Sharp bettors pounce on Alabama, Georgia in CFP semifinals

Updated December 31, 2017 - 5:41 pm

The College Football Playoff games on Monday will double as showdowns between the Pros and Joes at Las Vegas sports books.

The sharp bettors are on short favorites Georgia and Alabama and the betting public is backing underdogs Oklahoma and Clemson on the money line.

No. 3 Georgia is a 2½-point favorite over No. 2 Oklahoma at 2 p.m. in the Rose Bowl.

No. 4 Alabama is a 3-point favorite over No. 1 Clemson at 5:45 p.m. in the Sugar Bowl.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if both ‘dogs receive more of the money,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “There’s so much money out there on these games.

“We’re getting a lot of Alabama minus-3 and Clemson on the money line, which is kind of normal for the big games. The public likes to bet the money line.”

Clemson, which is a 3½-point underdog at the Westgate, is plus-140 on the money line.

Oklahoma, which is a 3-point underdog at MGM Resorts sports books, is plus-125 on the money line.

There’s also a full menu of Super Bowl-style prop bets on each game at the Westgate and William Hill sports books, among others. For example, the total yards passing by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield is 315½ at William Hill and the total passing and rushing yards for Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant is 242½.

While William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said he doesn’t have a strong opinion on either game, he’s surprised that the Crimson Tide are favored over the Tigers.

“I don’t think Clemson should be the ‘dog. I think it’s a dead pick’em game,” he said. “The professionals are the ones betting (Alabama) so I’ve got to respect it. But I don’t understand it.”

Salmons likes Georgia and Alabama, which went 0-2 ATS while splitting the past two national title games with Clemson.

“When Alabama played Clemson the last two years, (Nick) Saban essentially had six days to game plan for it. This time, he’s had five weeks and Clemson doesn’t have Deshaun Watson back there,” he said.

Salmons sees the Bulldogs’ defense and running game wearing down the high-flying Sooners.

“Georgia’s physical enough up front that they’ll dominate Oklahoma there and if Oklahoma can’t get off the field, they’re going to have a hard time,” he said. “Georgia’s defense is really solid. I can’t see them giving up big plays in this game.

“If Oklahoma’s going to win, they’re going to have to stop the run and get the ball on three-and-out. I’d be shocked if that happens.”

The totals are 47 for Alabama-Clemson and 61 for Georgia-Oklahoma.

The vast majority of the action will pour in on New Year’s Day, but Wynn Las Vegas sports book director Johnny Avello said he’s already taken several “good-sized” five-figure bets on Georgia and Alabama.

“Having these games on New Year’s Day compared to New Year’s Eve (in 2016) is huge for the books,” Salmons said. “These games are going to have a tremendous handle.”

The Peach Bowl, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., also is a Pros versus Joes game as the sharps are on Auburn (-10) over Central Florida, a popular public underdog.

“Auburn’s just too big and too physical for them to last the whole game,” Salmons said.

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

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