- Joined ESPN in 2014
- Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008
Top-ranked Alabama kicks off its campaign Saturday as one of the biggest preseason national title favorites of the last 20 years.
The Crimson Tide are around +180 to win the College Football Playoff at sportsbooks around the nation. Since 2001, only USC (+160) in 2005 and Alabama (+175) in 2018 had better preseason championship odds, according to SportsOddsHistory.com.
Alabama is a 41-point favorite over visiting Utah State on Saturday and is expected to be favored by double digits in every game this season. Only 14 teams since 1978 have been favored by double digits in every regular season game, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
“We believe that this is Alabama’s best team,” John Murray, executive director of sportsbook operator The SuperBook, told ESPN.
Ohio State, at +300, is the second favorite, followed by defending champion Georgia at +425. No other team has single-digit odds at Caesars Sportsbook.
The short odds on the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes haven’t scared away bettors, though. Alabama and Ohio State have attracted nearly 60% of the money that’s been wagered on Caesars Sportsbook’s national championship odds. Alabama has nearly six times as much money as any other team, highlighted by a $100,000 wager on the Crimson Tide, the largest championship bet at Caesars Sportsbook. Ohio State has nearly five times as much money as any other team, including a $50,000 title bet on the Buckeyes placed this week with Caesars in West Virginia.
“The pedigree is there for both teams,” Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said. “Bettors believe that they’re far and away superior to the rest of the field.”
While oddsmakers believe Georgia is in the top tier along with Alabama and Ohio State, bettors haven’t been backing the Bulldogs as heavily. Georgia has attracted only 5% of the money wagered on the title odds at Caesars.
“The bettors certainly think there’s a gap between Georgia and Ohio State and Alabama,” Pullen said.
Georgia opens its season against Oregon on Saturday in Atlanta. The Bulldogs are 17-point favorites. Ohio State hosts Notre Dame on Saturday. The Buckeyes are 17-point favorites.
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