Championship weekend in college football means there are some very plump online sports betting options. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait until Saturday for kickoff. Oregon and Utah will play a college football edition of Friday Night Lights on Dec. 3, in Las Vegas.
A Pac-12 Championship Rematch
No, that’s not déjà vu you’re experiencing – these two teams are quite familiar with one another. Just two weeks ago, Oregon (+3) traveled to Salt Lake City, where they were promptly trounced by the Utes, 38-7. At the time, Oregon was ranked No. 3 and had great college football playoff odds, thanks in part to its early win over Ohio State.
Prior to that, their last contest was the 2019 Pac-12 championship game. That time, it was Utah that had the inside track to the playoff, but the Utes (-6.5) were a total no-show. Oregon cruised to a 37-15 win.
These previous matchups are critical context to understanding the sharp handicap on this year’s Pac-12 Championship Game.
Though Friday’s game differs from the Nov. 20 game in venue (Salt Lake City vs. Las Vegas), both games are handicapped remarkably similarly. Two weeks ago, a top-5 Oregon team entered as a big-time public underdog, with public bettors snapping up a highly ranked team that was catching three points in a high-profile game. Conversely, advantage bettors like myself read the line correctly and backed the Utes.
Now, in this championship game, the sportsbook has flipped the script without even changing the line. Utah entered this championship week as the exact same 3-point favorite that it was two weeks ago, and public bettors are (understandably) rushing to back a Utah team that scored a win 13 days prior.
Meanwhile, sharp bettors are spotting a well-designed trap.
How to Bet on the Pac-12 Championship Game
As I said, the public is reading Friday’s college football odds and targeting the favorite Utah. Fifty-six percent of point spread tickets are backing the Utes.
Despite that, a majority of the money (as of Thursday afternoon) is on Oregon. Sharp bettors and professionals are targeting the Ducks in the rematch. Maybe the most eye-raising stat comes from moneyline bettors, where 98 percent of the money in the marketplace is currently on Oregon +110.
In fact, enough action has come in on the Ducks that BetMGM has taken the point spread off the key number of 3, down to 2.5. The sportsbooks are likely hoping that there will be increased buyback on Utah as this number, which will reduce the book’s financial exposure and lead to an even spread of money. And again, the book has done this, despite the fact that there is already a majority of tickets on Utah.
Some of the play here could be stylistic. Oregon’s speed and power at the line of scrimmage makes it one of the only Pac-12 teams that can consistently match the Utes in the trenches. That certainly played a part in the 2019 championship game that was dominated by the Ducks.
However, the most likely explanation is a simple read on the number. It is not an accident that Utah was a 3-point favorite 12 days ago and was once again a 3-point favorite this week. The sportsbook favored the home Utes in the first matchup and hung a line designed to entice square action on a highly ranked underdog; now, the book is enticing square action on a Utah team that just beat Oregon as everyone was out at the grocery store, hunting for plump turkeys.
The numerical cleverness of these particular college football odds make the right side appear very clearly, at least to me. I’m on the Ducks on Friday night.
Play: Oregon +2.5