Here’s a college football game for the record books. And if you’re up for a major gamble, maybe one for your pocket books.
On Saturday, sixth-ranked Florida State will play host to Savannah State of the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision. If Las Vegas oddsmakers are right, it could become one of the greatest thumpings in college football history.
Cantor Gaming, which sets lines for sportsbooks at seven Las Vegas casinos, has made Florida State the biggest favorite in the sport’s betting history at 70½ points. To put it another way, if Savannah State loses 70-0, it will have surpassed expectations and covered the spread.
Talk about your all-time mismatches.
“In 10 years, this is the highest number I’ve ever put up,” vice president of race and sports risk management at Cantor Gaming Mike Colbert said. “Obviously, it’s the highest number that’s ever been put up. When you’re dealing with a game that’s 70½, there’s a lot of variables.”
Colbert said he and two other sportsbook staff members helped set the line for Saturday’s game. One of his staffers suggested 79 points, while the other put the number at 66 points.
“We don’t usually disagree that big,” Colbert said. “So we settled on 70½, and that’s about what we expect. We expect Florida State to win this game by about exactly 10 touchdowns. I think if they wanted to play their guys (the entire contest), they could probably win this game by 100. But obviously they won’t do that.”
The massive point spread is no surprise considering the results of last week’s games.
In its season opener, Florida State crushed Murray State 69-3. Savannah State, meanwhile, was busy losing, 84-0 at No. 19 Oklahoma State, a lopsided defeat that actually made it easier to figure this week’s line, according to Colbert.
“In our power rankings, we make Florida State a better team than Oklahoma State,” Colbert said. “Our power rankings actually say that Florida State is going to win by 80. But you can’t make the number that high because it’s not just the players on the field you’re handicapping. It’s backups. Will they take their foot off the gas?”
Last week, the opening point spread for Oklahoma State-Savannah State was 67½ points. The line closed at 58 points, so it did not set a record for largest point spread. That mark belonged to Hawaii, which closed as a 60-point favorite against Northern Colorado in 2007.
For those curious, Hawaii won 63-6, and did not cover the spread.
It remains to be seen how much the Florida State-Savannah State point spread will fluctuate. According to Colbert, the number hasn’t changed since it was posted at 9:30 a.m. PT on Thursday. But nearly 80 percent of bettors thus far have picked Savannah State to cover.
Cantor Gaming is the only outlet in Vegas taking bets on the game and is accepting bets up to $10,000. That number is up from earlier in the day, when it was $5,000.
According to RJ Bell, founder of Pregame.com — the first site to reveal the Florida State-Savannah State line — the amount of money means the game is more than simply a ploy for attention.
“Sometimes these sports books will put up a novelty line, take 50 bucks on it and just want the publicity,” Bell said. “But when you have a book who’s taking $10,000 a game on it, you know they’re serious. This is a real number.”
How could Florida State, a team with national championship aspirations, schedule a game against a team so clearly inferior?
Actually, Florida State was not supposed to play this game at all. Initially, West Virginia was on the schedule, but when the Mountaineers left the Big East for the Big 12, they had to drop a non-conference game. West Virginia paid Florida State $500,000 for breaching the contract.
With a hole in the schedule, Florida State found itself in the unfortunate position of having to play its second FCS opponent in as many weeks.
“This is really indicative I think of the disparity between the haves and have-nots, and especially the way the haves are scheduling nowadays,” Bell said. “It’s one thing to schedule a bad BCS team or the worst Big East team, but to actually be scheduling a team that most people didn’t know had a football team until last week, I think that’s a significant part of the conversation. This point spread quantifies that.”
Savannah State will earn $475,000 in guaranteed money from Florida State. That’s on top of the $385,000 payout Savannah State collected for being Oklahoma State’s punching bag.
This Saturday, there is no question as to which team will win. Of course, the only interesting question for Vegas oddsmakers and fans is: By how many points will Florida State win?
Colbert doesn’t envy those willing to place a wager.
“To bet this game, you’ve got to have a lot of gamble in you,” Colbert said. “There’s a lot of things that could happen, so anyone that bets, I give them credit because it’s an absolute gamble in my opinion.”