David Purdum - ESPN
Midway through a busy opening Saturday of the college football season, Las Vegas oddsmaker Ed Salmons couldn't help himself. He had to look.
Wisconsin, a double-digit underdog, had just taken a 13-0 lead on LSU early in the second half. The public had pounded LSU. The point spread moved across the market, growing from -10 to as high as -13. Seemingly every parlay, every teaser was hooked to the Tigers.
Salmons logged on to the Westgate SuperBook's "what if" screen, a computer program that calculates how much the book would win or lose if a game ends with a specific outcome, and plugged in the score: Wisconsin 13, LSU 0.
"I expected to see a certain result, and it came three and half times more than what I thought," Salmons said. "It was probably the biggest college football winner we've ever had."
And that's not even counting the implications to the book's national championship futures market. More money was bet on LSU to win the national title than any other team in the offseason at the SuperBook.
Bolstered by the Badgers' 16-14 upset of LSU, Las Vegas sportsbooks cruised to a profitable opening weekend that sent a pair of Texas upstarts shooting up the odds board to win the national championship and left Clemson bettors scratching their heads.
Houston moved from 80-1 to 20-1 to win the national championship at the Westgate, after the Cougars' impressive 33-23 win over Oklahoma. Houston has been an underdog four times under coach Tom Herman and won each game outright. The Cougars opened at 100-1 to win the championship back in January. Salmons said the SuperBook took 29 bets on Houston at that price, ranging from $5 to $300, Salmons said.
"This feels like Boise State from a few years ago, except Houston has more good will built up with its wins over Florida State and Oklahoma," Salmons said. "I don't there will be anyone arguing against them if they go undefeated."
Texas also made a significant leap up the odds board, moving from 100-1 to 20-1 at the Westgate, after the Longhorns' win over Notre Dame on Sunday. The Texas-Notre Dame game on Sunday was the most heavily-bet game of the weekend at Las Vegas sportsbook operator C.G. Technology. The largest point spread bet William Hill's Nevada sportsbook had taken heading into the week was $44,000 on Texas +4. The Longhorns beat the Irish 50-47 in double overtime.
Texas A&M's overtime win over UCLA didn't garner nearly the amount of respect that Houston and Texas received. The Aggies remained at 100-1 to win the national title at the SuperBook.
C.G. Technology vice president of race and sports Jason Simbal said his book couldn't buy an Auburn bet all week. Eight of every 10 bets had Clemson, and 80 percent of the total money wagered was on Dabo Swinney's Tigers, who closed as 8-point favorites at most sportsbooks.
Leading 19-13 late in the fourth quarter, Clemson drove from its own 25-yard line to Auburn's 23. The Tigers faced a 3rd-and-10 with 50 seconds to play and were just looking to run out the clock. But running back Wayne Gallman ran out of bounds after a 6-yard gain, leaving Swinney with a decision on 4th-and-4.
He elected not to risk kicking a field goal that would have put Clemson up by nine and instead went for it on fourth down, handing the ball again to Gallman, who failed to pick up the four yards.
"There was lots of grumbling at the end of Clemson-Auburn, of course," South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews joked. "But I loved it."
Auburn, with no timeouts, took over and moved into position to get a pair of Hail Mary attempts into the end zone. But Clemson survived for a 19-13 win
Everybody was on Clemson all day, and then a lot of people re-bet, parlays with Alabama-to-Clemson," Simbal said. "Getting Auburn to cover there kind of capped off a good day."
Not everyone was disappointed by Swinney's decision. A bettor at William Hill's sportsbook at the Hyatt in Lake Tahoe staked $122,000 on Clemson winning straight-up at -320. The bettor netted $38,125.
The Kent State-Penn State game attracted the only six-figure bet reported this weekend by MGM's sportsbook. A regular house player backed the Nittany Lions, who closed as 23.5-point favorites, but failed to cover in a 33-13 win. However, the MGM gave that six-figure victory back Monday night, when Florida State rallied from behind and covered the spread in a 45-34 win over Ole Miss.
"With the parlays that kicked in from this weekend, we need Mississippi a little more than usual," MGM assistant manager Jeff Stoneback said in the hours leading up to Monday night's game. "We can lose close to six figures if Florida State covers the game with the parlays tied in."
• William Hill's sportsbook took a $40,000 moneyline bet on Tennessee (-1,300) to beat Appalachian State straight-up Thursday night. The bettor won $3,076.90 when the Volunteers, who trailed heading into the fourth quarter, prevailed in overtime.
• Three off-the-radar games attracted the most action from respected players at the SuperBook. Salmons said sharps targeted Wyoming against Northern Illinois, Western Michigan against Northwestern and Southern Miss against Kentucky. All three underdogs won outright.
• Nevada Gaming Control released revenue numbers for July last week. The state's books won $11.8 million on baseball in July, making it the most profitable month ever for baseball, according to gaming control. Overall, the books netted an $11.1 million win in July, their 36th straight winning month.
• Alabama's 52-6 rout of Southern Cal produced the biggest loss for Caesars' sportsbooks. Ten times as much money was bet on the Crimson Tide than the Trojans.
Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover!