After Clemson’s throttling of Alabama in the national championship game, the Tigers find themselves as early favorites to repeat in 2020.
Early futures at DraftKings Sportsbook have Clemson and Alabama at +200 to win the 2020 college football national championship. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Alabama at +170 and Clemson +250. At the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas, Clemson is +180 and Alabama is +250.
Interestingly, before Monday’s national title game, Alabama was the listed favorite at the Westgate. However, given Clemson’s domination, the Tigers went from +350 to +180 by game’s end.
Ohio State (+700 at DraftKings, +850 at FanDuel) and Georgia (+800 at both) are next on the list of 2019-20 title contenders. Michigan and Oklahoma round out the rest of the favorites. All of the odds can be found below.
Notre Dame, which made this year’s playoffs but was embarrassed in the semifinals by Clemson, starts at +3300.
The odds somewhat line up with ESPN’s take on a way-too-early top 25.
Given their recent recruiting classes, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence ascension to likely Heisman favorite, and weak overall division, Clemson seem well-positioned to at least make another CFB playoff. And don’t kid yourself that last night’s national championship game is the end of Alabama’s dynasty. While the SEC will be stronger overall next year, Bama is still the team to beat.
College Football Futures Odds 2019-20
(Odds updated 1/17/19)
|North Carolina State||+16000||+8000||+50000|
|San Diego State||+25000||+50000||+500000|
TheLines provides a breakdown and analysis for the NCAA’s National Title Game on Monday night. We’ll look at the odds and see why they’re moving a certain way, along with breaking down the matchup and providing the week’s best prop bets.
The top two college football squads in the nation clash at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Monday night to decide which will hold the mantle of top team in the nation for the just-concluded 2018 season. Alabama and Clemson both forged perfect 14-0 records during the regular season.
The Crimson Tide was 8-0 in the Southeastern Conference, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in the conference title game by a 35-28 score Dec. 1. They earned their way into Monday night’s championship game with a 45-34 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl semi-final at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
The Tigers were 8-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers in the conference title game by a 42-10 score Dec. 1. They earned their way into Monday night’s championship game with a 30-3 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl semi-final at AT & T Stadium in Dallas.
National title game betting odds and analysis
The line has fluctuated at DraftKings Sportsbook within a point over the last week, but the Crimson Tide has never been less than five-point favorites. The apex was a six-point spread in favor of Alabama a week ago. Substantial money clearly came in on Clemson at that point, enough to move the line a full point down to five late in the week last week. There’s been additional fluctuation since, with the Tide bouncing back to 5.5-point favorites Sunday, reverting back to a five-point number earlier Monday, and then landing on 5.5 yet again as of early Monday afternoon.
The projected total at DraftKings Sportsbook has been much more volatile. At 59 points a week ago, the total reached a high point of 60.5 by the middle of last week. A downward slide then ensued, one that eventually saw the total sink as low 57.5 earlier Monday before jutting back up to 58. As of this writing early Monday afternoon, the number had hit a new low of 57 before dropping again to 56.5 two hours before kickoff.
National Title Game matchup
The battle of college football’s juggernauts is a familiar one. The series between the schools has a 118-year history, but the most recent games have been particularly high-stakes affairs. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have met in the National Championship Game after both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Alabama notched a 45-40 win in the first game, while Clemson countered with a 35-31 victory in the second. The third meeting, in January 2018, wasn’t for all the marbles. However, it determined which of the two teams would advance to the biggest game of the season. Alabama won that rubber match by a 24-6 margin in the Sugar Bowl.
Monday night’s matchup is a vintage strength vs. strength affair. The Tide checks in scoring the second-most points per game (47.5). The Tigers aren’t far behind, ranking as the fourth-most prolific team (44.0). Then, no team in major college football was stingier than Clemson — they allowed just 13.4 points per contest. That includes a top-ranked 11.4 points per road game. Alabama counters with the fourth-fewest points per game surrendered (16.2). That includes 12.5 points per home contest, second fewest in the country.
