Last Updated Dec 22, 2021, 10:40 AM

Vegas Money Moves - Championship Week

It’s Championship weekend in college football with a limited number of games Friday and Saturday, but they’re all big games with the exception of the make-up game with USC at California (-4) game, but even that will be huge because it’s the get-back game as the last game to kickoff Saturday.

Of the 10 Championship games, five of them have college football playoff implications. What happens if Alabama (+6.5) beats Georgia in the SEC game, Oklahoma State (-5.5) beats Baylor in the Big-12, Michigan (-11) beats Iowa in the Big Ten, and Cincinnati (-10.5) beats Houston?

Is that the recipe to get Cincinnati out of the mix -- Houston has a terrible strength of schedule while Oklahoma State would add a quality win against Baylor to their resume. Is that enough to have Oklahoma State jump undefeated Cincinnati for the fourth and final slot?

If that scenario with all those teams did happen, let’s make Oklahoma State jumping Cincy a -200 favorite just because of how the CFB Playoff committee has been positioning themselves for this moment.

How about the betting story of the college football weekend?

CUSA Championship: Western Kentucky vs. UTSA

It all starts with multiple groups of sharp bettors jumping all over Western Kentucky over UTSA in the C-USA Championship Game. Wherever they could get down they did. Marc Nelson got WKU money up north at his Atlantis Reno. So did Jason McCormick’s Station Casinos, Chris Andrews South Point, and Randy Blum’s Las Vegas SuperBook.

“We’ve had some pretty good action so far,” said South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews. “They (sharps) like Western Kentucky and took +3.5 and +3 with Oregon -- I haven’t gone to -2.5 yet, but we’re close. They’re also taking Kent State pretty strong.”

Circa Sports opened WKU pick ‘em Sunday night and bettors left it alone until Tuesday when they pushed it up the ladder to -2.5 and then on Wednesday they were pushed to -3. Same story and same bet log timeline everywhere. The total has been bet up from 71.5 to 73.

So what are the sharps looking at here that have them rushing to the bet windows? UTSA won at Western Kentucky, 52-46, as 3-point underdogs on Oct. 9 that kind of paved the way for an 11-0 start for the Roadrunners.

But WKU had a new offensive coordinator, a new QB, and several other transfers that took a few weeks to get on the same page. The QB, Bailey Zappe, threw for 52 TD passes this season. The Hilltoppers haven’t lost since that Oct UTSA game. Seven straight wins (6-1 ATS) and six straight covers, seemingly gaining more strength each week. They are the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation with 43 ppg.

UTSA got blasted 45-23 last week at North Texas for its first loss of the season. It got so bad in the game that UTSA’s starting QB Frank Harris was yanked from the game. It was the third straight non-cover for UTSA following sluggish home wins against Southern Miss and UAB.

Both teams have been vying for national attention, but UTSA with a bad loss proved the naysayers right. Bailey Zappe hasn’t been discussed by anyone as a Heisman candidate despite the amazing stats. The game is in San Antonio, just a 2-hour car ride away from Zappe’s hometown of Victoria.

The bottom line here is that UTSA is struggling and Western Kentucky is at their absolute best right now and have revenge on their mind.

Pac-12 Championship: Oregon vs. Utah

Another revenge game was mentioned by Andrews as sharp plays and it’s on Friday night as well. It’s the Pac-12 Championship Game at Las Vegas and Utah opened -3.5 against Oregon at the South Point. Almost every book in Nevada was posted with Utah -2.5 as of Thursday afternoon.

The revenge part is easy to understand. Utah ruined Oregon’s dream of winning a title 12 days ago. Oregon controlled its own destiny. Just win and advance. The first week they made the top-4 of the CFB Playoff rankings they lost at Utah, 38-7. They blew it and they’re not happy about it. Not only does Oregon have a shot at some kind of redemption, but they also get the Utes away from the altitude of Salt Lake City where they rarely lose.

The Utes went 3-3 on the road this season with wins against Arizona, Stanford, and USC. Twenty years ago, that’s a scary road trip, but in 2021 it's cupcake city.

MAC Championship: Kent State vs. Northern Illinois

Kent State has moved from -3 to -3.5 against Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship being played at Ford Field in Detroit. It’s the same number Kent State was at home on Nov. 3 against NIU, a game the Golden Flashes won 52-47.

SEC Championship: Georgia vs. Alabama

But the only game featuring two teams currently in the top-4 of the CFB Playoff rankings is the SEC Championship with No. 1 Georgia still undefeated while compiling a 40-6 average score on the season. Everyone will have a piece of this game, but opinions are mixed with the public at different books.

“We’ve got strong write already on the Georgia-Alabama game with good two-way action,” Andrews said. “We took a big bet on Georgia laying -6.5 and we went to -7 and then another guy bought up to +7.5 so naturally we don’t need the game landing 7. We’ve also had a bit on the under moving us from 50.5 to 49.5.”

The South Point has Georgia -6.5 just as most books in Nevada. Circa Sports has the cheapest Georgia money-line at -235 while the South Point has the largest Alabama money-line at +220.

Station Casinos McCormick says they are loaded on Georgia already which says a lot because they do huge business as neighborhood bet shops around Las Vegas. Their typical customer is the stereotype of Joe Public who bets sports daily.

It’s not hard to believe for many that Georgia handles Alabama because they’ve seen Alabama struggle in wins three of the past four weeks. Auburn took them to overtime last week with a backup QB. LSU had them on the ropes four weeks ago in Alabama’s 20-14 win.

Big 10 Championship: Michigan vs. Iowa

BetMGM’s Jeff Stoneback said Georgia is a sharp play with them and it’s also their betting public’s top play in ticket counts. Stoneback said their biggest risk Saturday is already Michigan -11 against Iowa.

If you bet Iowa, you're not betting them because its offense doesn’t even average 300 ypg, you’re betting them to be contrarian and are simply betting against what the public likes because the public is wrong more than they’re right. Iowa also has a really good defense and they’d love to get in a rock fight against Michigan. But of course, Michigan has better athletes and the dangling carrot in front of them to play for the national title. The Wolverines control their own destiny.

“We’ve moved Michigan from -10.5 to -11 and they’ve garnered lots of public support,” Andrews said.

When asked three teams would furnish the most disastrous parlay for the house he immediately said San Diego State and Oklahoma State and then took a few seconds to think of the third team. “Yeah, probably Michigan,” he said.

Mountain West Championship: Utah State vs. San Diego State

San Diego State has been bet up from -5.5 to -6 against Utah State in the MWC Championship Game. The Aztecs won 38-7 at Utah State last season, this is their first meeting this season. The Aztecs are popular this week because they’ve reliable bets recently winning and covering five of their last six games.

If the Michigan risk and ticket counts look big on a Thursday, wait until Saturday night after 5 pm PT when the game kicks off after most of the others have been completed. If the bettor does well or poorly in the games up to that point, both factions will be back for a piece of the Michigan-Iowa game. And then rinse, dry, and repeat for last chance action on USC-Cal.

Andrews said the South Point is looking good on all college football futures except Notre Dame and Cincinnati and says they do well to Georgia and Alabama who have been short prices all season.

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