The conclusion of the college football regular season is rapidly approaching. Week 13 is the end of it for most teams. We’ll have some Week 14 hurricane postponement games and then conference championship games, but for all intents and purposes, the regular season ends this week because the Big 12 and Sun Belt have championship games.
This is a challenging week to bet on college football. Oddsmakers have put up numbers based mostly on power ratings, but rivalry games, bowl considerations, championship game considerations, and other factors all have to be considered by bettors. Risk managers will be on top of things as they look to adjust quickly.
Tale note that there are a lot of Friday games this week!
With that, here’s a look at the Week 13 Opening Line Report:
Northern Illinois (-5.5) at Western Michigan – The Broncos suffered a devastating loss in Week 12, as they went for two and failed to get it against Ball State. With that loss, Tuesday’s opponent, Northern Illinois, locked up the West Division. This game really doesn’t mean much for either side now. Second-year head coach Tim Lester has his team bowl-eligible and NIU is going to Detroit for the MAC Title Game. Still, the Huskies opened a clear road favorite as they take their defense to Kalamazoo. We haven’t seen much movement on this line just yet.
Mississippi State (-10) at Ole Miss – This is one of the weekend’s revenge rivalry games. Mississippi State significantly outgained Ole Miss, but found a way to lose last year’s Egg Bowl. Bettors seem to remember that, as they’ve taken Mississippi State from -8.5 to -10 early in the week. Ole Miss has five wins, but has a bowl ban, so this game is solely about pride, much like last year’s game was. Early action indicates that 10 might not be enough here, as we’re showing signs of bouncing up to 10.5 at places like Bookmaker and BetOnline.
Akron at Ohio (-22) – After another dreadful offensive performance in Saturday’s loss to Bowling Green, the Akron Zips are falling out of favor with the market. Ohio is up from -20 to -22 in a revenge game for the Bobcats. For now, this game matters in that Ohio can win the MAC East if both Buffalo and Miami of Ohio lose, but also, the Bobcats lost to Akron last season and it cost them a chance at the MAC Championship Game. The betting market likes Ohio to get that revenge.
Eastern Michigan (-13.5) at Kent State – Eastern Michigan is already bowl-eligible, but the Eagles are the preferred side heading to Kent State this week. The Golden Flashes have played better than previous versions, but still have a long way to go. Right now, it looks like there are 64 teams with at least six wins. There are 78 bowl slots. Some teams may need a seventh win just to be safe. That can be a factor this week as well. Maybe that’s part of the case here with the Eagles taking road money. Eastern Michigan is also off of the rare late-season bye week.
Buffalo (-14) at Bowling Green – The Falcons aren’t the pushover that they were early in the season, but this is still a step up in class. BG has wins over Central Michigan and Akron the last two weeks, but a highly-motivated Buffalo team is in town. The Bulls need to win in order to secure the MAC East title. This line is up a bit from 13 to 14 and public money should pour in on the Bulls. Buffalo has been disappointing of late, so we’ll have to wait and see if professional money shows up.
Arkansas at Missouri (-21) – Missouri’s arrow is pointing north this week. The Razorbacks will finish out Chad Morris’s first season with a losing record and are expected to get rolled in this game, as this line has gone from 19.5 up to 21 just about market-wide.
Oklahoma at West Virginia (PK) – Initially, Oklahoma opened -2 for this trek to Morgantown, but West Virginia money has hit the board to drive this line down to pick ‘em. Bookmaker was the first to take the plunge to West Virginia -1, but most of the market is on PK. West Virginia can get to the Big 12 Title Game with a win and knock Oklahoma out. Oklahoma could stay in with a loss and a Texas loss to Kansas, but that ain’t happening.
Washington at Washington State (-3.5) – Is Wazzu finally getting the appreciation and love that they deserve? This line opened -3 and we’re up to -3.5 across the screen. The Apple Cup will decide the Pac-12 North winner. Chris Petersen has owned Washington State so far as the Huskies head coach, but the Cougars are getting the early love. Will we see sharp bettors come back over the top at higher limits? We very well could.
Pitt at Miami (FL) (-5.5) – We’re sitting in the dead zone between 4 and 6, which means that the oddsmakers want the market to shape this number. We’ve seen a lot of sharp investment on Miami this season, even with their significant offensive problems. Pitt has been a really, really good team for a while now, but running on Miami isn’t as easy as it is on other ACC opponents. We’re in a holding pattern for the most part right now, but anytime we get a line between 4 and 6, it’s going to move in one direction. So far, we haven’t seen a move of note, but Pitt does have Clemson on deck in the ACC Title Game, so maybe key guys have a lighter workload before that physical game.
