Inside risk rooms at Las Vegas sportsbooks on Sunday, opinions varied on how much Georgia should be favored by over Ohio State.
Shortly after the College Football Playoff semifinal matchups were announced, Caesars Sportsbook opened the Bulldogs at -7 over the Buckeyes and quickly took $110,000 and $55,000 bets on Ohio State. Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports, which is known to cater to professional bettors, installed Georgia at -6. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas opened at Georgia -6.5 and took early small bets on the Bulldogs.
"We were all less than 7 [on Georgia]," Ed Salmons, vice president of risk for the SuperBook, said of his team's opinions on the spread for the game. "We were as low as 4.5 to as high as 6.5."
A week ago, before the Buckeyes lost to Michigan, the line between Ohio State and Georgia might've been as low as Bulldogs -3, according to some bookmakers. Even entering this weekend, some oddsmakers thought the Buckeyes might be only 3.5-point underdogs against Georgia.
"All year, I would've had this game at 3, maybe even a little bit less," said Salmons, who added that he wouldn't be surprised to see the line drop in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 31 game.
Shortly after the Michigan-Ohio State game, Caesars Sportsbook moved the Buckeyes to 50-1 to win the national championship. That price wouldn't last long. Bettors who correctly assessed that coach Ryan Day's squad still had a legitimate shot to make the final four pounded the Buckeyes at the long odds. In just over five hours, Ohio State went from 50-1 to 14-1 at Caesars Sportsbook.
On Tuesday, a bettor in New York and another in Colorado each put $10,000 on the Buckeyes to win the national championship at 14-1 with Caesars.
"I wasn't surprised to see those big bets on Ohio State," said Joey Feazel, the lead college football trader for Caesars Sportsbook. "If they get in the playoff, they'd have even lower title odds, so I understand the potential value. Those were two well-respected bettors who bet it pretty close together [Tuesday]."
Ohio State winning the national championship is the worst-case scenario for Caesars Sportsbook entering the playoff, Feazel said.
Michigan opened as a 9-point favorite over TCU in the other College Football Playoff semifinal.
• Approximately an hour before kickoff of the prime-time game between the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, a bettor in New Jersey placed a $97,309 bet on CeeDee Lamb to score the first touchdown of the game at 8-1 odds. The bettor won a net $778,472 when Lamb caught a pass on a crossing route at the Colts' 17-yard line and managed to avoid a tackle by landing on Indianapolis defensive back Rodney McLeod Jr., keeping his balance and scampering into the end zone for the game's first touchdown.
• Favorites went 11-1-1 straight up and 8-4 against the spread in the afternoon games Sunday, helping the betting public to one of their better weeks in what has been a costly NFL season. Yet heading into the Sunday night game, some sportsbooks were still ahead on the day.
"It was a good day for the favorites, but surprisingly we're up a little bit," said Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook. "It's going to come down to the night game, so maybe the Colts can make a game out of it. Even with all the favorites, we still made it out of the afternoon games with our head above water."
BetMGM was in a similar position entering the prime-time game.
"We've got our nose in front," Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM sportsbooks, said in a text message to ESPN as Colts-Cowboys was kicking off. "Bengals winning was a very strong result for us."
The Bengals covered the spread as 2.5-point underdogs in a 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Cincinnati improved to a impressive 17-3 against the spread in its past 20 games.
The Cowboys got a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter and covered the spread in a 54-19 victory over the Colts, sending some sportsbooks to a rare losing week.
Entering the Monday night game, favorites are 12-1-1 straight up and 9-4 against the spread.
• Craig Mucklow, director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said out of the five biggest NFL decisions of the week, only the Philadelphia Eagles covering the spread in a 35-10 rout of the Tennessee Titans was good for the house. "The Lions, the Bills on Thursday, the Rams and the Giants were all big for the public," Mucklow said.
• More bets were placed and more money staked on Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb to score a touchdown against the Houston Texans than any other player prop at PointsBet. Chubb, who was a -180 odds-on favorite to score, failed to get into the end zone in the Browns' 27-14 win over the Texans.
• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 3.5-point home favorites over the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football." Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is 2-11 against the spread in prime-time games since joining Tampa Bay.
Letting $900,000 ride on USC
A big bet from a hot gambler in the Bahamas turned the Pac-12 championship game between USC and underdog Utah into one of the most heavily bet games of the season -- college or pro -- at Caesars Sportsbook. On Nov. 27, according to Caesars, a bettor at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas hit a pair of NFL teasers:
• $408,787.90 to win $291,991.35 on Jaguars +10.5 and Jets pick 'em.
• $224,000 to win $160,000 on Titans +7 and Jets -0.5.
The bettor elected to let it all ride and placed a $901,350.65 money-line bet on USC (-130) for a chance at winning a net $693,346.65. It's the largest football bet Caesars has taken this season -- and it would go down in flames, as the Utes, after falling behind 17-3 in the first quarter, steamrolled the Trojans in the second half en route to a 47-24 win.
• Notable bowl game opening lines and movement via Caesars Sportsbook: (number in parenthesis represents opening line)
Clemson (-3) -5 vs. Tennessee
Kansas State vs. Alabama (-6) -5
Tulane vs. USC (-3.5) pick 'em
Utah -1.5 vs. Penn State (pick 'em)
• TCU entered the season at 200-1 to win the national title at Caesars Sportsbook. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that's the longest preseason title odds for a team that reached the College Football Playoff.
• Ohio gaming regulators set Jan. 1, 2023, as the launch date for the state's upcoming legal sports betting market. Ohio State plays Georgia on Dec. 31.