s Eve showdown between Alabama and Michigan State was the most heavily bet game of the College Football Playoff era. Moreover, the Cotton Bowl was the most heavily bet college football game since the 2014 National Championship between Florida State and Auburn.

We have repeatedly explained how our betting against the public strategies are more profitable in heavily bet games, which is part of the reason we loved the value on Alabama last week.

In Monday night’s National Championship game, Alabama opened as a 7-point favorite at the market-setting Pinnacle sportsbook and have received 64% of spread bets. The screenshot below, available to our Sportsbook Insider members, illustrates how this game has been bet at our contributing sportsbooks:

With nearly two-thirds of bettors taking the Crimson Tide, it could be expected that oddsmakers would make Alabama a larger favorite to encourage action on Clemson. Instead, the Tigers have dropped from +7 to +6.5 at Pinnacle. This reverse line movement indicates that sharp bettors have been hammering Clemson. As of Monday morning game day, much of the market has also moved their line to Alabama -6.5 while squarer books like Sportsbook and Bovada remain at Alabama -7.

The screenshot below charts the movement in more detail.

We also spoke with Ryan Oakes from the William Hill sportsbook (@WilliamHillUS) in Las Vegas, who reported similar public betting trends. At the time of publication, 70% of tickets and 69% of total dollars wagered had taken Alabama.

In addition to these aforementioned sharp money indicators, Clemson is close to fitting a number of historically profitable betting systems including our 2014 ESPN Bowl System and our 2015 ESPN Bowl System. We have also found that bowl teams receiving less than 35% of spread bets have gone 40-21 ATS (65.6%) when they face off against a ranked opponent.

Bowl System

It’s clear that sharp money is taking Clemson at +7 in Monday’s game, but it’s important for bettors to shop for the best line before placing any bets. Although the Tigers are listed as 6.5-point underdogs at Pinnacle and many sharper books around the market, you can find still find Clemson +7 at several squarer offshore sportsbooks. That half-point is particularly significant because “7” is the second most common margin of victory.

It’s also evident that public money pounded Alabama early this week; however, more recent sharp money has been taking Clemson.

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

David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He specializes in sports betting analytics and creating data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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