The outlook for NCAA football in 2020 is a haphazard mess at this point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bet on it in Pennsylvania.
No, you can’t wager on the state’s No. 1 football program with the biggest following. Penn State’s season has been bumped back to spring of 2021 – at minimum – as a result of the Big Ten shutting down fall sports due to COVID-19 health concerns.
But the ACC and Pitt are still planning to play next month, as is the American Athletic Conference including Temple. Those two in-state teams’ schedules have been scrambled, but not shattered, by coronavirus concerns, and both could start play with non-conference games Sept. 12.
Much could change in the next month for the conferences and programs — and thus sportsbooks. A lot of upheaval resulted from announcements this week by the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences that their schools would not play football or any other fall sports.
The loss of competition involving two Power 5 conferences – while three others intend to play, for now, but with all kinds of scheduling changes — creates a haphazard, confusing picture for a sport that has been gaining in popularity over the years with the betting public
But the following summarizes how the state’s nine legal online sports betting sites were approaching this unprecedented season as of Thursday morning.
No national champion wagering offered
First of all, no futures bets are being offered at this point on a college football national champion. With two of the five major conferences not playing, and no playoffs being scheduled, how would you determine one?
Two of the online sportsbooks, in fact, are taking no action at all on college football at this point. The Caesars and BetAmerica sites show no futures or game bets available for NCAA football.
The other seven, meanwhile, have a far more limited menu than they normally would in mid-August.
FanDuel, FOX Bet, and the five sites supported by Kambi’s technology and odds — DraftKings, Unibet, Parx, BetRivers, and PlaySugarhouse — all offer futures wagers on winners of the SEC, Big 12 and ACC titles.
The Kambi sites go beyond that with early betting lines on exactly two games certain to garner national attention, if played: Oklahoma -2.5 vs. Texas on Oct. 10, and Clemson -7.5 visiting Notre Dame Nov. 7.
FOX Bet is the only site with additional futures wagering, setting odds for winners also of the American Athletic Conference, C-USA, and Sun Belt.
Some distinct odds differences available
Interestingly, there are some sharp differences in odds covering the big conferences, and those willing to invest money now in something that may never happen (though any bets made on a canceled season would be refunded) could find a strong edge.
For the SEC winner, Alabama is favored by the Kambi sites at -143, while FOX Bet has the Crimson Tide -110 and FanDuel +110.
All have Georgia pegged as the second favorite: +200 on Kambi sites, +220 with FanDuel, and +333 with FOX Bet.
In the Big 12, Oklahoma is the favorite, but again at wide variances: -125 from Kambi sites, -118 from FOX Bet, and +125 from FanDuel.
FanDuel actually makes Texas a tie as the top conference pick with Oklahoma, setting the price also at +125 on the Longhorns to win the Big 12. Kambi makes Texas +175 and FOX Bet +180.
In the ACC, Clemson is once more a clear favorite: -455 from Kambi, -400 from FOX Bet, and -350 from FanDuel.
This unusual COVID season has Notre Dame as a temporary ACC member for football, and each site ranks the Irish second behind Clemson: +500 from FanDuel, +550 from FOX Bet, and +600 from Kambi.
Pitt, Temple both conference underdogs
Penn State’s absence from the fall football calendar leaves Pitt and Temple as the main Pennsylvania teams on which to focus.
The Kambi sites, with an ACC championship price on the Panthers of +3300, give them the best shot of somehow upending Clemson, Notre Dame, and others and winning the ACC.
FanDuel has them +4000, and FOX Bet is the best place to bet for those who think this could be Pitt’s year, with a bigger potential payout at +5000.
Pitt is scheduled to open the season Sept. 12 with a non-conference game at home vs. Miami (Ohio) before a 10-game ACC slate that includes hosting Notre Dame on Oct. 24 and visiting Clemson Nov. 28 to end the season.
Temple is +4000 to win the American Athletic Conference at FOX Bet, the one site offering odds. Central Florida is the favorite, at +125.
The Owls are scheduled to host Idaho in a tune-up Sept. 12 before starting an eight-game conference slate.
Both Temple and Pitt lost other non-conference games from their scheduled lineup due to COVID-related issues.
Whether that happens in the coming weeks with their conference games remains a possibility, as officials have said reviewing the latest medical information and taking actions based on it is an ongoing process.
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