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Las Vegas sportsbooks need Alabama over Ohio State

Updated January 9, 2021 - 5:18 pm

On the rare occasions when Ohio State is an underdog, it has been a cover machine, riding a 16-3 streak against the spread.

The Buckeyes’ impressive record as underdogs helps explain why Las Vegas sportsbooks are in the rare position of needing Alabama in Monday’s College Football Playoff national title game.

The Crimson Tide are 8-point favorites over Ohio State, which crushed Clemson 49-28 in the CFP semifinals as 7½-point underdogs.

“The public definitely likes the ’dog,” Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons said Saturday. “On a game like this, you usually don’t see this much ’dog support. But we saw that with the Clemson-Ohio State game. Ohio State is always one of these public teams.

“Right now we need Alabama. There are still two days of betting, but I would guess we’d need Alabama to win and cover.”

A Westgate bettor lost a $40,000 parlay of the Bills and Ohio State on Saturday when Buffalo (-6½) didn’t cover in a 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Another Westgate bettor placed a total of $80,000 in three straight bets on the Buckeyes at +8½ and +8.

Sharp bettors backed Alabama at -7, and the line went as high as 8½ before settling at 8.

“I’m not surprised by the movement. ’Bama seems to be on a different level than everyone,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said.

William Hill also needed Alabama as of Saturday afternoon. But Bogdanovich said that won’t be the case Monday, when the vast majority of the money will be wagered on the game.

“Right now we’re pretty dead even, a little high on the Ohio State money line,” he said. “But I know exactly what we’re going to need: Alabama not to cover, to win the game and to go under. I’ve seen the movie a few times.”

The consensus total is 75 after it opened at 76½ and the wiseguys immediately bet the under.

“With the total this high in a game of this magnitude, the professionals are going to be betting the under for sure,” Bogdanovich said. “The masses will play it over just because it’s Alabama’s offense and Ohio State has the firepower to keep up.

“When push comes to shove, we’ll need the under when this kicks off.”

Bogdanovich and Salmons said they expect Alabama to cover.

“I kind of think Ohio State had its best game against Clemson, and Alabama will somewhat contain them and eventually pull ahead and wind up winning the game by double digits,” Salmons said.

Bowl Challenge winner likes Alabama

Handicapper Paul Stone likes the Crimson Tide to cover. Stone went 10-2 ATS to win the Review-Journal Bowl Challenge.

“Ohio State’s got a great football team, but I believe Alabama’s the more complete team,” said Stone (@PaulStoneSports). “You look at Alabama’s offense. I know most people would probably rate Trevor Lawrence the top quarterback in college football. But you can make an argument that the Tide have the quarterback who performed the best this season in Mac Jones, the running back who performed the best in Najee Harris and the receiver who performed the best in Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith.”

Stone expects Alabama explosive wideout Jaylen Waddle to play and sees the Buckeyes having a bit of a letdown after avenging last year’s CFP loss to Clemson.

“The Buckeyes have been pointing to last week’s rematch with Clemson for a full year, so they naturally feel some sense of accomplishment,” Stone said. “Alabama has had a singular goal all year, and it’s to win it all. I think the Tide completes the mission with a double-digit victory.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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Las Vegas handicapper Bruce Marshall is editor of The Gold Sheet (Goldsheet.com). He provides the Review-Journal with NFL tech notes and trends.