The Crimson Tide compiled the seventh-most passing yards per game (322.2). In turn, the Tigers allowed just 192.5 passing yards per contest, including 157.3 per game on the road. The latter figure is the fifth-lowest away total in the nation. Then, the Tigers’ offense often relied on their elite running game. Clemson rushed for 256.8 yards per game, 10th-most in the country. Yet, Alabama was among the best at stopping ground attacks. The Tide allowed a modest 109.2 rush yards per contest, 11th-fewest in the nation.
National Title Game betting breakdown
The Tigers were 8-6 (57.1 percent) versus the spread this season. Monday’s game marks the first instance this season in which the Tigers are underdogs.
The Crimson Tide were also 8-6 (57.1 percent) against the number this season. As is the case Monday, Alabama was a favorite in all of those games.
The Crimson Tide is considered the home team in Monday’s neutral site. Alabama is 4-3 (57.1 percent) against the spread as a home favorite this season, with all of those contests day games, as is Monday’s.
The Tigers were 4-1 (80.0 percent) versus the number as a road team this season. That includes a 3-0 mark against the spread in road day games. The Tigers have also covered the spread in eight of their last nine bowl games.
The average margin of victory for the Crimson Tide this season was 31.5 points. The average margin of victory for the Tigers was 31.4 points.
The Crimson Tide exceeded their projected total in eight of 14 games this season (61.5 percent), with one push. That includes exceeding their projected total in five of seven home day games (78.6 percent), with one push.
The Tigers went under their projected total in six of 14 games this season (42.9 percent). However, the Tigers exceeded their projected total in all three road day games. Each of Clemson’s last four neutral-site games have gone under the projected total.
Sportsbook promos and props
DraftKings, FanDuel and BetStars are offering value for Monday night’s Alabama vs. Clemson game in the form of odds boosts. Have a look below for the options at each book in New Jersey:
To make things more interesting, DraftKings Sportsbook is offering the chance to earn two times your winnings on your first live bet. Here’s how it works:
- Place a live (in-game) singles paid bet on the game.
- If it wins, DraftKings will double your winnings with a free bet (up to $25).
FanDuel Sportsbook is adding a little excitement to the biggest game of the season with its double your winnings promotion. Here’s how it works:
- Opt in to the promotion
- Bet the over (58 points)
- Win pays double your winnings (up to $100 in site credit)
- Amount equal to site credit must be wagered before winnings can be withdrawn
- Bonus expires seven days after receipt
There are several odds boosts available for Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game:
- Joshua Jacobs and Travis Etienne to score a touchdown (now paying +135)
- Damien Harris to score a touchdown and Alabama to win (now paying +130)
- Joshua Jacobs to score a touchdown and Alabama to win (now paying +140)
- Travis Etienne to score two or more touchdowns (now paying +140)
It’s safe to say that 2018 was about as good of a year for sports betting in the U.S. as it could get (Assuming you like sports betting, which if you’re reading this site, it is a safe assumption.).
Can 2019 be better?
Here are 10 bold predictions for the new year. In short, expect more of what made 2018 great.
10. No less than nine states pass sports betting legislation
Why not start with one of the biggest ones?
Of all the states that have introduced sports betting bills, no less than nine will pass legislation in 2019. New York, Massachusetts, and Kentucky (via a Churchill Downs push) will lead the way, and these states should follow.
9. But California won’t be one of them
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 147 times, shame on me.
Whoever can finally get the competing California gaming interests to get on the same page needs to work on Palestinian-Israeli relations. The online poker push in California had many starts and stops thanks to card rooms, tribes, tracks and operators never getting on the same page.
The sports betting revenue pie exceeds online poker’s revenue greatly, and there’s real progress being made in the state legislature, but don’t expect California to pass a bill until 2020.
8. The next non-golf, made-for-betting event will be esports
The Match provided the template. Where can it go from there?
They’ll partner with an esports team, draw large viewing from a live stream and draw bettors in-house for real-time wagering on their mobile device.
