An extraordinary opening line on USC-Oregon State prompted a flood of bets on the underdog Beavers this week and left one sportsbook with more money at stake on the Pac-12 tilt than any of the week’s NFL games.
Caesars Sportsbook on Sunday opened USC as a 13.5-point favorite over Oregon State. Minutes later, oddsmakers at Circa Sports put the Trojans as just a 5-point favorite. Bettors pounced on the difference, causing the line to drop significantly at Caesars and rise slightly at other sportsbooks, before settling on the consensus number of USC -6 on Sunday night.
“We had a high opinion of [USC],” said Joey Feazel, chief college football trader at Caesars Sportsbook. “So we’re putting out a number to kind of attract money from Oregon State. And it worked.”
Action from influential bettors came into the Beavers immediately at Caesars, and Feazel moved the line down aggressively. Line archives of probability provider Don Best Sports show Caesar went from USC -13.5 to -9 within 30 minutes and was down to -7 less than two hours after posting the initial number.
On Thursday, Caesars reported that 88.2% of the money bet on the USC-Oregon State point spread was on the underdog Beavers, including a $110,000 bet on Oregon State + 7 placed Tuesday in Nevada.
Meanwhile, sportsbooks that opened USC as less than a touchdown favorite reported lopsided action against 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 every one on the Beavers.
“I’m sure we’ll need the Beavers huge at launch,” said John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook. “The Trojans are public darlings again.”
Midway through the week, more money was bet on the USC-Oregon State spread than any other Week 3 NFL game. Typically, the betting handle on an NFL game would reduce the amount bet on a college football game the size of USC-Oregon State, with both teams undefeated and the Trojans ranked #7.
Feazel said he bounced potential starting lineups from colleagues on Sunday and came away with a consensus that USC should be a double-digit favorite. He said he didn’t think he would change much if he had a chance for a handoff, but acknowledged the danger of opening numbers that move significantly.
Some professional bettors will regularly play both sides of games to mitigate risk and hope that 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 difference in point spreads offered by sportsbooks is large enough, the teams don’t matter. Smart 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 either way,” Feazel said. “You strive to get to the right number, but at some point you have to just take that risk and understand that there could be a middle ground.”