Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 1:00 PM
I’m posting earlier than normal this week because of all the weeknight bowls. Today I’ll talk about how sharps are betting all the bowl games from Tuesday through Saturday. There’s no Thursday night NFL this week…so I’ll cover the full pro football weekend in our standard Friday afternoon report.
Tuesday: Boca Raton Bowl
NORTHERN ILLINOIS VS. ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM: This could be a great game…a battle of conference champions. An opener of UAB -1 was bet up to UAB -2.5, but not to the key number of three. Northern Illinois would bring in a lot of sharp money at that price because it’s a respected “defensive dog” and because Chicago money has a way of finding its way to Las Vegas. Quants who liked the favorite bet UAB at -1 and -2. Dog lovers are waiting and hoping for the three.
Wednesday: Frisco Bowl
OHIO VS. SAN DIEGO STATE: Looks like a tug-of-war between Ohio -3 (the opening line) and -2.5. Dog money comes in on the key number, but Ohio is getting support at -2.5. No reason yet why that wouldn’t continue until kickoff…pending injury or suspension news, or a syndicate hitting the game hard. Probably won’t be a heavily bet game from the public. If squares do bet, it will be on the cheap favorite below a field goal. Note that this game will be played at a soccer stadium near Dallas. Not much local interest.
Thursday: Gasparilla Bowl
MARSHALL VS. SOUTH FLORIDA: Similar situation here, with Marshall the slight favorite that gets support at -2.5, and USF the underdog that brings in Wise Guy money on the key number at +3 in a game to be played in Tampa. For entertainment purposes, it’s great to have games that are supposed to be so competitive. Sports books like the relatively split action, but will hate if any game lands right on the three. Bettors push or win those.
Friday: Bahamas Bowl
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL VS. TOLEDO: Toledo opened at -6.5. It’s come down to -5.5 or -6 depending on where you shop. Toledo money does hit pretty hard at -5.5, so it’s mostly sixes. Looks like a tug of war right there between the 5.5 and 6 pending any late week news. Though, it’s possible that early-week results for the MAC (Northern Illinois and Ohio) might influence money here. If the conference looks great, it’s easier to lay the points with Toledo. If not, dog money could come in heavier in this annual shootout on the islands. I should note that this Over/Under has dropped SEVEN points! I only mention totals when there’s been a big move. An opener of 66 is down to 59.
Friday: Potato Bowl
BYU VS. WESTERN MICHIGAN: The first double-digit spread of the postseason. Those will be more common later when the superpowers take the field. BYU opened at -12.5 on the fabled blue turf of Boise. Most stores are still there, though I’m seeing -12 in a few spots. I don’t expect 13 to come into play unless it’s a great week for favorites and squares keep laying the chalk. (Favorites did cover four of the five “Day One” bowls last Saturday.) Same point as above with the MAC, as UNI, Ohio, and Toledo will have played before this kickoff (unless the Toledo game runs long).
Saturday: Birmingham Bowl
WAKE FOREST VS. MEMPHIS: Should be a shootout unless weather gets in the way. Both of these defenses can get bulldozed by good offenses. That’s why the Over/Under is up around 74-75 (from an opener of 73). On the team side, the opener of Memphis -4 has been bet down to -3.5. It’s assumed Memphis money would come in hard on the key number of three, particularly from the public in a Saturday game (more tourists betting in Las Vegas on Saturdays than on weeknights).
Saturday: Armed Forces Bowl
ARMY VS. HOUSTON: It’s amazing how much respect Army is getting in point spreads this year compared to the past. The Black Knights pushed at -7 vs. Navy, a game they were underdogs in for many years. Great job in turning around that program from the current head coach. An opener of Army -3 has been bet up to -4 in this game that will be played in Forth Worth. Some stores have begun testing Army -4.5. We’ll have to see if that, or +5 will bring in underdog money. The Over/Under is down five points from 64.5 to 59.5.
Saturday: Dollar General Bowl
BUFFALO VS. TROY: An opener of Buffalo -3 has been bet down to -2 or -1.5 depending on where you shop. Troy will have a much friendlier stadium crowd in this game to be played in Mobile, Alabama. Another game where you can learn from past MAC results. Buffalo was a popular betting choice during the regular season for some sharp groups. If the MAC shows well through the week, this number should drift back towards the three.
Saturday: Hawaii Bowl
LOUISIANA TECH VS. HAWAII: Obviously a home field game for Hawaii. But, visiting Louisiana Tech is getting the money. An opener of Hawaii -2 is down to -1 or pick-em already, with some indications that we could flip favorites before kickoff.
For the most part, sharps are betting line value with underdogs to this point, but not in a way that suggests any of the openers were way off base. No monster moves, or “bandwagon” favorites in advance of public action. Hopefully that means entertaining football in this week of appetizers before the major conferences start to take the field.
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Thanks for reading. Back Friday afternoon to run the whole NFL. Note that there are two “day change” games in pro football this week. Washington/Tennessee and Baltimore/LA Chargers were moved from Sunday to Saturday afternoon and evening. The NFL did its own “flex” scheduling there to make sure it could feature games that impacted the playoff picture.