7. ‘In-stadia’ betting gains momentum
On that note, “in-stadia” betting will gain steam. It won’t just be from whatever smart casino employs in-stadia betting for their esports event.
Las Vegas has shown the way, with the Knights and Lights bringing mobile betting into the arena/pitch.
As other states pass sports betting bills, teams will recognize the enormous potential for fan engagement with in-stadia betting. This won’t be a revenue mover for teams, necessarily, but will provide fans with new content and ways to interact during games.
6. Fiat-to-crypto onboarding solved
The single biggest impediment to crypto adoption on gambling platforms is the fiat-to-crypto onboarding process. There’s a bridge needed for the gap between gambling and crypto enthusiasts.
This issue will be solved in 2019, paving the way for holders to fund gaming accounts with cryptocurrency on a broader scale and more extensive adoption.
5. The NCAA takes a hardline stance
If there’s one potential glaring monkey wrench to trip up sports betting in the U.S., it’s in the college ranks.
The NCAA is rightfully concerned. While professional athletes have too much at stake, in most cases, to be persuaded in bribes or providing confidential information, that’s not the case with unpaid student-athletes.
Expect the NCAA to draw a line in the sand on this issue…
4. … and propose some form of revenue sharing
The model to use gambling as a means of subsidizing education isn’t new. The state of Georgia has used lottery proceeds to fund college scholarships going back to the early ’90s. While the NCAA should take a hardline stance, expect discussions around positive use of sports betting proceeds to further educational opportunities (via scholarships) this year.
3. But don’t expect athlete compensation to be discussed
OK; this isn’t very bold. But that’s not happening.
2. The NFL gets on the integrity fee wagon
The NFL is consistently progressive in making changes and adapting. That has not been the case when it comes to sports betting, as the NBA and Adam Silver have been real advocates and drivers there.
However, that will begin to change in 2019.
The NFL is ruthless in its efficiency in squeezing a dollar out of any and every opportunity, and it’s not going to let the sports betting rocket ship go into orbit without taking a seat in the cockpit with the other leagues. Look for the NFL to push for the most apparent monetization play, integrity fees, in 2019.
1. New Jersey eclipses Nevada in total wagers
We’re going super bold on the last one, as New Jersey has a ways to go still, but hear this out.
New Jersey has a unique pocket of singularly owning the northeast. The northeast is a sports fanatic hotbed, and the total population around New Jersey (when including just New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware) is approximately 39.5 million. That equals the approximate 39 million visitors to Las Vegas a year.
There are six teams remaining that have a legitimate shot at the college football national championship: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State.
Not having a conference championship game means that Notre Dame is almost assuredly in the four-team playoff. While FiveThirtyEight only lists them as a 77% shot at making the playoffs, there’s no feasible scenario that leaves Notre Dame out. They earned it.
Every other contender plays in a conference championship this weekend. If the results go as expected, there will likely only be one spot that’s really up for debate.
SEC Championship (The Actual National Championship)
Alabama (#1, -225 at BetStars Sportsbook) vs. Georgia (#4, +1400)
This one is a rematch of last year’s national title game, and could serve as this year’s as well. Alabama comes in as a -13.5 favorite, and deservedly so. Georgia is ranked third in ELO and FPI, but Alabama is ranked HISTORICALLY GREAT.
If Georgia pulls the upset, they’re obviously a lock to make the playoffs, but don’t expect their price to go towards Clemson +300 territory. They’d still have to beat Alabama again to win the title, and that’s a tall task to ask.
With a loss, Alabama would likely enter the playoffs again at #4, and likely win again, and even more likely be listed as the favorite.
The ACC Sacrificial Lamb for Clemson Game
Clemson (#2, +333) vs. Pittsburgh
Clemson is undefeated, ranked #2 in ELO and FPI, and has been #2 in each of the CFB committee rankings.
Pittsburgh is 7-5.
