No. 1 vs. No. 2, times two: A look ahead at the week in sports betting

Oddsmakers and bettors will be monitoring health reports on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa all week ahead of the No. 2 Crimson Tide's game against No. 1 Louisiana State.
(Vasha Hunt / Associated Press)

A rare treat for fans and bettors this week — two No. 1-vs.-No. 2 clashes in college sports over a five-day period.

Tuesday: No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Kentucky.

On college basketball’s opening day, the Spartans and Wildcats close out a blockbuster doubleheader at Madison Square Garden (6:30 p.m., ESPN). The South Point in Las Vegas was the first sportsbook to post a point spread. Michigan State opened as a two-point favorite Saturday afternoon. Be sure you monitor game-day markets to see how professional bettors are sharpening the line.

The opener at MSG is also a thriller, with No. 3 Kansas facing No. 4 Duke at 4 p.m. The Blue Devils opened at -2.5 despite having the inferior poll ranking.


Saturday: No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Alabama.

It’s the biggest college football game of the regular season — and possibly a preview for the national playoff — when the Tigers take on the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa (12:30 p.m., CBS)

Sportsbooks posted soft openers Sunday of Alabama -7 or -6.5. Alabama settled at -6.5 globally by the end of the day. Oddsmakers and bettors will be monitoring health reports on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa all week. If he isn’t likely to be at 100%, LSU money will come in more confidently. If he’s seen moving quickly in practice, the public is more likely to come in on a strong host at anything below a touchdown.

A look what happened Saturday in college football, highlighted by Notre Dame’s victory over Virginia Tech that reaffirmed the Fighting Irish, under coach Brian Kelly, are not good enough to win a national championship, but also are not bad enough to justify firing him.


Local Notes

USC also opens its college basketball season Tuesday. The Trojans will be market favorites at home against Florida A&M (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network) at sportsbooks that offer low-limit bets in games involving smaller colleges. Circa Sports in Las Vegas posted a Regular Season Win Total proposition showing 19.5 victories for USC. Customers can bet over or under that total.

UCLA waits until Wednesday to open as a home favorite against Long Beach State (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Circa Sports posted 16.5 projected wins for UCLA partly because of a tougher nonconference slate. The Bruins will play more marquee matchups than the Trojans. That includes three games in the Maui Invitational from Nov. 25-27 (field includes Michigan State and Kansas) plus a trip Dec. 14 to Notre Dame (ABC) and Dec. 21 to Las Vegas to face North Carolina. (CBS).

Though college hoops fans are excited about the new season, easily the biggest basketball attraction this week in Los Angeles will be the Clippers’ home game Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks (7 p.m., ESPN). That’s a potential championship series preview.


Montrezl Harrell’s tenacity and energy has played a big role in helping the Clippers maintain the junkyard dog mentality that carried the team last season.

In the West, the Clippers are virtual co-favorites with the Lakers to reach the NBA Finals. A current composite of global odds to win the conference: Clippers 2/1, Lakers 13/5, Houston Rockets 9/2, Utah Jazz 8/1, Denver Nuggets 9/1.

Odds to win the East: Milwaukee Bucks 6/4, Philadelphia 76ers 11/5, Boston Celtics 7/1, Brooklyn Nets 11/1.

The Clippers are coming off a 105-94 win Sunday night against Utah as 4.5-point favorites. They enter the week 5-2 straight up (SU), 4-3 against the spread (ATS).


The Lakers carry marks of 5-1 SU and ATS into Tuesday night’s game at Chicago after scoring road win/covers at Dallas and San Antonio.

On the gridiron, the Chargers are back in action quickly after upsetting Green Bay 26-11 on Sunday as four-point underdogs. They visit the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night (5:20 p.m., FOX/NFL Network). The Raiders opened as favorites of -1.5 points. Home-field advantage is generally worth three points in the NFL. That means the market sees the Chargers as the slightly superior team despite trailing in the AFC West standings. Kansas City leads the division at 6-3. Oakland is 4-4, the Chargers 4-5.

The rested Rams opened as four-point favorites at Pittsburgh (1:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX). Los Angeles enjoyed a bye week after its two-touchdown victory over Cincinnati in England.


USC opened as a one-point favorite at Arizona State (12:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC) despite getting routed by Oregon 56-24 last weekend. The Sun Devils were off last week after losing 42-32 at UCLA two Saturdays ago. The Bruins are off this week after coasting past Colorado 31-14 as 6.5-point favorites.