It’s not often when sports books are rooting for the top-ranked college football team in the country to cover the spread. But that’s the unusual spot bookmakers are in entering today’s national title game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson.
Money continued to pour in on the Tigers across Las Vegas on Monday morning as 6½-point underdogs and at plus-185 on the money line in the rematch of last year’s title game won by the Crimson Tide, 45-40.
Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller laughed when asked when was the last time the books needed Alabama.
“That’s a great question. It might be the first time in a long time,” he said. “When you have a name like (Tigers quarterback) Deshaun Watson and the whole revenge factor coming into play, I think the public is sold on it.”
The line opened at 7 before an avalanche of public support for Clemson moved it to 6½, where it has stayed everywhere except for the MGM Mirage, which lists Alabama at minus-7, plus-110, meaning bettors have to lay 130 to take the Tigers and the points.
“The public is all over Clemson at this point,” MGM Mirage sports book director Jay Rood said. “We have a couple big bets on Alabama but the money line is really what’s skewing the game. If Clemson wins outright, that’s probably not a good thing for most books around town.
“A lot of books are looking for Alabama to win but not cover. We need ‘Bama to cover.”
Miller, who lists the Tide at minus-215 on the money line, said he’s taken nothing but Clemson money.
“It was coming in this morning, also,” he said Monday. “I think the sharps are waiting to see what happens and then jump on it late this afternoon.
“I’m surprised it didn’t go to 7 already but it’s going the other way actually. I thought ‘Bama money would come in late but I haven’t seen it.”
Handicapper Dana Lane (Danalanesports.com), who recently won his second consecutive Review-Journal College Bowl Challenge, is recommending a play on Clemson in a revenge spot. He expects wideout Mike Williams to be a big factor after missing last year’s title game and believes Watson gives the Tigers a big edge at quarterback over the Tide’s Jalen Hurts, trying to become the first true freshman quarterback since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985 to win a national title.
“Clemson has a huge advantage in experience, quarterback-wise. It’s not even close. Not too many freshmen win the college national championship,” Lane said. “Watson threw for over 400 yards last year without Williams. It’s simplistic thinking but they’re a better offense with him on the field. He’s arguably the best wide receiver in college football.”
Lane also expects Alabama to be adversely affected by the loss of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who has been replaced by Steve Sarkisian.
“I try to keep things very simplistic,” he said. “There are a lot more question marks on the Alabama side than on the Clemson side, and I’m getting 6½ points.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.