While Pittsburgh has been a spoiler in the past, not this year. Maybe Clemson was to become the odds-on favorite with a win and an Alabama loss, but most likely they’d just keep inching up like they have the past few weeks (think +250).
The Big 12 Championship That Will Look More Like a College Basketball Score
Oklahoma (#5, +1700) vs. Texas (#9)
Vegas has the over/under on this one around 78. There will be blood. Points will be scored.
The Sooners are a 7.5-point favorite. They’re 68% to win. They’ve barely escaped some close calls, but this feels like a game they’re going to control. It’s a year too early for Texas. Expect Oklahoma to run up the score if they can. That’s partly why the line is so high. They need a good showing to separate themselves from Ohio State.
The Big 10-Championship-Means-Everything-Game
Ohio State (#6, +1400) vs. Northwestern (#21)
Before blowing Michigan off the field, Ohio State hadn’t really posted many impressive showings.
Now, pundits are questioning the merits of them vs. Oklahoma.
This is a tough game to peg, but will likely really determine the fourth playoff team.
Often, a team that eviscerates a rival in an emotional win comes out a bit lethargic the next week. Northwestern is legit. Ohio State is given a 78% chance to win and they’re a 14-point favorite, but this could end up being a lot closer than people think.
Ultimately, if everything goes as expected, that means Ohio State and Oklahoma will be fighting for the fourth spot. How closely Northwestern keeps this game will go a long way into determining which school gets to play for the national title.
The college basketball season tipped off this week with more than 100 teams in action across the country. Before the season started most bettors were focused on getting down futures wagers for the team that will win the NCAA basketball championship in 2019. Now that there’s game action, the focus on betting is changing.
College basketball fans and bettors are now looking to wager on the many games that will take place until a champion is crowned at March Madness. This will be the first college hoops season where people outside of Nevada can wager on the games.
Since the repeal of PASPA, states have created different regulations for sports betting. Placing wagers on college basketball games this season will be different depending on where you watch and wager on the games.
Different rules for different states
Delaware and Mississippi do not allow sports bettors to wager online from a computer or mobile device. Gamblers must physically be inside of a sportsbook to place a wager in these two states.
New Jersey allows bettors to wager in a sportsbook and on a computer or mobile device. Nevada allows bettors to wager in a sportsbook and on a mobile device. Even though both states allow mobile betting there’s a difference on which games they can wager on.
No college sports betting on home teams in New Jersey
New Jersey residents can wager on college sports as long as the game doesn’t involve a university or venue in the state. Seton Hall, Princeton, and Rutgers fans in New Jersey won’t be able to place wagers on their team unless the leave the state.
Likewise, college basketball fans won’t be able to wager on the Air Force Reserve Boardwalk Classic in Atlantic City on Dec. 15 or the Boardwalk Battle on Dec. 21 and 22. Of course, bettors who need action can drive 90 minutes to Delaware Park Casino.
Missisissipi, Delaware, and Nevada don’t have restrictions on betting on college sports.
Betting on college hoops in Nevada
Nevada college basketball fans and bettors have the best scenario. Anyone with a mobile sports wagering account can wager on all college sports. Bettors can even wager on college sports while watching the games in person.
UNLV and University of Nevada games are just the tip of the iceberg for betting on college basketball in Nevada. Once again Las Vegas will be home to the Pac 12, West Coast Conference, Mountain West, and WAC conference tournaments. Conference tournament week in a casino is great. Being able to watch and wager on some of those games in person is even better.
Each week, TheLines takes a look back at some of the worst sports betting “bad beats” from the weekend of college and pro football. These incredible moments caused a swing in money at sportsbooks, resulting in jubilation — and plenty of pain — for bettors everywhere.
West Virginia 42, Texas 41
Line: West Virginia -1
In one of the wildest games of the college football season that saw nine lead changes, West Virginia defeated Texas 42-41 when Dana Holgorsen opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion after the Mountaineers scored with just 16 seconds left in the game.
