OK, so you’re planning to plop down a few bucks on a college football game — legally, of course — and trying to decide whether to stick with the favorite or take the points.
Well, here’s a tough one.
If you go with No. 6 Florida State in Saturday’s game against lowly Savannah State, you’ll be starting with a 70 1/2-point deficit.
That’s right, SEVENTY AND A HALF!
“Without a doubt,” said Mike Colbert, vice president of risk management for Las Vegas-based Cantor Gaming, “this is the biggest line I’ve put up in 10 years doing this.”
No kidding. From all indications, this is largest point spread ever for a Division I game.
But before you race out to bet the mortgage on the underdog, consider this: The Tigers were nearly as big an underdog last week — in the 65 1/2-point range — and they didn’t come close to covering. No. 18 Oklahoma State romped to an 84-0 rout, handing Savannah State its eighth straight defeat going back to last season.
“We had to make an even bigger line for Florida State,” Cantor said, “because we think Florida State is better than Oklahoma State.”
Savannah State (0-1) scheduled these first two games strictly for the money. The school is collecting paychecks totaling $860,000, which will go a long way toward helping the financially strapped athletic program meet its total budget of $5.1 million.
“You preach the same message. We’re going to get on the bus to Tallahassee with the thought of winning the game,” Tigers coach Steve Davenport bravely told the Savannah Morning News. “The reality is the reality and we’ll see how we pan out. The charge is to play as hard as you can for 60 minutes, no different than it was for Oklahoma State.”
Cantor said most of the early money from Vegas betters was on the underdog.
“I think people just saw the big number and instantly put their bets on Savannah State,” he said. “I don’t think they put much thought into it.”
Of course, the bookies are more careful with their money. Cantor had several factors to consider before setting the historic spread in favor of Florida State (1-0).
“It was an interesting line to make,” he said. “If Florida State wanted to play its top guys the entire game, they could probably win by a hundred. But some guesswork comes in with a number like this. It’s not purely about statistics and numbers. How long will they play their top guys? Will they run the score up? Quite frankly, I expect Florida State to play (the starters) for at least the first half.”
The main goal for the Seminoles, Cantor figured, is to get through the game without injuries to any key players before they open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule the following week. There is absolutely no possibility of losing this game.
“You know they’ll want to be healthy for their conference games,” the oddsmaker pointed out. “That said, Florida State’s backups are better than Savannah State’s starters. I don’t expect them to stop scoring.”
In the locker room immediately after getting blown out by Oklahoma State, Davenport questioned the wisdom of scheduling such a mismatch, no matter what it meant to the school financially. He has softened his stance since then, but still worries about sending the little team that couldn’t against such a vastly superior squad for the second week in a row.
“It’s almost like the parent of a Little Leaguer,” the coach said. “You’re more concerned than the kid is. The kid just wants an opportunity. And that’s what our kids want, an opportunity to show themselves in a better light.”
There’s nowhere to go but up.
Savannah State is one of the worst teams in the Football Championship Subdivision, going 4-72 against teams from that lower-level division. They’ve lost seven of their last 11 games by at least 30 points. The offense is basically nonexistent, having scored one touchdown in its last five games.
Now, they’re going up against a top-10 team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the best of the best.
That’s how you end up with the most lopsided spread in betting history.