The Big Ten announced on Thursday that it will go to a “conference-only” model for all sports, including football. They likely won’t be the only ones. Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported the Pac-12 could make a similar announcement shortly. But for the moment, what is the significance of the Big 10 only playing conference games to the sports betting world?
Last year, Ohio State went 13-0 before losing to Clemson in the College Football Playoffs semifinals. The Buckeyes return QB Justin Fields, who finished third in the Heisman voting in 2019 behind LSU’s Joe Burrow and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. Despite the Big 10's announcement, Justin Fields remains the favorite in most sportsbooks to win the Heisman Trophy. Fields is +260 at BetMGM, +300 at FanDuel Sportsbook, and +400 the Westgate Superbook (co-favorite with Clemson's Trevor Lawrence).
Why didn't Fields' odds increase?
There is no reason for them too. There is still so much unknown with the college football season. If a sportsbook increased Fields’ odds to win the Heisman and other conferences followed the Big 10’s lead to play a conference-only schedule, their liability would likely go up.
Is it time to bet on Fields?
No. Justin Fields is a superstar but with the Big 10 currently being the only conference to eliminate non-conference play, now is not the time to place a bet on Justin Fields to win the Heisman. What if Ohio State only plays 10 games (that includes an appearance in the Big 10 Championship) and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence plays 13? Additionally, Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith isn’t very confident there will be a season right now. “I’m really concerned,” Smith said Thursday via teleconference. “I was cautiously optimistic. I’m not even there now.”
Hold onto your money for now.
Can the Buckeyes win it all?
Ohio State remains one of the shortest prices to win the National Championship despite Thursday’s news from the Big 10. The Buckeyes are +275 at the Westgate Superbook, +280 at FanDuel Sportsbook and +325 at BetMGM. Some books, like South Point and the DraftKings, do not have National Championship odds currently available. Chris Andrews, South Point sportsbook director, told Patrick Everson of Covers.com, “I had national championship [odds] up, but I took that down a long time ago, in March.”
Similar to Justin Fields for Heisman, there is no rush for sportsbooks to put Ohio State on sale. The elimination of the non-conference schedule does removes a high profile game at Oregon for the Buckeyes. A win in Eugene would have given Ohio State some flexibility to drop a game in conference play. How will the College Football Playoff committee compare a Big 10 team to others? For now, it seems like the margin for error is eliminated. And for that reason, there should be no rush to bet the Buckeyes to win the National Championship.