You’ve got to expect the Las Vegas sportsbooks to come strong and smart with two days of Florida college-affiliated football — and appropriate wagering — awaiting those either shopping for bargains or fat and happy on the couch after Thanksgiving.
And the books and bettors expect the Hurricanes, Florida State, Central Florida and Florida Atlantic to come just as strongly, according to the consensus sportsbook/bettor tracking at VegasInsider.com. FIU? Maybe.
▪ The No. 2 Hurricanes (10-0) show up on Miami time for noon kickoffs, such as Friday’s at Pittsburgh (4-7). But after watching UM’s survival skills, the bettors made the Hurricanes a 13.5-point favorite most of the week. It’s down to 12.5 as Friday dawns, 12 at some offshore books, 11.5 at Westgate Sportsbook. The Over/Under for total points is in 51 to 52 range, on the low side for modern college football.
▪ With so many Conference USA teams being bowl eligible, FIU (6-4) needs another win to solidify having something to do other than finals in December. After Western Kentucky on Friday night, the Panthers have 4-7 UMass, a replacement game for the Irma-canceled date with Indiana. Western (6-5) is in the same situation, but has only this shot. FIU opened a 1.5-point underdog and goes into Thanksgiving as a 2.5-point underdog. The books clearly didn’t like either the way the Panthers flopped against Old Dominion or got a fiftyburger put on them by Florida Atlantic last week. The Over/Under consensus is 55, which might seem low. But, last week, Western and Middle Tennessee State were at 10-3 after three quarters before scoring like two Central Floridas in the fourth quarter and three overtimes.
▪ Speaking of bowl berths, either Florida (4-6) or Florida State (4-6) will kill the other’s chance at bowl eligibility. In a game that should be dominated by defense — or, more accurately, bereft of offense — Florida State opened and is still a five-point favorite. The Over/Under’s a sub-basement 44. It would be appropriate if the Gators and Seminoles make the number on a safety.
▪ No. 13 UCF (10-0) vs. No. 22 South Florida (9-1), Friday afternoon at 3:30, winner goes to the American Athletic Conference title game. Also, there’s bragging rights. Not just with each other. The winner will brag they’re not only the best Group of 5 team in Florida (Florida Atlantic would disagree) but the best team in Florida (the Big Three would disagree, but only UM would have the standing to say something). The UCF point machine, No. 1 nationally at 48.2 points per game, opened at 10.5-point favorite, but is now at 9.5. But the Over/Under -- remember, USF averages 37.2 points per game, No. 16 in the nation -- might be the most seductive number in college football this week: 63.
▪ The books and bettors don’t think it matters if FAU (8-3) suffers a letdown the week after smacking down FIU to take the Shula Bowl and Conference USA’s East Division. The Owls opened a 21.5-point favorite at 1-10 Charlotte and are at 22. Perhaps as tasty as Thanksgiving leftovers and less iffy than what you move out of the refrigerator to make room for them: an Over/Under of 64, a number exceeded by five of the last six Florida Atlantic games.