Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM
This is our first of two reports this week. I’ll look right now at the Thursday Night NFL game matching the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars first, followed by all five of Saturday’s college football bowl games. The bowl season is finally here! I’ll be back with you Friday afternoon to look at the two Saturday Night NFL games, the full Sunday card, plus that great Monday Nighter between Denver and Cincinnati.
We start with the ugliest game of the week…but one that’s been showing sharp interest in recent hours…
TENNESSEE VS. JACKSONVILLE (8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network): Jacksonville opened at -3 on their home field. And, that’s where the number stayed most of the week. But, a combination of sharp and square action has now pushed the game off the key number hard enough to make Jaguars -3.5 widely available. You regular readers know that it takes a lot of money to move a game off the three and keep it there. Sportsbooks are finding it hard to encourage Tennessee money even with the hook. We’ve also had a big move on the total. The opener of 41 is all the way down to 39. This isn’t a surprise given how many low scoring games we had last week…and how much both of these offenses have struggled in recent action. I’m hearing the Over/Under may drop even further before kickoff. It would probably take at least Tennessee +4 and 38 to bring in money that would reverse the current tides.
NEW ORLEANS BOWL
NEVADA vs. LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE (11 a.m. ET on ESPN)
There was huge initial interest on Lafayette at the opening line of Nevada -3. Sharps hit Lafayette so hard they became a small favorite! Among the reasons for the big early move…home area advantage for the Louisiana team, and a really bad “body clock” starting time of 8 a.m. for the kids from Nevada. But, as we’ve gotten closer to kickoff…Nevada money is starting to come in. Those planning on betting the Wolfpack figured that +1 was the best they were going to get. And, anyone interested in a middle bought back a bit as well. This won’t be a heavily bet matchup in Vegas on game day because of that very early start time. Locals will get their money down Thursday evening and Friday. Sharps are in very strong on Lafayette at anything better than pick-em. The Over/Under is up a point from the opener of 60 to 61 in this dome affair.
NEW MEXICO BOWL
TEXAS-EL PASO vs. UTAH STATE (2:20 p.m. ET on ESPN)
The big story here is on the Over/Under, as the opening total of 50 has been bet all the way down to 46. Doesn’t look like this was weather related in any way given the timing of the moves. Both offenses have had some issues moving the ball this year. UTEP in particular may have trouble scoring on this stout Utah State defense. Utah State is -10 after all (down a tick from the opener of Utah State -10.5). That kind of combination (high line, low total), represents very strong skepticism about an underdog’s offense. The money on UTEP was mostly from the old school sharps who bet every double digit underdog (they do that in bowls as well as the NFL because the percentages have paid off over time). Sharps really loved the Under here at 48 or higher, and still kept betting it at 47 and 46.5.
LAS VEGAS BOWL
UTAH vs. COLORADO STATE (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC)
Clear market interest on underdog Colorado State at the opening line of +4.5. The line came all the way down to Utah -3 before Utes money started hitting the board. It now looks like we may be in for a tug-of-war between Utah -3 and CSU +3.5. Colorado State lost its head coach to Florida, or their support would have been even stronger here. They’ve been a money team all season. The Over/Under has dropped from 58.5 to 57.5. By the way, any bowl “Under” should be considered “sharp” because the general public only bets Overs in bowl games as a general rule. Squares like to root for points. They either pass the total or bet the Over in bowls.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
WESTERN MICHIGAN vs. AIR FORCE (5:45 p.m. ET on ESPN)
A flipped favorite here, as Western Michigan opened at -2…but we’re now looking at Air Force -1. No key numbers are involved, so that’s not quite as big a move as it seems at first glance. But, clearly oddsmakers overshot the mark with the MAC team. They haven’t found the number yet to encourage action on the new underdog. This isn’t a heavily bet game, and may not be given the teams involved. Those betting are taking Air Force so far. The total has gone up from an opener of 56.5 to 58. I’m hearing many quants made the game 57 or 58 and bet for value.
SOUTH ALABAMA vs. BOWLING GREEN (9:15 p.m. ET on ESPN)
This game is in Montgomery, Alabama. That means home state but not true home field for South Alabama (which is based in Mobile). They’ve been getting the early money, as the opener of -1.5 is up to -2.5. But, oddsmakers aren’t showing interest in the key number of three because they’re fairly confident sharps would hit Bowling Green hard at that price. So, we may see the 2.5 stick, with sportsbooks rooting for the dog at that price. If public money does come in on the TV favorite for the only prime time bowl of the day (people have to bet something!), then we may see a tug-of-war between South Alabama -2.5 and Bowling Green +3. The Over/Under has dropped from 54 to 53, showing some sharp interest on the Under.
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As I mentioned earlier, we’ll have this week’s NFL weekend report at the usual time Friday. I’ve scheduled a special MONDAY report next week for more bowls, where I’ll cover sharp action in the rest of the pre-Christmas matchups:
Monday: BYU vs. Memphis
Tuesday: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois and Navy vs. San Diego State
Wednesday: Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan and Fresno State vs. Rice
All of those games will be covered in that Monday update. Then our schedule of sharps reports will get very busy right after the holiday with more bowls and the last week of regular season NFL. That begins on Friday December 26.
Thanks for reading. See you again Friday for the rest of this weekend’s NFL.
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