An aberrant opening line on USC-Oregon State caused a flood of bets on the underdog Beavers this week and left a bookmaker with more money at stake on the Pac-12 tilt than any NFL games of the week.
Caesars Sportsbook opened USC as a 13.5-point favorite over Oregon State on Sunday. A few minutes later, odds takers Circa Sports presented the Trojans as a favorite by just 5 points. Bettors rushed the spread, sending the line down significantly at Caesars and up slightly at other sportsbooks, before settling at the consensus number of USC -6 on Sunday night.
“We had a high opinion of [USC]”, said Joey Feazel, principal operator of college football for Caesars Sportsbook. “So we published a figure to somehow attract money from the state of Oregon. And it worked.”
Action from the power bettors hit the Beavers immediately at the Caesars, and Feazel moved the line aggressively. Online records from odds provider Don Best Sports show Caesars went from -13.5 USC to -9 in 30 minutes and fell to -7 less than two hours after posting the opening number.
On Thursday, Caesars reported that 88.2% of the money bet on the USC-Oregon State points spread was on the underdog Beavers, including a $110,000 Oregon State +7 bet placed Tuesday in Nevada.
Meanwhile, sportsbooks that opened USC as less than a touchdown favorite were reporting lopsided action on the Trojans. At DraftKings, 79% of the money wagered on the game’s spread was on USC, and at the SuperBook in Westgate Las Vegas, there were seven bets on Trojans for every one on Beavers.
“I’m sure we’re going to need the massive Beavers at kickoff,” SuperBook executive director John Murray said. “Trojans are public darlings again.”
By the middle of the week, more money had been wagered on the USC-Oregon State spread than any other NFL game in Week 3. Typically, the betting handle on an NFL game would eclipse the amount wagered on a college football game the magnitude of USC-Oregon State, with both teams undefeated and the No. 7-ranked Trojans.
Feazel said he bounced his colleagues’ potential opening lines on Sunday and walked away with an agreement that USC should be a double-digit favorite. He said he didn’t think he would change much if given the chance to do a cover, but acknowledged the danger of opening numbers that move significantly.
Some professional bettors will regularly play both sides of the games to mitigate risk and hope the margin of victory will land where they win both bets. For example, a bettor could have taken Oregon State +13.5 at Caesars and USC -5 at Circa. If the Trojans win by more than six but less than 14, the bettor would win both bets. When the spread of point spreads offered by sports betting is large enough, teams don’t matter. Knowledgeable bettors will bet on the different numbers, especially if they encompass the most common margins of victory, such as three and seven.
“You definitely don’t want to lose both ways,” Feazel said. “You strive to hit the right number, but at some point you just have to take that risk and understand that there might be a middle ground.”