West Virginia trailed 41-34 late in the fourth quarter but quarterback Will Grier led the Mountaineers on a 75-yard game-winning drive. Grier capped off the drive with a beautiful throw while being pressured to receiver Gary Jennings Jr. who beat two Texas defenders for a 33-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) November 3, 2018
Instead of playing for overtime, Holgorsen went for the win. It appeared as though West Virginia had taken the lead when Grier connected with David Sills V for the two-point conversion but Texas coach Tom Herman called a timeout just before the snap, nullifying the conversion. It didn’t matter. After the timeout, Grier ran a quarterback draw into the end zone for the win.
Will Grier for the win! pic.twitter.com/FUe5jWenNS
— No Huddle NCAA (@NoHuddleNCAA) November 3, 2018
The outcome for bettors was all over the place for this game because of the line movement. The spread opened Texas -2.5 before closing at West Virginia -1. So, depending on which line you got, it was either a win, loss or push on the late score and two-point conversion.
The successful two-point conversion didn’t result in a huge swing for sportsbooks as money was mostly even on this game. Again though, not everyone got the Longhorns at +1.
Auburn 28, Texas A&M 24
Line: Texas A&M +3.5
Texas A&M imploded so badly in this game, Aggies backers must still be wondering how they lost the bet.
Texas A&M was cruising in this one when it went up 24-14 early in the third quarter. The Aggies had two opportunities to extend their lead but came away short both times. Seth Small missed a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have given Texas A&M a 13-point lead and prevented two touchdowns by Auburn from covering the spread.
The big blow though came when Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond threw an interception at the Auburn 29-yard line with 7:14 remaining in the game. A score there would have not only been big for the spread but the turnover completely swung the momentum of the game. Following the turnover, Auburn drove down the field in two minutes to score a touchdown, cutting the Aggies’ lead to 24-21.
Texas A&M was trying to run out the clock but head coach Jimbo Fisher opted to throw the ball on third down with 2:10 remaining. A first down and the game is over. The pass fell incomplete and Fisher was forced to punt from his own 45-yard line. The Tigers got the ball back. This time it took Auburn just two plays to find the end zone when Jarrett Stidham hit Seth Williams for an 11-yard touchdown to give Auburn the lead.
Passe parfaite de QB Jarrett Stidham. Réception non moins parfaite de WR Seth Williams et les Tigers d'Auburn passent en tête à 2 mns de la fin !
Auburn 28, Texas A&M 24 pic.twitter.com/0oxEKSGBZM
— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) November 3, 2018
A&M bettors were left needing a missed an extra to avoid the improbable loss. Auburn kicker Anders Carlson hit not one, but both uprights, on the extra point attempt but the ball still went through to give the Tigers a 28-24 come-from-behind win.
A missed field goal, an interception, two touchdowns in the final 5:14 and an extra point ping-ponging through the uprights all add up for a terrible beat if you had Texas A&M +3.5.
Chargers 25, Seahawks 17
It was a weird Sunday of NFL games with not many close games or awful beats. The Broncos missing a last-second field goal impacted some bettors but Denver closed at -1.5 at most books, so a one-point win wouldn’t have made a difference.
The most frustrating loss gambling-wise was probably the OVER in the Chargers/Seahawks game. The total closed at 48 or 48.5 depending on the book and there were plenty of chances for the game to go OVER.
The biggest reason the game didn’t go OVER was Chargers kicker Caleb Sturgis. Actually, he may be the Chargers former kicker by the time you read this article. Sturgis missed two extra points and a 42-yard field goal on Sunday. Because of Sturgis’ first missed extra point, Los Angeles went for a two-point conversion after its second touchdown. Sturgis is personally responsible for leaving six points off the board, which would have pushed the total at 48 for OVER bettors.
Despite Sturgis’ dreadful performance, OVER bettors still had a shot to cash late in the game. Down by eight points, Seattle had the ball with a chance to tie. Russell Wilson drove the Seahawks to the Chargers’ 20-yard line with five seconds left in the game. Time for one final pass into the end zone.
