Vegas Money Moves – Week 12

You’ll never guess what the most bet game is at one Las Vegas sportsbook, but I can guarantee that you can easily pick what the most popular betting sides have been through Thursday’s action.

The public is liking No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State taking the +19 points in one of the many loser leave town (playoff contenders) matches. They also like Wisconsin’s No. 1 defense -9.5 at home against Nebraska, and then there’s another judgment day for No. 3 Oregon at Utah where the Utes have been bet up from -3 to -3.5 by respected money, but ticket counts and parlays are higher on the Ducks.

It’s Week 12 Saturday in college football and while we think we know who some of these teams are, there’s always a surprise twist that shows us something new.

With all this great stuff happening this week, it was a shock to hear Las Vegas SuperBook manager Randy Blum say their most wagered upon game this week is UCLA at USC was the most popular. Sharp action on USC was reported at Station Casinos and the South Point.

I think this is worth analyzing: why is UCLA at USC the most wagered-upon game of the week?

The Los Angeles to Las Vegas ties are a strong angle to start with. As Las Vegas has grown, a lot of it is because of Southern California folks moving to Las Vegas. Cheaper living, cheaper homes, more bang for the buck, lots of jobs, and tolerable traffic. Las Vegas kids going off to UCLA or USC and bringing the love home is strong too.

Plus there's the tradition. Most west coast grandparents who have watched college football have watched this game annually. Usually, they’re both pretty good battling for a Rose Bowl bid. But this season they’re both well below standards. USC is 4-5 and already fired head coach Clay Helton. UCLA is 6-4 and head coach Chip Kelly may get fired if he loses this game. USC is 1-4 ATS at home this season.

It’s Tommy Burger (USC) vs In-N-Out Burger (UCLA). I think the best thing about this rivalry is them both wearing their dark colors, instead of one team being required to wear white. It’s a color jubilee splash that makes my TV more brilliant than ever. And then, of course, there are the dueling bands that keep both their fight songs stuck in your head for a week.

All I’m saying here is that there are many reasons to watch UCLA-USC this weekend, but to bet on either one of those, no thanks. To pull out real money from my pocket and place it on USC or UCLA doesn't give me any enthusiasm like a normal bet does when I first bet it.

But the public is loving this game at the SuperBook.

The SuperBook took sharp action on Iowa State +5 and +4 at Oklahoma, one week after Texas Tech beat Iowa State and Baylor dropped the Sooners. They also bet Nebraska +10.5 at Wisconsin, while the public bets Wisconsin at any number.

Oh wow, speaking of, how about this Baylor at Kansas State (-1) game. Letdown spot for Baylor?

The public likes what they saw last and bet it will happen again next week. In the Badgers case, they’ve won their last six games (5-1) and have gained 579 and 497 yards offensively the last two weeks. Nebraska has lost its last four games (1-3 ATS).

The SuperBook also took some sharp action on the BYU at Georgia Southern total under 58 and 57. They are at 56 as of Thursday. Circa Sports opened a total of 60.5 on Sunday afternoon.

Station Casinos VP Jason McCormick said they took sharp action on SMU (+11 at Cincinnati) and Wyoming (+5.5 at Utah State).

The pressure is on No. 5 Cincinnati trying to stay unbeaten while hoping to get a playoff invite, which most will agree isn’t in their hands. They can win out, be undefeated, and still be talked down to by the CFP committee that they didn’t do enough.

And wait until Alabama is a two-loss team after the SEC Championship.

It’s easy to see what the sharps are thinking with the SMU bets. The number dropped from +13 to +11 staying within a margin of victory in SMU’s only two losses: 28-25 at Memphis and 44-37 at Houston. That’s it. SMU is a quiet 8-2. Cincinnati has failed to cover the spreads that ranged from -22.5 to -28.5 in its last four games after starting the season 5-1 ATS.

It was interesting to see the AP Top 25 poll drop Cincinnati from No. 2 to No. 3 after beating South Florida, 45-28 while new No. 2 Alabama pounded New Mexico State, 59-3. It’s as if the writers are prepping Cincinnati for the ultimate screw job we all know is going to happen.

South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews said they took sharp money on Tulane (-5 vs South Florida) and Washington (-6 at Colorado). They’re not the sexiest sides, but who cares because those wise guys win way more than they lose.

I think the game I have the most interest in from a fan standpoint is No. 10 Wake Forest visiting Clemson, a place they haven’t won since 1998. The one-loss Demon Deacons are No. 2 in the nation scoring 44.7 ppg but are 17-68-1 all-time against Clemson. But is Clemson getting better?

Circa Sports opened Clemson -5 on Sunday and by the end of the day they had bet down to -3. They’ve settled at -4 like most books with Caesars showing -4.5.

The Tigers have won their last three to make them 7-3 while going 2-8 ATS. I had Clemson rated as one of the top teams before the season and heading into this week their rating has dropped 21-points. I’ve never seen a drop like that, ever. Wake Forest has climbed up from their opening rating of 13-points, which is significant as well. In pre-season, this game would have been Clemson -39 depending on how high ranking Clemson home field.

But let’s go back to one of the most bet sides, Michigan State at Ohio State, and see what’s at stake. The loser of this game is out of playoff contention unless all hell breaks loose the next two weeks. It’s the last home game for several senior Buckeyes and the group likely leaving early for the NFL. It’s a battle between top-3 Heisman Trophy candidates with Buckeyes' QB CJ Stroud and Spartans' RB Kenneth Walker III. Ohio State has the No. 1 offense averaging 550 ypg and 46.3 ppg.

Circa Sports opened Ohio State -18, were bet up to -20, and settled at -19 where they’ve been most of the week. The total dropped from 72 to 66.5 but has risen back to 68.5.

This is an intriguing match with Purdue storylines spilling over into both sides. Purdue rocked Michigan State three weeks ago, 40-29, for Sparty’s first loss. The Boilermakers came into Ohio Stadium last week and got torched, 59-31. Would have it been closer last week had Purdue not beat Michigan State? Maybe, but that leads us to the really big statistic that matters.

Michigan State has the 130th ranked pass defense in the nation. That’s 130 out of 130. That’s dead last. The last three MSU games have been the worst. Now they’ll face the top offense with a QB vying for Heisman style points and votes. Michigan State is 0-4 ATS in their last four meetings.

The Spartans' shabby pass defense has been solid for those betting the total over. They’ve gone over in their last three. Also, over six of their last seven against winning teams. The last five meetings at Ohio Stadium have stayed under and five of the last six overall have stayed under, but none of those games featured the No. 1 offense against the very worst pass defense in the nation. Something to think about.

Lots of great games to choose from, but Las Vegas bettors seem to love UCLA at USC the most. Cool, I'll peak at it a few times. My TV will be appreciative.

That’s all for this week, here’s a look at the first moves at Circa Sports which opens the first college football numbers in the world Sunday at 11 am:

UTEP -6 to -10 vs. Rice

North Texas -7 to -10.5 at Florida International

Mississippi -34 to -37 vs Vanderbilt

Pittsburgh -11 to -15 vs. Virginia

N.C. State -10 to -12.5 vs. Syracuse

Minnesota -5 to -7.5 at Indiana

South Carolina +10 to +7.5 vs Auburn