Sports

Bettors flock to Oregon State after sportsbook’s initial line favors USC by nearly two touchdowns

An outlier opening line on USC-Oregon State this week sparked a deluge of bets on the underdog Beavers, leaving a sportsbook with more money at stake on the Pac-12 tilt than any of the week’s NFL games.

Caesars Sportsbook opened USC on Sunday as a 13.5-point favorite over Oregon State. Minutes later, oddsmakers at Circa Sports put the Trojans as a favorite by just five points. Gamblers seized on the discrepancy, causing the line to drop significantly at Caesars and rise slightly at other sportsbooks before settling for the USC -6 consensus number on Sunday night.

“We had a high opinion of [USC]said Joey Feazel, college football chief trader for Caesars Sportsbook. “So we issued a number to attract money from the state of Oregon. And it worked.”

Action from influential bettors immediately poured into Caesars on the Beavers and Feazel aggressively moved the line down. Line archives from odds provider Don Best Sports show Caesars went from USC -13.5 to -9 within 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 wagered on the USC-Oregon State point spread was on the underdog Beavers, including a $110,000 bet on Oregon State +7 placed in Nevada on Tuesday.

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Meanwhile, sportsbooks opening USC reported as less than a touchdown favorite, one-sided action on the Trojans. At DraftKings, 79% of the money bet on the spread of the game was on USC, and at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, there were seven bets on the Trojans for everyone on the Beavers.

“I’m sure we’re going to need the Beavers tremendously at kick-off,” said SuperBook executive director John Murray. “The Trojans are crowd-pleasing again.”

By the middle of the week, there was more money wagered on the USC-Oregon State spread than any other NFL game in week 3. Typically, betting on an NFL game would be the amount wagered on a college football game the size of USC-Oregon State in shadow, with both teams undefeated and the Trojans at number 7.

Feazel said he bounced potential opening lines from colleagues on Sunday and came to an agreement that USC should be a double-digit favorite. He said he didn’t think he would change much if given the chance for a takeover, but he recognized the danger of opening numbers that move significantly.

Some professional gamblers will regularly play both sides of games to reduce the risk and hope for the profit margin to land where they win both bets. For example, a gambler 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 discrepancy of point spreads offered by sportsbooks is big enough, the teams don’t matter. Smart bettors will bet the different numbers, especially if they include the most common winning margins, such as three and seven.

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“You definitely don’t want to lose either way,” Feazel said. “You’re aiming for the right number, but at some point you just have to take that risk and understand that there can be a middle ground.”

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