With hours to go before the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals, casual bettors are loading up on underdogs Florida State and Ohio State, while sports books are waiting for professional and sharp money to come in, according to an ESPN report.
The Florida State Seminoles opened last month as eight-point underdogs against the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl. Oregon's margin reached as high as 9.5 points, but on Thursday congregated around 7.5 points, with money trending downward for Florida State.
Florida State has not been an underdog in a game since Sept. 24, 2011, according to the report. The Seminoles had the second-worst record against the spread of any team in the FBS this season, going 3-10. Oregon, on the other hand, is 9-4 against the spread this season and has covered the spread in each of its last eight games where it has been favored by fewer than 21 points.
At least one shop, Coasts, put Oregon as a seven-point favorite Thursday afternoon. The move is notable for exposing casinos to a more common margin of victory. At several sportsbooks, money had come in at two-to-one or greater in favor of Florida State.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the MGM, CG Technology and Stratosphere sportsbooks reported twice as much money had been bet on Florida State than Oregon. The Golden Nugget and Westgate SuperBook, two off-Strip properties, were more lopsided on the Seminoles.
Betting tendencies for the other college football semifinal are similar: Alabama opened as a 9.5-point favorite last month, but has dropped to 7.5-point favorites at most shops after bettors have backed underdog Ohio State at a similar two-to-one ratio. Alabama struggled against the spread this season, going 5-8. Ohio State went 8-5.
At least one sportsbook director said the split in favor of Ohio State so far indicated bets have not yet come in from professional sports wagerers.
"That's the difference between the professionals and the public," said Hugh Citron, sportsbook supervisor at the Stratosphere. "The public has to have a bet; the pros only bet when there's value, and right now, they don't see any value on the numbers. Those games [semifinals] are just another bowl for them. But that could change."
Florida State and Oregon kick off at 5:00 p.m. EST on ESPN, followed by Ohio State and Alabama at 8:30 p.m. EST.
- Will Green