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Football bettors still have outlet with spring FCS season

The Super Bowl is over, but football bettors do not have to turn their attention to basketball and hockey just yet.

A real spring college football season is here. The Football Championship Subdivision opens conference play this week for a season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, and lines are available at Las Vegas sportsbooks.

Circa Sports was first to market with college football lines during the past two falls, and sportsbook director Matt Metcalf said he intends to do the same for the FCS spreads, targeting a Tuesday release. Circa will take $1,000 limits on the openers, increasing to $2,000, and perhaps higher, on the weekend, Metcalf said.

Bettors will know the FCS teams mostly as cannon fodder for Football Bowl Subdivision teams. However, FCS teams score upsets over FBS teams every year, such as Howard’s 43-40 defeat of UNLV in 2017, and the best FCS teams are competitive with many FBS teams.

During a normal college football season, sportsbooks would post lines on games between FBS and FCS teams, but not on games between FCS teams, at least until the playoffs. Metcalf said expanding the menu is not a big problem — he’s been keeping FCS power ratings for years — but he did have to try to track down information on opt-outs and other coronavirus-related changes in the programs.

Some FCS teams are opting out of the spring entirely after cobbling together a fall schedule. Other teams played a few games in the fall and are now playing a full spring schedule. Other teams haven’t played since the end of 2019.

“Every team is going to have a different agenda when it comes to spring football,” Metcalf said. “For some people, it’s glorified practice. … Some teams haven’t played in five months and others in 14 months. My gut says it won’t matter, but we’ll see.”

Westgate sportsbook director John Murray said he is hopeful that public bettors will take a look at FCS games when they’re the only football on the menu. In the past, lines posted on games involving FCS teams attracted action that was “basically 99 percent sharp,” he said.

“I think this year it could be different with the FCS not going against the FBS games on Saturdays,” Murray said. “We may see people trying their hand at betting it the way they did the XFL or (Alliance of American Football). It will still be a predominantly sharp market, however.”

South Dakota State is a 2½-point favorite at Northern Iowa at Circa in Friday’s FCS game. Lines are posted on seven more games Saturday and four on Sunday. North Dakota State, which has won eight of the past nine FCS championships, is a 23-point home favorite against Youngstown State on Sunday.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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