Ask Dabo Swinney and he would probably tell you that the Ohio State Buckeyes were just the “fresher” team because they “only played six games” prior to beating Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.
Ask Ryan Day and he’ll tell you how good his team is. So will just about everybody else that follows college football. The Buckeyes are a top-four team in college football from a talent standpoint and deserved their place in the College Football Playoff. A resounding win over Clemson was proof of that.
Now the Buckeyes face another uphill climb as a big underdog against the Alabama Crimson Tide. You may not want to bet Ohio State +9 or even Alabama -9. Fortunately, the College Football Playoff National Championship Game has become a test run for the Super Bowl for sportsbooks, as they have listed lots of player and game props for customers to bet on. We also took a look at some Alabama Crimson Tide player props.
In a lot of ways, the prop betting market is the optimal way to attack the big game. The line is going to be pretty sharp for both side and total in a game with so much at stake and only one game for the oddsmakers and risk managers to worry about. Significant money bet by both professionals and novices has an impact in molding and shaping the line.
Sometimes the easier thing to do is attack the props, which do have lower limits, but are generally open to far more variance than the spread and total. Variance is a bettor’s best friend if you can find edges and angles that work for you.
Justin Fields Passing Yards
DraftKings: 309.5 (-105/-125)
BetMGM: 290.5 (-110/-110)
PointsBet: 290.5 (-115/-115)
This player prop is more about looking at the differences between sportsbooks and how line shopping makes the most sense. There is a 19-yard gap between the line at BetMGM/PointsBet and DraftKings. This is called a “middle”. If you had an account at DraftKings and one of the other two books, you could bet Under 309.5 and Over 290.5 and hope that it fell somewhere in the middle.
You’re guaranteed to win at least one of the two bets. The DraftKings under is at -125 ($125 to win $100) and the over at BetMGM is -110 ($110 to win $100), so there is a chance that you could lose some vig if Fields goes over 290.5 and under 309.5, but 19 yards is a fairly big middle.
Differences in lines and vig are important to look at with any and all player props.
As far as a handicap on this one, Fields has gone over 290.5 four times this season in seven games. We know that he is less than 100% after the rib shot in the semifinal, but he has some dynamic wide receivers that could help him over this total. On the other hand, a lot of people expect Ohio State to run the ball more in this game with Trey Sermon in an attempt to keep the Alabama offense on the sidelines.
If Ohio State does trail, they’ll be forced to throw, and the line implies that they will be playing from behind. I’d rather have over 290.5 than under, but I believe there are better prop bets on the board.
Pick: Over 290.5 (-110, BetMGM)
As a side note, only one book has Justin Fields completions listed. It is DraftKings at 23.5 and -130 on the under. The under is my preferred side there. Fields has only had 24 completions three times at Ohio State in two years as a starter.
Trey Sermon Rushing Yards
DraftKings: 99.5 (-114/-114)
BetMGM: 99.5 (-110/-110)
PointsBet: 99.5 (-115/-115)
Compare this with the Justin Fields passing yards and it is quite interesting, no? All three books are lined at 99.5. However, the vig is different at all three. If you can take 99.5 at -110 instead of -114, that is in your best interest for sure. Your break-even point at -110 is 52.38%. Your break-even point at -114 is 53.27% and it is 53.49% at -115.
Basically, what this means is that you have to win one more bet out of every 100 to break-even at -114 or -115 compared to -110. Over the long-term, it can be a really significant difference. You ALWAYS want to try and get the best number.
The best number here is Over 99.5 at BetMGM at -110. Sermon’s season got off to a slow start, but he’s exceeded this number in each of the last three games as the Buckeyes have made him the feature back. Even early in the year, Sermon had nine carries for 60 yards against Indiana and 12 carries for 68 yards against Rutgers, so he was ripping off some big yards per carry numbers.
Running on Alabama is not easy. The Crimson Tide have allowed 3.21 yards per carry on the season, but they haven’t seen teams with this kind of offensive line or teams that have had the chance to run the ball much because they’ve trailed a lot. My belief is that Ohio State really commits to the run here and that means Sermon should get plenty of chances.
Pick: Over 99.5 (-110, BetMGM)
Ohio State has a lot of options in the passing game. I’ll highlight a few of them.
DraftKings: 94.5 (-114/-114)
BetMGM: 94.5 (-110/-110)
PointsBet: 94.5 (-115/-115)
Chris Olave is a tough one for me. He’s gone over this total in five of six games played this season and had 132 yards on just six catches against Clemson. To me, he’s the guy Alabama will try to take away in the game because he’s a big play threat, especially down the field. The Buckeyes really try to stretch the field with him.
I simply don’t know if he’ll end up with the volume to go over here. It does depend on if Ohio State is trailing and by how much to see how often they are forced to throw, but I think other weapons come into focus.
Pick: Under 94.5
DraftKings: 70.5 (-114/-114)
BetMGM: 70.5 (-110/-110)
PointsBet: 70.5 (-115/-115)
This one is really interesting because I see a path in which Garrett Wilson becomes the top target for Fields. Wilson went well over this number in his first four games, but then he only had 59, 49, and 52 receiving yards in the last three games. He only had two catches against Clemson.
I think Fields looks for him more in this game. Olave will be the focal point, especially with the recent change in usage. Wilson could line up in the slot more and draw safeties or linebackers in what Fields will isolate as a mismatch. With the injury to Fields, pocket time may be subdued a little and that means finding a guy like Wilson. Wilson at +1200 at DraftKings for first TD isn’t a bad look either.
Pick: Over 70.5
DraftKings: 10.5 (-105/-124)
BetMGM: 10.5 (-110/-110)
This is my sneaking suspicion pick for the National Championship Game. Ryan Day pulled out a new wrinkle in the semifinal by using Jeremy Ruckert and Luke Farrell a lot more. I think this might be the one to keep an eye on in the title game. Jaxon Smith-Njigba only has eight catches for 29 yards on the season. He’s a true freshman. He doesn’t have that trust from Fields yet.
But, my guess here is bracket coverage on Olave and Wilson. Smith-Njigba should get lost in the shuffle by Alabama. Ohio State uses a fair amount of pre-snap motion to confuse the defense and Smith-Njigba is thought to be a good route runner when he does get reps. I think this is a game in which he gets some targets on underneath stuff and screens.
One catch could also put him over this. Again, if you expect Ohio State to be trailing and then they have to throw, Smith-Njigba will see a lot of snaps and won’t be double covered like other guys. DraftKings has the best line here with the reduced juice.