CFB Betting Confusion? Why #3 Georgia Is Favored Over #1 Alabama
From time to time, bookmakers will create lines on games that seem to defy logic. Arguably, that is the case on Monday, January 10th with the 2022 College Football BCS Championship Game.
Currently, the #3 ranked Georgia Bulldogs are favored over the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide by 2.5 points with an over/under set at 52.5. The question many are wondering is – “why are the Bulldogs favorites despite their lower ranking and the fact Alabama crushed them 41-24 in the SEC Championship game?”
Let’s take a shot at an explanation.
The Bookmaker Mindset
Contrary to popular belief, sportsbooks and line-makers are not in the business of predicting the outcomes of games. When setting point spreads and money lines, they are focused on the perception of the sports betting public. Yes, they do use statistical data when setting lines. However, that is just a portion of the line-setting process.
The greatest fear of any bookmaker (online or retail) is setting a bad line. One mistake could cost them dearly at the hands of astute handicappers/sports bettors. The data is one thing but sportsbooks have to also account for the emotions of bettors towards particular teams. If an event (game/match) carries tremendous betting interest with one side heavily favored, bookmakers have to adjust their data lines to prevent an onslaught of damaging betting on one side or the other.
It’s a balancing act between going with what the data says and reading the minds of sports bettors.
BCS Semifinal Clues
The BCS Championship game is only rivaled by the NFL Super Bowl when it comes to the volume of wagering dollars. With so much money on the line, bookmakers have to get it right or risk millions.
Going into Georgia’s loss against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, the rankings between these two teams were reversed with Georgia ranked #1 and Alabama ranked #2 (Coaches Poll and BCS rankings). While Alabama won the game easily, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Casual sports bettors as well as seasoned handicappers will have watched the game. Clearly, Georgia played its worst game of the season while the Crimson Tide played at its highest level. Some handicappers wrote the game off as a no-show for the Bulldogs. Subsequently, Georgia’s prowess was back on full display as they dominated a very good Michigan team 34-11 in the BCS semis. Conversely, the Tide didn’t look all that sharp in beating an outmanned Cincinnati Bearcats team 27-6. Therein lies the perception issue bookmakers have to consider.
Balancing The Books
Statistically, Georgia is a better team on both sides of the ball. Handicappers know this and bookmakers know what handicappers know. If bookmakers were to lay points to Georgia, astute handicappers would be betting on Georgia with both hands. To keep the wagering balanced, bookmakers/lines makers had to post a line that would deter too much money coming in for Georgia.
Again, bookmakers are not trying to guess which team is better. They are trying to estimate what the betting public is thinking. The last thing they want is to give the betting public even more incentive to bet on Georgia with a favorable line. Bookmakers simply want to collect the vig from both sides without having a vested interest in the final outcome.
It’s not advanced science, but these methods keep bookmakers from making huge, costly mistakes. The data says a slight lean towards Georgia. The betting public is leaning towards Georgia. That is why bookmakers have #3 Georgia favored over #1 Alabama.