Based on the opening lines for the four-team College Football Playoff, Las Vegas oddsmakers expect Alabama and Clemson to square off for the national championship for the third time in four years.
Top seed Alabama (13-0) opened as a 14-point favorite over No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) on Sunday at the Westgate sports book in their Dec. 29 matchup at the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Florida.
No. 2 Clemson (13-0) opened as an 11½-point favorite over No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) in their Dec. 29 showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
William Hill sports book posted the Crimson Tide as 13½-point favorites after they had to rally from a 14-point deficit to beat Georgia 35-28 in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference title game.
“I just think there will be money against Alabama,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “There was big money for the ’dog against them (Saturday) and I don’t see why there wouldn’t be money against them again.
“Down the stretch, they’ve shown they’re human.”
That said, the first CFP wager William Hill took was a $3,000 bet on Alabama. It also took a $1,000 wager on Clemson (as an 11-point favorite), though Bogdanovich expects plenty of support for the Fighting Irish.
“The Irish are a public team,” Bogdanovich said. “That was a tough game to make. No one knows how good Notre Dame really is. Meanwhile, you’re getting another undefeated team getting double digits.”
Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said there was some debate at his shop over the Clemson-Notre Dame line.
“We had some differences of opinion in the room. It was as high as 13½ and as low as 11½,” he said. “It was funny, when we put up that Notre Dame-Clemson game, we were the only game in town and we were getting two-way action right away.”
Bogdanovich said he expects to see good two-way action on both games.
“Usually you know right away you’ll need this side. But you can make a case for any one of these four teams,” he said. “I don’t know how it will shake out. I think we’ll need the under in both games. That’s about the only thing I can predict.”
The Alabama-Oklahoma total opened at 79½. The Sooners lead the nation in scoring, at 50.3 points per game, and the Crimson Tide are second (49). Oklahoma is 100th in scoring defense (32.8 ppg).
“The public bets every Oklahoma game over,” Salmons said. “It doesn’t matter what the number is.”
The Clemson-Notre Dame total opened at 56 and was quickly bet down to 55½ at the Westgate.
“One of our smart guys bet under 56,” Salmons said.
A month ago, the Westgate opened Alabama as an 8½-point favorite over Clemson in a possible national title game. The line had dipped to 7½ before Championship Saturday and was reposted at 6 on Sunday.
“Our numbers had that game closer anyway,” Salmons said. “Everybody always thought how great Alabama was. But they definitely proved they’re beatable (Saturday).”
In other opening lines posted at Caesars Entertainment sports book, Fresno State is a 3½-point favorite over Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl, scheduled for Dec. 15 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
On New Year’s Day, No. 5 Georgia is a 12½-point favorite over Texas in the Sugar Bowl; No. 6 Ohio State is favored by 4 over Washington in the Rose Bowl; Louisiana State by 10 over No. 8 Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl; Penn State by 7 over Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl; and Mississippi State by 4 over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.