College Football Generates Betting Interest Even Without Early Showdowns

Posted on: September 3, 2020, 09:27h. 

Last updated on: September 3, 2020, 10:15h.

Alabama was supposed to play USC at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday night in one of those delicious made-for-TV college football showdowns between traditional powers.

Central Arkansas running back Kierre Crossley
Kierre Crossley helped carry Central Arkansas to victory over Austin Peay on Aug. 29. It was the first college football game of the season. (Image: Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports)

Instead, COVID-19 happened. The Big Ten and Pac-12 chose not to play, while the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 decided to delay the start of their seasons.

So, instead of Alabama vs. USC, Michigan at Washington, and a bunch of Big Ten openers on Saturday, not to mention Georgia vs. Virginia on Labor Day, we had something a bit less.

This week’s games include Central Arkansas vs. UAB and South Alabama vs. Southern Mississippi on Thursday, Middle Tennessee vs. Army, SMU vs. Texas State and Arkansas State vs. Memphis on Saturday, and BYU vs. Navy on Monday.

If They Play, They Will Bet

Does anyone care about these decidedly non-marquee games?

Absolutely, they do care,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told “You take an isolated game and people will bet on it because it’s the only game. So, yes, they will.”

Based on point spreads, the best of this week’s games involve the service academies. BYU is a 2.5-point favorite over the Navy, while Army is a four-point favorite over Middle Tennessee. If you like scoring, the Arkansas State-Memphis over/under is 74 points. The Navy-BYU game is generating the most interest from bettors.

It will be a better slate of games next weekend, with Duke vs. Notre Dame, Clemson vs. Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech vs. Florida State on the docket for Sept. 12.

Still, some games are a lot better than no games.

Here’s the way I look at it: College football’s a lot of games during the course of the season, and you can’t bet them all and you can’t watch them all, because there’s just so many on network TV,” Avello told

“So, it will be more of a concentration on wagering on the games that are on at that time,” he continued. “College football will do fine. Yes, it’s nice to have the whole slate and it’s nice to have everyone competing for the national championship. But there’s still some quality football out there.”

SEC Starts Sept. 26

The mighty Southeastern Conference is scheduled to start the season on Sept. 26. The SEC drives the college football train in terms of power, TV ratings, and gambling.

“The SEC’s certainly one of the great conferences in college football. There are three Top 10s in there, minimum,” Avello said. “I went through the entire schedule for the SEC for each team and they look very fair in the way they were put together. They’ve got the good teams playing each other, but not on back-to-back weeks.”

Here are the Week 1 SEC odds from DraftKings (home team in parentheses):

  • Alabama at Missouri (+23.5)
  • Florida at Ole Miss (+11.5)
  • Kentucky at Auburn (-7)
  • Mississippi State at LSU (-16.5)
  • Tennessee at South Carolina (+3)
  • Vanderbilt at Texas A&M (-29.5)
  • Georgia @ Arkansas (+24.5 to open but no longer listed)

Westgate SuperBook is offering national championship futures involving teams from the SEC, ACC, and Big 12, but not the Big Ten, though maybe its season isn’t dead yet.

In odds released this week, the championship front-runners are:

  • Clemson: 2/1
  • Alabama: 3/1
  • Georgia: 4/1
  • Florida: 12/1
  • Oklahoma: 12/1
  • Notre Dame: 16/1
  • Texas: 16/1

LSU, which opened 8/1 in January, is 40/1 because of three starters deciding to opt out of the season, including star receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

In SuperBook’s conference odds, Central Florida (10/11) is the heavy favorite in the AAC, Clemson (4/15) is the overwhelming ACC favorite, Oklahoma (5/4) is the pick in the Big 12, and Alabama (even) is the choice in the SEC.

Central Arkansas scored a 24-17 victory over Austin Peay in the first game of the season on Aug. 29.