Cal Football: Why Is the Point Spread for Redbox Bowl Increasing? (Update: Spread Up to 7 Points)

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters (18) is questionable for the Redbox BowlPhoto by Patrick Gorski - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

The point spread in the Redbox Bowl between Cal and Illinois continues to increase.

Cal opened as a 4-point favorite against Illinois, which will face the Bears in the Dec. 30 game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The spread quickly increased to 4 ½ by late Sunday afternoon, several hours after the matchup was announced. By late Sunday night the spread had increased to 6 points, and by Monday morning it was up to 6 ½ points, according to Vegas Insider. On Wednesday that spread had grown another half point to 7.

What does it mean?

In bettors’ terms that means a lot of money is coming in on Cal, so the handicappers keep increasing the point spread, hoping to have more money come in on Illinois to create more balance in the action.

Why is line increasing? There could a few reasons, and we’re just speculating here:

--Illinois had one good win this season – an upset of Wisconsin on Oct. 19 – but the Illini’s last regular-season game was a real stinker. They lost at home 29-10 to Northwestern, which was a 21-point underdog and came into the game 2-9 overall and 0-8 in the Big Ten. The most recent game is the one that sticks in everyone’s mind – and that includes bettors.

--Illinois’ starting quarterback, Brandon Peters, did not play in that final game because of a concussion, and his replacement, Matt Robinson, was ineffective. It’s unclear whether Peters will play in the Redbox Bowl as it’s difficult to predict when a player will be cleared after a concussion. He is considered questionable to face Cal. That uncertainty may give bettors pause when wagering on the Redbox Bowl. This may be the biggest reason the point spread is increasing.

--Cal has played well late in the season, winning three of its past four games, including road wins in its final two games against Stanford and UCLA. As noted before, people – and bettors are people too -- remember the most recent performances.

--The Bears have been a different team with Chase Garbers as their quarterback. When Garbers played more than a half this season, Cal was 6-0, including a road win over Washington and victories in the final two games. When Garbers played less than one half, the Bears were 1-5. Of course, the schedule played a role in that as Utah, Oregon and USC faced Cal when Garbers was not available for at least one half. But the fact still remains that Cal was a better team with Garbers, and he is healthy for the Redbox Bowl.

It's also noteworthy that the over/under, which started at 44 on Sunday afternoon, is down to 41 1/2, which may be a reflection of Illinois' uncertain offense, which was unproductive against Northwestern with the backup quarterback.

It may be worthwhile to follow the point spread over the coming days and weeks to see if it changes significantly.

(Click here for a rundown of Illinois and the Illini's season.)

Below, Cal offensive tackle Jake Curhan talks about the benefits of having played in a bowl game last year and the fact that the Bears' offense has been more effective lately. (This will be Illinois' first bowl game since 2014.)