The above is a question I’ve gotten a lot this week from UW fans questioning why a Husky team that is 5-4 and has beaten two top 10 teams at home is an underdog (if slight) to a Utah team that is 4-5 and has yet to win a road game. Utah remains favored at most books right now by one or two points (or 1.5).
So I thought I’d call an expert in these matters, Jay Rood, who is the sports book director at the MGM/Mirage in Las Vegas.
As Rood said “the reason is the betting public has made them the favorite.”
Indeed, what’s worth remembering is how the betting line works.
The lines are initially set by the sports books in Vegas, which essentially are trying to get equal betting action on each side. As such, they are in part guesses at what the sports book thinks the public perception of the game will be.
Rood said UW opened as a two-point favorite at his sports book. He said his book viewed the game as basically a toss-up with UW getting a couple-point edge for being at home. At that point, the line moves as the money comes in. And in this case, Rood said the early money came in on Utah, causing the line to move in Utah’s favor as a way to try to draw more money in on the Huskies.
Rood said the money early in the week tends to come from what he termed “the wiseguys,” or people who are the more serious bettors.
Asked what he thinks they are seeing, he pointed to Utah’s recent trends against the spread, which you can see here. Namely, Utah has won four of its last five against the spread.
“Utah has been a favorite of the sharp money bettors for a good four or five weeks at this point,” he said. “So they are drawing money every week based on I think just the belief that they are undervalued and the (feeling that) bookmakers such as myself and everyone else are not placing a high enough value on Utah, and as far as the sharp betting public has been betting Utah the last few weeks believing their price is undervalued. I think it’s more to do with Utah than against Washington at this point.”
Rood said he expected the line to move back a little bit in UW’s favor as the game draw nearer.
“I expect when the public shows up Saturday morning to play this game all day Saturday I would expect we would be taking a lot of Washington money and that it will come closer to pick ’em come gametime,” he said.
So there you go.