College football betting got a significant jolt Thursday afternoon, in the seemingly never-ending stream of bad news emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Ten announced its football programs – and in fact all fall sports – would play only the conference schedule for the 2020 season.
Oddsmakers at several sportsbooks discussed the impact of the Big Ten’s plan on college football odds.
How does the Big Ten’s decision affect college football win totals?
In a nutshell, all college football season win totals are now off the odds board – if they were even on the board to begin with. South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews had a pragmatic approach very early on in the COVID-19 shutdown, and he now appears prophetic.
“I never put up win totals, because I was afraid of exactly this,” Andrews told Covers. “I always said if they were gonna play at all, it’d be only conference games. This is the first shoe to drop, and I think other conferences will follow.”
Jeff Davis, director of trading for Caesars Entertainment sportsbooks, had only the win totals impacted by Thursday’s news.
“All win totals off the board,” he said. “Nothing else affected at this point.”
How does the Big Ten’s decision affect college football championship odds?
Johnny Avello, director of sportsbook operations for DraftKings, said the futures market for the winner of the College Football Playoff is off the board.
“There are no national championship futures right now,” Avello said, noting the Big Ten has a huge impact on those odds. “You’ve got Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin all probably among the top 30 teams. So you can’t do anything right now. Other conferences have to make their decisions (first).”
Avello fully supports the Big Ten’s move and thinks it might just salvage the college football season.
“I wasn’t sure there was gonna be college football this year, so it’s a step in the right direction,” Avello said. “At least there’s some hope here.”
Andrews was once again ahead of the curve.
“I had national championship up, but I took that down a long time ago, in March,” he said. “It’s a pretty major move by the Big Ten. The Big Ten is a major market. They’re obviously worried about student-athletes and the rest of the students, as well. They’re concerned about everybody.”
How does the Big Ten’s decision impact games?
FanDuel Sportsbook had a slate of Games of the Year, and any of those involving a Big Ten team against a nonconference opponent are now off the board. Any bets already made on those matchups are refunds.
DraftKings also had Games of the Year up, along with Week 1, and took down any matchup pitting the Big Ten vs. a non-Big Ten team. The same could be said at sportsbooks across the country that posted similar odds.
How does the Big Ten’s decision impact Group of 5/FCS schools?
Beyond betting odds, programs in the Group of 5 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and in the Football Championship Subdivision will take a severe hit due to the Big Ten’s decision. Many Group of 5/FCS programs rely on lucrative paydays – sometimes in excess of $1 million – gained by accepting nonconference road games against Power 5 teams.
This season alone, four Group of 5 FBS teams – Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan and Northern Illinois – and two FBS independents – Connecticut and Brigham Young – had two Big Ten opponents on their respective schedules.
Those matchups often help a Group of 5 or FCS school prop up its entire athletic department budget for the year. Losing such lucrative games could wreak financial havoc on those athletic departments, well beyond the football program. And that will be magnified if more Power 5 conferences follow the Big Ten’s lead.