The point spread on the Ohio State-Michigan game grew significantly over the weekend.
The early lines that began popping up at sportsbooks last week had the Buckeyes as around 4.5- to 6-point favorites. But after Ohio State blew out Michigan State on Saturday, sportsbooks reopened the Buckeyes as 8-point favorites.
One respected oddsmaker, however, believes that number is on the high side.
“I really like Michigan. I’ve liked them all year,” Matt Metcalf, sportsbook director for the Las Vegas-based Circa Sports, said Sunday, a few hours after opening the Buckeyes at -7. “I just think this is just a different game than the other opponents Ohio State has faced so far this year. I think if anyone has a chance to keep it close, I think this may be the one.”
Money poured in on the Buckeyes at Circa, limit bet after limit bet. For every bet on Michigan, Metcalf said there were six on Ohio State in the first four hours that the line was on the board.
“It’s pretty much been all one way on Ohio State,” Metcalf said. “I just couldn’t bring myself to hang higher than seven, because I know I would’ve had this game like five last week. After making the adjustment for Ohio State shredding Michigan State, and Michigan beating a bad Maryland team, I think my number was -7, but I can see -8. It just felt like to go from five to eight over one week’s results felt aggressive to me, so I kind of just wanted to hang seven and take the money.”
The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas also reported the bulk of the early action being on the Buckeyes.
The line was sticking Ohio State -8 at most sportsbooks Sunday night, and Metcalf said he didn’t expect it get much higher. “I’ve been really high on Ohio State all year,” he added.
“I feel like I’ve been ahead of the market on them. At the point, the market has passed me by on it, it makes me feel like that we’ve maybe over-adjusted maybe a little. Sometimes, though, these good teams hit another level at the end of the season, and you see the top three or four teams play at a much higher level.
“This, to me, is a big game, because I respect Michigan, and if Ohio State walks in there and wins easy, I’d probably have them favored over Alabama.”
• Underdogs once again held their own Sunday, going (7-6 against the spread, with five outright upsets). Underdogs (92-69-1 ATS) have covered the spread in 56.8% of games this season.
• The half dozen upsets fueled another winning Sunday for sportsbooks. “Not the best day for the punters,” Craig Mucklow of Caesars Sportsbook said. Mucklow said the book won big on the Cardinals and Ravens, two teams missing their starting quarterbacks.
• The Cardinals, who closed as 3-point underdogs, upended the Seahawks, behind backup QB Colt McCoy. With the win, Arizona became the first team in the Super Bowl era to win five straight games outright as an underdog in a single season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
• Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was ruled out due to illness shortly before Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff against the Bears. The Ravens, who had been as high as 6.5-point favorites early in the week, closed as 1-point favorites and won 16-13.
• The most popular bet at PointsBet’s Illinois sportsbook was Ravens on the money-line.
• The Vikings’ 34-31 win over the favored Packers produced the biggest win of the day for DraftKings and the SuperBook.
“The Vikings winning was huge for us,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, told ESPN on Sunday. “We also did very well on Washington (27-21 win over the Panthers) and the Colts (41-15 win over the Bills). Those were our three biggest needs in the morning, and we got them all.”
• The slew of upsets on a nearly weekly basis has left oddsmakers with a variety opinions on who the best team in the NFL really is.
“You could ask five people and get five different answers at this point,” Murray said. “Tampa Bay probably plays to the highest number right now, but before the games kicked off today, I think the answer most people would have given you is Buffalo. The Packers and Chiefs are right there as well. And all of a sudden the Patriots looks as good as any team in the AFC. It’s an unusual situation with so many of these potential playoff games being toss-ups. These teams would all be laying three points or less at home against each other. Weird season, but should set up for a great playoffs.”
Mucklow of Caesars said his top team in the NFC is the Cardinals, emphasizing that holding out quarterback Kyler Murray to give him extra weeks to heal his injured ankle could be key down the stretch.
“In the AFC, the Patriots look really dangerous,” Muckow said.
And Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM, said his Super Bowl pick right now is a rematch of last season between the Chiefs and Buccaneers. “Their talent levels are the best,” Scott said.
• Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, a beloved Houston furniture store owner, who regularly places large wagers to mitigate risk on promotional giveaways, was back at it last week. On Friday, McIngvale placed two bets, totaling $2 million, on the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl at 23-1 odds. He bet $1.25 million at Barstool Sportsbook and $750,000 with the Score. If the Patriots, who have won five in a row, win the Super Bowl, McIngvale would win a net $46 million from the wagers.
College football notables
• Barring dramatic line movement, Alabama will be favored in its 92nd straight game on Saturday, when the Crimson Tide take on Auburn in the Iron Bowl. It’s the longest such streak in college football history, but is likely coming to an end the following week, when Alabama faces No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Caesars Sportsbook installed the Bulldogs as 3.5-point favorites over Alabama. If the line holds, it would be first time the Crimson Tide have been an underdog since Oct. 3, 2015, when Alabama was a 1-point underdog at Georgia. The Tide won that game 38-10.
Alabama also owns the second-longest streak of being favored at 72 games, a run that began in 2010 and lasted to the 2015 meeting with Georgia.
• Michigan State plus the points was the most popular bet-by tickets and money wagered-Saturday morning at PointsBet. The Spartans, who were 19.5-point underdogs to Ohio State, lost to the Buckeyes 56-7.
• Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud emerged as the consensus favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, after his prolific performance against Michigan State. Stroud entered the weekend at +250, the second choice behind Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Stroud is now the odds-on favorite at -220 at Caesars Sportsbook. Young is +175.
• Other notable opening lines via Circa Sports:
Mississippi at Mississippi State (-3, 63.5)
North Carolina at North Carolina State (-7, 63)
Cincinnati (-14, 58.5) at East Carolina
Georgia (-34, 54.5) at Georgia Tech
Florida State at Florida (-2, 59.5)
Alabama (-21, 51.5) at Auburn
Texas A&M (-7, 45.5) at LSU
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (-3, 50.5)