It’s time for another edition of the Football Betting Public Action Report - our weekly search for games in which the public is enthusiastically and decidedly on one team, yet the line moves in the opposite direction you would expect. This is a good way to spot some unlikely upsets every week. This time we have four games - two in college and two in the NFL - that fit the criteria:
Central Michigan (+6.5) at Northwestern (Saturday, Sept. 25, 12 pm ET) - We start out with an interesting one. Nearly three-quarters of all bets placed have been on Northwestern, yet the line opened at 9.5 and has fallen all the way to 6.5. That’s particularly relevant because it has moved right through the key number of seven. That’s a strong indicator that smart money is seeing something they like in the Chippewas. You can see why Central Michigan might be attractive. They have two wins, but it’s their loss - by three at a very tough Temple - that really earns them respect. They are going through a lot of changes this year, but that’s a nice showing. On the other hand, Northwestern hasn’t lost, but their toughest opponent has been Vanderbilt, and that’s a lousy team that has had to deal with a very late coaching change this year.
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Oklahoma (-13.5) at Cincinnati (Saturday, Sept. 25, 6 pm ET) - Not surprisingly, the public loves Oklahoma in this one - more than four out of every five bets have been on them. Despite that, the college football line has dropped more than a field goal - from 17.5 to 13.5. That means that Cincinnati is worth a look here. The post-Brian Kelly era is off to a rough start for the Bearcats - they have lost twice and haven’t covered yet. Still, a home game against a top-level opponent is a perfect rallying point for the new coach - if he can’t sell that to his team then he’s doomed. Oklahoma has won all three of their games, but they have hardly been dominant - they were lucky to escape with wins over Utah State and Air Force.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, Sept. 26, 1 pm ET) - Given what both of these teams have been through lately this is one of the more unlikely battles of undefeated teams in recent history. The public is all over the Steelers, but smart money doesn’t seem to be in agreement. Nearly 80 percent of bets have been on the Steelers, yet this line opened at the key number of three and has since fallen to as low as one in some places. At first glance it seems like a big task for Tampa’s offense to face the Steelers’ potent defense. The Bucs have succeeded largely on their defense this year, though. The important thing to remember is that no matter how nice of a guy Charlie Batch seems to be the fact remains that he came into the season as the fourth stringer on this team, so the offense for Pittsburgh - which already has struggled - isn’t in the best hands.
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Chicago Bears (Monday, Sept. 27, 8:30 pm ET) - The Packers were a popular Super Bowl pick heading into the season, and the public still believes in them - they have drawn about 80 percent of all bets placed. Some big money clearly doesn’t like their chances against the Bears, though - the line opened at 3.5, quickly settled at three, and has even appeared at 2.5 in a couple of places. That means that the Bears are worth a look. There are a few reasons to justify the opinion that the Bears are worth that look. First, Green Bay’s defensive line has some issues, and that could give Jay Cutler time to perform. Cutler has been surprisingly good (at least to me) this year, and more time clearly won’t hurt him. Green Bay also has injuries on offense - the running game - and they will likely struggle to establish the run. Also, the Bears are at home, and playing divisional games at home is a very big deal. The crowd will be insane in this one, and that is a strike against the Packers in a game that will already be tough for them no matter where it is played.