Wilson’s pass to Tyler Lockett fell incomplete but Chargers cornerback Michael Davis was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Seattle got one untimed down from the one. Well, make it the six after a false start penalty, but OVER bettors were still alive.
On the final play, Wilson threw a dart to receiver David Moore in the back of the end zone. The ball hit Moore right in the hands but he dropped it. If Moore hangs on, OVER 48 bettors push at worst. Seattle would have obviously gone for two and the tie, which could have given OVER backers at both 48 and 48.5 the win.
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) November 5, 2018
It wasn’t the worst beat of the season but a kicker costing bettors six points and a drop in the end zone on the final play is still a tough one for OVER backers to swallow. Sportsbooks came out ahead on Moore’s drop with 65 percent of tickets and 60 percent of the money wagered on the OVER. It was one of the few bright spots for the books on Sunday.
Last week was a bloodbath for ranked college football teams as 11 lost their matchups.
Teams like Texas (a game we warned about) and Florida saw their playoff dreams extinguished.
Georgia and Washington State saw their title odds improve, although both have tough tasks this week.
SEC title game spots are up for grabs on Saturday as there are some massive matchups.
Looking into the futures…
No game is bigger than Alabama (#1, -210 at FanDuel Sportsbook to win National Championship) vs. LSU (#4, +2900). Alabama opened as a two-touchdown favorite at LSU, making this the most points the Tigers have been an underdog at home since 1997. At stake is a spot as the SEC West representative in the real National Title SEC Championship game. A loss would set Alabama up in a similar position as last year, where they’d still likely make the playoffs despite not participating in the SEC title game. A win by LSU would certainly improve their +2000 and set up a rematch with most likely Georgia for the SEC crown.
If this sounds somewhat familiar, it is. That’s exactly what happened last year. Auburn beat both Georgia and Alabama in the regular season, but lost to Georgia in the SEC title game and Alabama slipped into the playoffs. LSU is simply this year’s Auburn. An LSU win would surely see their +2000 improve, potentially to a +1000.
Speaking of Georgia (#6, +1600), the Bulldogs face off against the surprising Kentucky Wildcats (#10, +10000) for the right to be the SEC East rep against the winner of ‘Bama vs. LSU. Georgia is a 9.5 favorite on the road against Kentucky, and FiveThirtyEight gives the Dawgs a 71% shot at winning. Some of Georgia’s futures improvement will hinge on if LSU can pull off the upset against ‘Bama. Vegas will surely like Georgia’s title chances more if it has to go through LSU for the SEC title as opposed to Alabama.
Michigan (#5, +1600) has two more big hurdles to clear to have a shot at the playoffs, the first being this weekend at home against Penn State (#14, +10000). While a win won’t improve Michigan’s futures much (their match-up against #8 Ohio State carries too much weight), a loss all but submarines Michigan’s title odds.
One last match-up worth paying attention to is Washington State (#10, +10000) vs. Cal. Washington St. is the PAC-12’s only hope for playoff consideration, and Cal is no joke even as a 10.5-point dog. Expect Washington St’s futures to tick upward with a win.
Another week, another slate of title-odds-altering college football games.
But first, let’s look back at one game last week that I really, really wanted to include, but didn’t.
It’s easy to dislike Ohio State. From the ubiquitous “THE Ohio State University” uttered by ex-alums on every single one of their freaking player intros on TV, to Urban Meyer being a moral-less weasel, the only people that don’t currently viscerally dislike the Buckeyes are Ohio residents and future/current/past students.
I’ve thought THE Ohio State University looked vulnerable all year. Purdue was a team that seemed to right the ship after a shaky start and was performing well, and would surely bring a boisterous home crowd to the game.
Still, it was THE Ohio State University vs. Purdue.
Behold, Purdue was awesome, and the Buckeyes fell. However, despite the throttling, THE Ohio State University only saw their title odds dip from +1000 to +1400. This is, in part, because the Big 10 is still very winnable for them, which would clear their path to the college football playoffs. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 23% chance of making the playoffs (but just a 5% chance of capturing the championship).