Kentucky (-17.5) at Louisville – Depending on the line that you got for the game against South Carolina, Kentucky is either 1-5 or 0-5 as a favorite against the spread this season. The ‘Cats are laying three scores against a dumpster fire Louisville team with interim head coach Lorenzo Ward that will miss a bowl game for the first time since 2009.
That Team Up North (-4) at Ohio State – For the first time since 2004, the Buckeyes are a home underdog in The Game. They’ve certainly earned it, as this line was more like Ohio State -10 early in the season. This early kickoff will decide the Big Ten East and could very well decide a College Football Playoff spot, although Ohio State’s resume, even with this win and a win over Northwestern, is not good at all. Because this is sort of uncharted territory, Ohio State may get some sharp money, but it’s a hard bet to make right now. The Buckeyes are an underdog for the first time in 51 games.
Utah State at Boise State (-3) – Do you go with the better team or the team that’s been there before? That’s a big question for this game between Utah State and Boise State. Boise State is something of a standard-issue field goal home favorite, but keep in mind that the Smurf Turf hasn’t been as kind to Boise ATS as you would expect. We’ve seen very little movement in this line thus far, but that should change with a high-profile game.
UAB (-2) at Middle Tennessee – This is pretty interesting. UAB opened +2.5 and we’ve got a flipped favorite early in the week. There has been some good press about UAB and Bill Clark’s defense over the last few days, but the reason why this is such an intriguing line move is that MTSU is playing for the Conference USA East Division crown. UAB has already clinched. The Blue Raiders need a win and an FIU loss to Marshall. Even with that on the line, the market is fading MTSU to back UAB. We haven’t hit 3 yet, so this isn’t a move of great significance, but it is an early-week move and those are noteworthy.
Stanford (-5.5) at UCLA – This is something. UCLA won’t be going to a bowl game, but you would think that a win in the LA rivalry over USC would have served as a bowl. Instead, the Bruins are taking money against one of the weaker Stanford teams we’ve seen during the David Shaw era. Stanford opened a full touchdown favorite, but we’re even as low as 4.5 in the market at some places. UCLA has been somewhat popular among sharp bettors late in the year, so Chip Kelly is doing good work.
Florida (-4) at Florida State – The Seminoles took advantage of a dicey QB situation for Boston College to get to five wins. The program’s 36-year bowl streak is on the line this week against Florida. The Gators opened a three-point favorite in Tallahassee and have since moved to as high as 4.5. That number is at Bovada and Heritage, so it’s more like a -4 market-wide. There will be a ton of national talk about this game and obviously both teams have a lot of emotional investment in it. We’ll have to see if this is a true move or a setup for something else.
Notre Dame (-10) at USC – All that stands between Notre Dame and a spot in the College Football Playoff is a trip to the west coast to take on USC. Notre Dame opened -8 and this number has shot up to -10 and even -10.5 in some instances. The Fighting Irish are very fortunate that this is a down year for the Trojans, but there is still a lot of pressure in this spot. The Trojans are going to fire Clay Helton and hope to erase the memories of this season from the record books. It makes sense that early bettors would grab anything under 10. Now is when we see how committed sharp guys are to this game. It was all about line value. Now that the line has gone into double digits, we’ll have to see what happens.
Auburn at Alabama (-24.5) – This is a monstrous number for the Iron Bowl, but it’s probably deserved given where the two teams are at this point in time. We’re likely going to see Auburn money at some point this week. The Tigers still have SEC-level talent and Alabama is dealing with some injuries. It will be interesting to see when the first Auburn bets hit the board. They will come, but likely later in the week. For now, we watch and wait.
Nevada (-13) at UNLV – UNLV played better with Armani Rogers back at quarterback, but collapsed in the fourth quarter on defense against Hawaii. This is probably the best Nevada team we’ve seen since the Colin Kaepernick days and the Wolf Pack should have covered last week against San Jose State if you check out the box score. When we get misleading final scores relative to the box score, the market responds by backing that team. That’s the case here.
Arizona State (-2) at Arizona – The first foray into the Territorial Cup for both Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards and Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin is this weekend in Tucson. Arizona State opened a three-point favorite, but that line has been bumped down to -2 with early betting action. This is kind of an interesting move, as -3 seemed like a pretty good line for this game. We’ll see what happens as we go throughout the week. I think Arizona State is the true position here and that this was a ploy to get off 3. We will see sharp bettors massage games off of key numbers in order to play back later and that’s my guess here.