John Pennington, over at the fine blog mrsec.com, has a post up about the Vegas sportsbooks putting up the lines for the ’08 MNC. The first part of his piece is a primer on how the sportsbooks operate. Just remember that the only side those guys take is their own. Take the way the line is expected to develop for the Tennessee-UCLA game as an example:
… Tennessee will open their season at UCLA on Labor Day. So what might “Sportsbook X” consider when setting the line for that game:
1) Tennessee is not expected to be a national power this year, so there probably won’t be an overwhelming push of cash in their direction. (Which is why I’m using this game as an example, rather than Georgia-Arizona State.)
2) There will be a lot more LA, California and West Coast gamblers in Las Vegas that weekend, which should mean more people putting cash on UCLA in “Sportsbook X” than normally would.
3) Tennessee is expected to be superior talent-wise to UCLA this year, but how much so? Also, the Bruins have a new head coach and offensive coordinator while the Vols have a new offensive coordinator. Those factors could make people more likely to bet on the underdog.
So, it’s likely that “Sportsbook X”, attempting to get an even number of dollars wagered IN their casino, will install Tennessee as the favorite, but not as a heavy favorite. Not as heavy a favorite as the Vols might be if “Sportsbook X” were a off-shore, online sportsbook taking bets from all over.
Tennessee might be set as a 5- or 6-point favorite by an off-shore book. But a Vegas book, like the imaginary “Sportsbook X,” might list them as only a 3-point favorite… because “Sportsbook X” knows they’ll get UCLA, West Coast money, and they want to get an equal amount wagered on the Vols.
Setting UT as a smaller favorite would encourage non-partisan fans to lay cash on the favorite.
And none of that has anything to do with which team will actually win the game.
Of greater interest to Dawg fans comes with the latter part of the post. If you look, at two of the major sportsbooks, Georgia’s line on winning the MNC has dropped precipitously – from 10-1 to 6-1 at Bellagio and from 6-1 to 3-1 at Harrah’s. Given the above, is that due to savvy pros seeing a good play, or enthusiastic Georgia fans? Your guess is as good as mine.