The loss though means that their Nov. 24 game against Michigan has massive odds-shifting potential.
Looking into the futures
Enough about the past, let’s look into the futures.
The biggest game this weekend is the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party, with Georgia (+1400 at FanDuel to win title) vs. Florida (+10000). The implications here are simple: if Georgia wins, (with apologies to Kentucky) they likely have smooth sailing to the SEC Championship where a win would put them in the playoffs. A loss by Georgia and their title odds are toast. If Florida wins, while I wouldn’t expect their futures to swing up to the +1000 range, it won’t hang back at +10000 either. You don’t need an air-brushed Florida diploma to figure that out.
After Georgia vs. Florida, the other games are of much less potential impact. Texas (+5000) plays on the road against unranked and eliminated Oklahoma State. Traveling to Stillwater is never easy, and both Vegas and computer models agree, as Texas only opened as a 1.5-point favorite.
According to ESPN’s Eliminator, the only PAC-12 team with a chance of making the playoffs is Washington State (+16000). That being the case, this week’s Washington St. vs. Stanford (#24) has some weight. While the PAC-12 is still a longshot to get a team into the playoffs, a Washington St. win coupled with some higher ranked teams losses would certainly improve their odds.
The first playoff committee rankings are released on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Along with this weekend’s games, those committee rankings (and specifically, what the committee is thinking) will certainly shift some futures as well.
Sports betting in the United States is legal. It has arrived. It’s not going anywhere. It’s only going to grow. It is a glorious thing.
And it shouldn’t be allowed on college athletics.
Colleges are concerned, and they should be
The concerns are two-fold and real:
“Officials are worried not just about egregious behavior, such as shaving points or fixing a game. But they also fear that gamblers, including classmates and neighbors, will try to cajole confidential data from insiders — say, about injuries or academic standing — to get an edge.”
Most all recent betting scandals involving athletes come on the fringes of sports. These scandals do not occur at the top tier, where athletes are making so much money they have little to no incentive to shave a few points to enrich some degenerate d-bag or worse, perform at a level that lets their team down. No, betting scandals are more common with athletes who aren’t compensated well and have some financial upside.
In college athletics, the most well-known of those incidents is the 1978-79 Boston College basketball point-shaving scandal (which involved Henry Hill of Goodfellas fame, no relation to William). More recently, this happened at the University of San Diego and in the ‘90’s at Northwestern University.
If you look globally, the same issues persist with professional athletes who are under-compensated.
In Europe, recent scandals include soccer games from lower level leagues or clubs (i.e. not Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, or Ligue 1). This also occurred in 2015 in Italy. Tennis has been very susceptible, with a “tsunami of corruption” happening with lower level matches.
These are good analogs to college sports. Often, the athletes are easier to manipulate as they may have financial needs to cover. This could become particularly pronounced with college football — where universities are making tens of millions off programs off of athletes who make nothing other than a scholarship. Heck, SEC football teams are basically pro-level and those players don’t make a dime. Seeing everyone profit from a sport other than you the athlete certainly can open up issues as sports betting propagates to more and more states.
So why isn’t this already an issue today?
It’s easy to play devil’s advocate here.
Betting on college sports, particularly around bowl season and March Madness, has definitely existed at a high-volume and with vigor in Las Vegas with little to no noise around any potential scandals.
However, Las Vegas closely monitors potential fixing activity. A small pattern of significant wagers on insignificant games is going to sound alarm bells. It’s one thing to influence an athlete in Chicago and make the bet in Vegas. It’s another for a college student to have direct access to an athlete and make a wager based on that information (or incentive provided to the athlete) with only a short drive to a local sportsbook.
This is where integrity fees and surveillance technology really matter
The New York Times this week ran an opinion piece on the importance of market surveillance for sports betting. The gist is:
“Many bookmakers have made efforts to limit fraud and manipulation, but more can be done to ensure a level playing field. Regulators and sporting bodies would be wise to learn the lessons of the financial industry and adopt a range of policies and surveillance tools while the market in the United States for sports betting is still nascent.”
