Sports betting winners and losers: Alabama was a dream for bettors, all the way to the end

Frank Schwab
·5-min read

Oddsmakers couldn’t slow down Alabama football either.

When there’s a team as good as Alabama — and it’s not like the Crimson Tide just burst onto the scene during the 2020 season — sportsbooks will raise point spreads to ridiculous levels to slow down the flow of cash going to bettors. It won’t stop bettors from taking a great team like Alabama, but at least the house can usually win a little back.

For the 2020-21 college football season, betting really was as easy as clicking Alabama and the over each week.

Alabama’s 52-24 win over Ohio State capped one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the sport. Alabama won yet another national championship. The Crimson Tide was also dominant against the spread.

Bettors were on Alabama again Monday night. The Crimson Tide opened as 7-point favorites but that rose to 8.5. The cover was practically ensured by halftime and that made a lot of people happy: As of Monday afternoon, 59.7% of money wagered at BetMGM on the College Football Playoff title game was on Alabama.

The Crimson Tide was good to bettors and bad for the book all season. If bettors played Alabama and the over in every one of its games, they won at least one of those bets in 12 of 13 games. The Notre Dame game in the semifinal was the exception due to a late cover by the Fighting Irish. Alabama was 9-4 against the spread, a great record for a team of its stature. The over hit in eight of the Crimson Tide’s games. The over of 75.5 hit on Monday night too, though barely.

Making a boring bet on Alabama to win it all paid off for futures bettors too. Alabama opened at +450 to win it all, and 19% of tickets and 32% of handle for the national championship futures market at BetMGM was on Alabama.

Betting usually isn’t as easy as taking the best team week after week and cashing a ticket. But Alabama could not be stopped.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban and offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood hold the trophy after their win against Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Here are the winners and losers from the past week in the sports betting world:

WINNERS

Alabama next season, too: It’s hard to take a short favorite to win the college football national title the day after the season ends, but it’s hard to make an argument against Alabama winning again.

They’re losing a lot of talent, but that talent will be replaced by more five-star recruits. BetMGM released title odds for next season shortly after Monday’s game and it’s no surprise that Alabama is the favorite to win it all again next season as a +300 favorite.

“The usual suspects find themselves at the top of the market with Alabama a +300 favorite,” Darren Darby, head of European sports at BetMGM, said. “Despite any losses of talent to the NFL, this is a program that can compete every season. BetMGM customers must feel the same way as early action is on Alabama to win it all next year.”

Here are the odds to win the national title next season:

Alabama +300
Clemson +350
Ohio State +500
Oklahoma +700
Georgia +800
Florida +1600
Texas A&M +2000
Notre Dame +2500
Wisconsin +3500
LSU +3500

It’s boring to take Alabama to win it all. But it’s probably going to cash again.

Baltimore Ravens: The secret must be out.

The Ravens have quietly been a machine against the spread for a while. The last time the Ravens didn’t cover was all the way back on Nov. 22. The Ravens covered again in the wild-card round as a road favorite, despite most of the money coming in on the Titans (more on that in a moment).

We’re seeing a correction this week. The spread on the Ravens-Bills game is dropping. The line at BetMGM opened at Bills -2.5, which was probably surprising to some considering how hot the Bills have been. But the line has dropped since then and now Buffalo, who had as much buzz as anyone coming into the playoffs, is just a 1.5-point favorite at home for a fun Saturday night game.

Anyone who has been cashing on the Ravens and Bills down the stretch will have a tough decision to make this week.

LOSERS

NFL wild card bettors: The first round of the NFL playoffs was not good for a majority of bettors.

Here were the teams getting the most bets in the six wild-card games, with the percentage of money for each game that came in on that team at BetMGM. Try to spot the common thread:

Bills -6.5, 71%
Seahawks -3.5, 54%
Buccaneers -10, 88%
Titans +3.5, 63%
Bears +10, 60%
Steelers -6, 89%

A huge bet on the Browns over the Steelers hurt the books on Sunday, but not one of those popular bets cashed. Some bettors got the Buccaneers at less than -8 early in the week, and they beat the Washington Football Team 31-23. But mostly, it was nothing but torn-up tickets for the first round.

Maybe the divisional round will be more profitable, but bettors aren’t off to a great start these playoffs.

Anyone betting against the Chicago Bulls: The Bulls had one of the lowest over/under win totals coming into this season, at about 29. Nobody expected much from them.

Anyone betting on them early this season is very happy.

The Bulls, of all teams, have the best against-the-spread record in the NBA at 8-3, according to Action Network’s standings. The Bulls lost their first two against the spread and since then have covered in eight of nine games. In their last two games, Chicago has covered as an underdog against two of the NBA’s best teams, the Lakers and Clippers.

The Bulls are just 4-7 straight up so nobody is going to pay much attention to them. But even as they’ve dealt with multiple injuries, Chicago has been a great bet against the spread. With Zach LaVine having a great start to the season, averaging 27.1 points per game, the Bulls have been a nice early-season surprise for bettors.

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