Submitted by SportsMasters Consensus on Monday, December 31, 2012 at 6:00 PM
The biggest bowl day of all has arrived with SIX big games on tap for New Year’s. Sharps often have a long window of activity when it comes to these showcase battles. They hit any mistakes they see in the openers. Then, in the hours just before kickoff, they use higher betting limits to really hit a game hard that they love, or to fade the public if squares move the number in the wrong direction.
Let’s go game by game through the Tuesday schedule to see how sharps have been betting the New Year’s bowls so far. Remember to watch for morning line moves as well. The first day of January often creates a feeding frenzy just before the various kickoff times.
TICKET CITY BOWL
PURDUE vs. OKLAHOMA CITY
Opening Line: Oklahoma State by 17, total of 70
Current Line: Oklahoma State by 17, total of 70
Obviously the sharps haven’t been very active here! Note that the line hasn’t been frozen the whole way. The contingent of old school sharps that bet every double digit dog on principal did take some small flyers on Purdue. That brought the line down to Okie State by 16.5 for awhile. Recent action from both sharps and squares has brought it back to 17. We don’t want to suggest that 17 is a key number in the mold of a three or a seven…but, it is a common final margin…and is therefore a magnet for percentage players. If you see the line go to 17.5 on game day and stay there…that’s a decent endorsement for the favorite. If the line drops to 16.5 and stays there, then the dog is receiving meaningful support.
Note that this one is expected to be the least bet New Year’s bowl by a good bit because of its early starting time (9 a.m. in Las Vegas), because it’s on ESPNU rather than ESPN or ABC, and because it’s the last appealing of the six matchups in terms of competitiveness. There may not be much square money for the sharps to fade.
MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. NORTHWESTERN
Opening Line: Mississippi State by 2.5, total of 51.5
Current Line: Northwestern by 2, total of 53.5
This is as big a line move you can have without touching a critical number! Sharps hit Northwestern fairly casually at first, causing a gradual from the opener. Within the past day or so, support for the Wildcats has come in much stronger. This is a surprise to many because the SEC (home of Mississippi State) has had such a strong recent history vs. the Big 10 (home of Northwestern). To us, the fact that sharps are bucking that trend is a very strong indicator indeed. You have to REALLY love a Big 10 team when fading an SEC team on New Year’s!
Oddsmakers anticipated sharp interest in Northwestern at the outset. That’s why this line opened under a field goal in the first place. Our sources are saying that sharp money would come in on Mississippi State were the line to move all the way to three. Sportsbooks really don’t want to bring a key number into a game where their exposure is already an issue.
The total is up two points because there aren’t any concerns about field conditions or weather. The Jacksonville Jaguars played on the road Sunday. The forecast is for temperatures in the low 70’s and bright sunshine.
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. MICHIGAN
Opening Line: South Carolina by 3.5, total of 48
Peak Line: South Carolina by 6
Current Line: South Carolina by 4.5, total of 47.5
Up until Monday, South Carolina was clearly the sharp play. The Wise Guys had laid the points with the Gamecocks at -3.5, -4, -4.5, -5, and -5.5. This was your basic SEC team positioned to beat up on a Big 10 team once again. But, Monday, big money started coming in on the underdog Michigan. As we go to press, the line is down to just South Carolina -4.5 in most stores.
We’re hearing that the following dynamics are in play:
*Sharps who liked South Carolina bet early, while those who preferred Michigan waited to see what they could get.
*Sharps who liked Michigan decided they weren’t going to get better than +6, and started putting their money in play.
*Squares typically prefer favorites, but there are some deep-pocketed squares with Big Ten roots who are involved in both the Northwestern and Michigan moves to varying degrees. More on that in a bit.
The total hasn’t moved, and isn’t expected to unless the weather forecasts in Florida change. Both teams have good defenses. Both offenses have struggled to light up the scoreboard when facing good defenses. If weather was going to help the defenses, we would have seen a drop to 46 or perhaps lower. Without a weather influence, sharps apparently aren’t interested in the Over/Under. Watch for game day moves to see if that changes.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
GEORGIA vs. NEBRASKA
Opening Line: Georgia by 10, total of 57
Current Line: Georgia by 8, total of 60
Once again we have interest on the Big Ten underdog. And, once again, it’s a mixture of sharp and square action. We don’t want to suggest that ALL sharps are going hog wild on the Big Ten right now. We’ve talked to many who were looking at Georgia when the matchups were announced, but had no interest when the opener was -10. They’re now playing a waiting to game to see if they can get -7 before settling on Bulldogs -8.
Today is providing a great clinic on the sharp process:
*Sharps don’t always agree on a game
*Sharps know how to maximize line value for their side, whichever side it is
*Sharps aren’t afraid to patiently let opportunities create themselves
The Over has been getting clear interest once the forecast was calling for great weather. Sharps are concerned about this field because of past surface issues. You may not be aware that the Rutgers-Virginia Tech game was played on this field. Early indications are that conditions won’t be an issue, which will allow the playmakers on both teams to get some things done. The combination of Nebraska and Over suggests that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez might be in for a big day.
STANFORD vs. WISCONSIN
Opening Line: Stanford by 6.5, total of 47.5
Peak Line: Stanford by 7
Current Line: Stanford by 6, total of 47
Favored Stanford was initially bet up to the key number by sharps. Recent market flow here toward the Big 10 is in line with what we’ve seen in the games we just discussed. It’s interesting though that the game has settled just a half point below the opener, and only one point below the peak. Why is that?
We’re hearing that it’s because a Big Ten team ran into a California team! The entire West Coast only has ONE team to root for on New Year’s Day! USC and UCLA have already played (and already embarrassed themselves and their conference). Oregon won’t play until Thursday Night’s Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State. West Coast squares are on Stanford. Squares in general prefer favorites. All squares want to bet the Rose Bowl!
This is going to be a heavily bet game in Las Vegas sportsbooks, with money flooding in all day until the 2 p.m. local time kickoff. Monitor line moves on game day for developments. Sportsbooks will be hoping the game doesn’t land on a six or a seven.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS vs. FLORIDA STATE
Opening Line: Florida State by 14, total of 58.5
Current Line: Florida State by 13.5, total of 58.5
There hasn’t been much sharp interest in this one. The old school guys who take all double digit dogs stepped in early and dropped the number a tick. The lack of action so far tells you what the sharps aren’t interested in doing.
*Sharps aren’t interested in the favorite, or this line wouldn’t have stayed at -13.5 so long
*Sharps aren’t interested in the underdog in this range or the number would have dropped more
*Sharps aren’t interested in the total, because the forecast is for excellent weather yet money isn’t hitting the board.
We are hearing that some deep-pocketed sharps with an eye on the dog are waiting to see if the public comes in on FSU Tuesday with enough passion to move the line to Northern Illinois +15. That’s a smart move because the public will probably want to bet the only prime time game…and they’re likely going to be supporting the favorite. Market moves may create a sharp play that isn’t currently available.
Be sure you celebrate the New Year safely and responsibly. And, don’t forget that the biggest names in handicapping will have HUGE plays going up and down the Tuesday card. Complete details are available on our “buy picks” page here at the website. Make a few clicks and have your credit card handy.
Here’s VSM’s schedule for sharp reports the rest of the week…
Wednesday: Louisville vs. Florida in the Sugar Bowl
Thursday: Oregon vs. Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl
Early Friday: Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl
Late Friday: NFL Wildcard Weekend
Visit VegasSportsMasters EVERY DAY into the New Year so you can think like a sharp and bet like a sharp!