Let the debate begin!
No, not over Alabama getting into the four-team College Football Playoff over Big Ten champion Ohio State. But rather, over the opening lines for the two national semifinal showdowns. Covers gets you right into those numbers and early action in Las Vegas, with insights from Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at the South Point, and Jay Kornegay, who runs the Superbook as vice president of race and sports for the Westgate Las Vegas.
No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 1 Clemson Tigers – Open: Pick; Move: -1
Alabama had the weekend off, missing out on the SEC Championship Game after falling to Auburn 26-14 as a 6-point road favorite in the regular-season finale. The Crimson Tide (11-1 SU, 5-7 ATS) still managed to edge out Ohio State for the final CFP berth.
Defending national champion Clemson (12-1 SU, 8-4 ATS) boatraced Miami in the ACC final, winning 38-3 as a 12.5-point neutral-site favorite in Charlotte, N.C. Saturday. The Tigers and Tide met in the last two CFP Championship Games, with Bama winning two years ago and Clemson winning last year. The Tigers covered the spread in both games.
“We opened at pick. I kept saying I really thought Clemson should be the favorite, but that they’d bet Alabama,” Andrews said. “We’re up to -1 on Bama, a little public, a little sharp. I don’t mind Clemson at plus anything. We’ll see where bettors take me.”
The Superbook opened the Tide -1, briefly shot to -2, then dropped to -1 before splitting the difference at -1.5. The modest discrepancies between books doesn’t surprise Kornegay.
“The market’s just trying to settle down,” Kornegay said. “Every book is like that right now, flying around. There are a lot of respected opinions out there. It’s not like we’ve got guys with both hands full of money, making bets. Most people are just soaking it in. If respected players make a bet, you’re gonna move it, and you’ll also moved based on what the market is doing.”
No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners – Open: -3; Move: -2.5; Move: -2; Move: -1.5
Georgia took advantage of a revenge opportunity to win the SEC crown and reach the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs (12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS), who got trounced at Auburn three weeks ago, rolled the Tigers 28-7 as a 2-point neutral-site chalk in Atlanta Saturday.
Oklahoma (12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS) had no trouble in Saturday’s Big 12 final, dispatching Texas Christian 41-17 laying seven points at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“We opened Oklahoma -3, now we’re down to 1.5. I’m seeing anywhere from pick to 1.5” at other books, Kornegay said. “In our eyes, we think Oklahoma could be the highest-ranked team. But these games are so close. It really is splitting hairs here.”
The South Point opened Oklahoma -2 with a plan in mind, but the line has stayed there so far.
“I thought that was a good number, because when you open on a number like two, if the wiseguys lay the two, you go right to -3, and if they take the +2, you go right to -1,” Andrews said. “We were the first ones up, and I really thought we’d go a point either way with wiseguy money. So far, we’ve got active play, but we’re still at two.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.