College Sports

What Vegas Thinks: Jake Bentley’s absence makes ‘close to a touchdown difference’

How USC is preparing freshman QB Ryan Hilinski to face Alabama

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp discusses quarterback Ryan Hilinski and the big game ahead against Alabama at Williams-Brice Stadium.
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South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp discusses quarterback Ryan Hilinski and the big game ahead against Alabama at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The last time South Carolina and Alabama faced off in 2010, the Gamecocks went into the game as 7.5-point home underdogs to the No. 1 Crimson Tide.

Of course, USC then went on to shock the college football world, pulling off the 35-21 win for the biggest win in program history.

This Saturday, when the two programs meet again at Williams-Brice Stadium, Carolina will be even bigger underdogs — as of Wednesday morning, the line is at 25.5 points in favor of Alabama.

The State spoke with longtime gambling industry reporter David Purdum, of ESPN Chalk, to get his thoughts on the betting side of USC-’Bama, as well as how Vegas feels about the injury to senior quarterback Jake Bentley.

The State: The line for South Carolina-Alabama opened at 21 points and moved up quickly. What does that tell us about where the money is going on this game?

David Purdum: The way that this works right now is that a sportsbook in Las Vegas, a new sportsbook, it’s called Circus Sports, posts the first point spreads, the weekly point spreads, on college football. So you see the opening line, that’s their number. Now, they’re pretty brand new, only been open a few months. They don’t have a giant handle. So they put out that line and you see a couple hours later the big, influential offshore books ... they put out the next number, and they went up with that 25.5, 25 that you’re seeing now. While the opener was 21, that was the first book, the more influential sportsbooks saw the number should be 25, 25.5. So they posted that and it’s kinda stuck.

TS: How much does a performance like the one South Carolina had last week against FCS Charleston Southern change how oddsmakers see the Gamecocks?

DP: Very little. Two games in, they’re not going to change anything based off one game’s performance. The biggest change is obviously the loss of Bentley. That is when they impacted the power ratings, much more than South Carolina’s performance last week against Charleston Southern. And that goes for the North Carolina game too, except for the loss of Bentley. If Bentley would have been fine and they lose to North Carolina, oddsmakers are always more conservative in adjusting their power ratings of a team over one game than the betting public is. The betting public always overreacts to one game, the oddsmakers always take a very conservative approach.

The oddsmakers’ position on South Carolina right now is only different because of the loss of Bentley. The first two games, especially with one being against an (FCS) team, have little impact on their power rankings.

TS: How much of an impact or swing does Bentley’s injury have on the spread?

DP: Definitely a couple points. The differential between a senior quarterback like that and ... a true freshman right now, gosh, I would say is probably close to a touchdown difference. That might be on the high end, especially against an Alabama team where you still would be significant underdogs, but definitely a few points, the line would have been impacted.

TS: When Alabama is a huge favorite like this, how much money comes down in favor of the underdog like South Carolina?

DP: We haven’t seen notable movement back down on the line, so that would seem to indicate there hasn’t been that much. ... The only money that’s being bet early on a game like this is from the sophisticated bettors. Everyone else, the Joe Public like myself, I’ll wait until before the game, sit down to watch it and throw a bet on it.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.
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