Couldn’t agree with this more.
The article notes how costs for other industries to play “catch-up” to bad behavior often outweigh the costs of just getting proper controls established in the first place.
With sports betting, there’s an existing negative stigma attached (for some) that more established and regulated industries like the financial sector don’t face. After years of sports betting being in the Dark Ages in the U.S., the potential public and legislative backlash from poorly monitored betting activity — especially in college sports — could send sports betting back into the Stone Age.
So what’s the solution?
Yes, betting on college sports does currently exist in Las Vegas. No, there’s not an epidemic of point shaving and match fixing. However, as more states legalize and allow sports betting within their borders, the most prudent route would be to at a minimum delay college athletic wagering.
Get the systems and controls in place at the pro level. Ensure proper market surveillance and integrity protocols are in place.
If so, then and only then roll out sports betting on college football and basketball. The lower profile the sport, the more easy it is to manipulate the athlete.
Let’s not mess this up. It took a long time to get this far. It won’t take much to sports betting reeling backwards again.
There’s a difference between acceptance and embrace.
We accept the things we cannot control, like your paint-chipped 1982 Toyota SR5 truck that just got crapped on, ironically, by a mourning dove, the impact of which caused the already low-riding POS to collapse entirely and send two wheels rolling down the street like convicts escaping supermax.
But we embrace things that could make life better or easier, like you watching the wheels flee, the truck helplessly laying in the driveway like Leonardo DiCaprio hanging on to the edge of a floating door post-Titanic sinking because “there was no room for him” next to Kate Winslet, and you realizing it might be time for a new car.
When it comes to legalized sports betting, the NCAA has accepted the fate of its literal crappy truck, but the association will not embrace the change.
Last week the NCAA announced it would be “examining the long-term impact” of regulated wagering on college sports by piecing together an “internal team of subject matter experts” that will explore “how best to protect game integrity, monitor betting activity, manage sports data and expand educational efforts.”
It may seem as though the NCAA is embracing change, but in reality, it is the introvert cowering in the corner at a house party when it should be assisting with the keg stand.
‘Subject matter experts’
In a press release last week, the NCAA said it will construct a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess “all areas where legalized sports wagering may impact NCAA members, including officiating, NCAA rules, federal or state legislation, and the use of integrity services.”
“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer, said in the release. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”
Also quoted in the release was Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances:
“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering. With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”
What’s the best way to assist members? How about having actual “subject matter experts” weigh in? You know, people who have been around the industry long enough to remember the last time the NCAA made a decision that was praised by the court of public opinion. (Whenever that was; instituting the shot clock?)
You see, in Las Vegas, maintaining integrity of games is standard. It’s why we don’t open Twitter to see #PointShaving or #WellDangIfYouJustPaidTheAthletesTheyWouldntAcceptBribesJustToFeedThemselves on a daily basis and why light has been shed on the point-shaving scandals that did take place.
We can assume the NCAA is not reaching out to Sin City, or to anyone with actual expertise, as the committee is dubbed by the association as an “internal team.”
Especially considering legalized sports betting will only spike the NCAA’s stock — in popularity and revenue — it would have been more beneficial to the association to embrace the industry rather than skirt around it.
Stepping in the right direction
In a way, perhaps we should applaud the NCAA for making such a decision. Maybe not an over-the-top, “Her-cu-les-Her-cu-les” celebration; more like that patronizing clap as made famous by Captain Picard.
Consider that the NCAA has been stuck in the first stage of the five stages of grief (denial) for years, decades, ever. It was part of the team that took New Jersey to court to maintain the federal ban on sports betting. It battled — albeit briefly — for integrity fees after the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA and opened the door for state-by-state legalized wagering.
Now the NCAA has backed off from its integrity fee position. It cut down its rule that barred states with legalized wagering to host championship events. This committee at least shows the NCAA is accepting this new world. The problem is it should have embraced it like Tommy Boy.