Five weeks after the Big Ten announced the postponement of the 2020-21 football season, sportsbooks had to scramble to remove Ohio State and Penn State from championship futures. The Buckeyes (+400) sat second to Clemson (+200) in odds to win this season’s CFP National Championship. Justin Fields had to be removed from Heisman odds – a list he sat atop of at +350.
Fast forward to Sept. 16 and the Big Ten announced its intent to begin the 2020-21 football season Oct. 23, with the season wrapped up by Dec. 19. The end date was an incredibly important piece to the puzzle as it means the Big Ten will be eligible to participate in the College Football Playoff (Selection Sunday is Dec. 20).
Now that contenders like Ohio State and Penn State are back into the fold, sportsbooks have to create entirely new pools, rather than throwing teams back in, since bets have already been placed on the old pools. Protocols for this situation likely aren’t found in employee manuals.
What it means for National Championship odds
Alabama, which currently sits at +350 to win the National Championship, was knocked down from second to third on the list, being jumped by Ohio State. Penn State (+3000) jumped Notre Dame (+4000) and LSU (+5000) at FanDuel Sportsbook and now lands ninth. Wisconsin (+5000) was placed just above Auburn (+6000) and is followed by Michigan (+6000).
What it means for Conference winner odds
The first and most prominent impact is the addition of futures on the Big Ten – odds to win the conference title, individual player stats, etc. As of the day following the announcement, odds for the Big Ten have not yet been added by major sportsbooks (DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetMGM, etc.), but bettors can expect to see those in the coming weeks.
Aside from just odds to win the National Championship, the re-installation of the Big Ten moved needles in Heisman odds, among other individual awards like the Biletnikoff Award (the nation’s best receiver). With LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase opting out despite the Tigers’ season never having been in doubt, Buckeye Chris Olave will now likely lead the group.
What is means for the market
A major concern among oddsmakers was the huge dip in handle (amount bet) and number of total bets placed on the upcoming college football season. The Big Ten is arguably the most marketed and visible conference behind the SEC (sorry, ACC and Big 12 fans). In 2019, the conference generated $780 million in total revenue– nearly $60 million more than the SEC (second). Certainly betting handle and revenue aren’t entirely related, but it does display the size of the conference following.
It also adds huge amounts of bets and handle to national futures like the Heisman Trophy and National Championship pools. The Big Ten returning, while a pain for sportsbooks to reintegrate the conference and its players into odds lists, is a huge boost for sportsbooks.
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What it means for the sport
One of the trickier hurdles to cross became evident almost immediately after the Big Ten’s announcement to play. Offensive guard Wyatt Davis, a preseason All-American selection for Ohio State, had announced his intent to opt out of whatever season the Big Ten was planning (rumored to be played in the winter) and declared for the NFL Draft. Less than a week later, his season was back on and he and teammate Shaun Wade announced they were exploring their options into opting back in with the Buckeyes. Should Davis and Wade be cleared to play for Ohio State this coming season, the Buckeyes will have a major boost to both sides of the ball (Wade was also a preseason All American selection).
Penn State had its fair share of opt-outs, including projected first-round linebacker Micah Parsons and tight end Pat Freiermuth – though it looks like Freiermuth will now play. On the flip side, Michigan lost quarterback Dylan McCaffrey after the Big Ten made its announcement. Expect a continued shuffle of players opting in and out, which will affect the market. Keep this in mind when betting on win totals and conference odds.