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Sharp bettors taking Northern Illinois vs. Iowa

[ 0 ] August 23, 2013 |

One number raised some eyebrows leading up to the Aug. 31 football opener between Northern Illinois and Iowa.

Six-and-a-half.

Oddsmakers said this summer that’s how many points Iowa (coming off an ugly 4-8 season and starting a quarterback who’s never taken a college snap) was giving to the Huskies (coming off an Orange Bowl appearance and returning Heisman Trophy hopeful QB Jordan Lynch).

Six-and-a-half?

It sounded high. And others agree — the line has since moved down to 3 or 3.5 points as sportsbooks try to entice bettors to take Iowa in an effort to attract equal money on both teams (which, if successful, is an automatic win for Las Vegas, which keeps 10% of winning tickets and 100% of losers).

But back to the original line: Even with the game at Kinnick Stadium, why would the Hawkeyes open as a touchdown favorite vs. a team ranked No. 24 in the final 2012 coaches’ poll?

To answer the question, I got in touch with a source who has inner knowledge of how Vegas lines are set. The person agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, due to the topic and sensitivity of the information. The person said the “sharp” money — the bets placed by professionals, a fraction of the gambling population — has been on Northern Illinois. “The folks out there remember the season Northern Illinois had,” he said, “and Iowa doesn’t have a lot of steam this year.”

Why 6.5? Lines are computer-generated, through complex formulas, and Kinnick Stadium has traditionally been worth six points for Iowa (the typical edge for home teams is three points). The insider thinks the line has settled at its current 3 or 3.5.

“I think (3.5) is probably pretty good,” the insider said. “It’s kind of corrected itself.”

There’s another opener, too, next Saturday in Iowa. Iowa State is favored by offshore books to beat Northern Iowa by 16 or 17 points in Ames. (U.S. sportsbooks can’t take bets on games involving Football Championship Subdivision teams like UNI).

My insider’s take? Surprised.

“If I was playing the game,” he said, “I would take the points.”

Contact Des Moines Register sports editor Chad Leistikow at (515) 284-8321 or cleistik@dmreg.com and follow on Twitter (@ChadLeistikow).

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Chad Leistikow: View author profile.

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