Football fans all across America will be “spending” Thanksgiving night on the Gulf Coast. Spending money on bets in nationally televised games featuring Mississippi State at Ole Miss in the annual Egg Bowl (ESPN, 6:30 p.m.) and the Atlanta Falcons at the New Orleans Saints in an NFC South showdown (NBC, 7:20 p.m.).
In the Magnolia State, fans can give thanks that they can bet those games legally at nearby sports books for the first time ever.
Mississippi State opened as a road favorite at -8.5 over Ole Miss in the earliest numbers up offshore. Sharps (professional wagerers) quickly bet that up through the key number of 10 to -10.5. That’s a significant move not just because it’s two points, but because it raced past a key number without any buy back. Smart money has been impressed with the Bulldogs as big favorites this season.
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Mississippi State as Double-Digit Favorites
MSU (-47) beat Stephen F. Austin 63-6
MSU (-34) beat Louisiana 56-10
MSU (-23) beat Louisiana Tech 45-3
MSU (-23) beat Arkansas 52-6
Yes, the line in Oxford is lower than those … but that’s a combined win of 216-25!
For its part, Ole Miss has struggled badly when outclassed. The Rebels are 0-5 straight up and ATS as underdogs, losing to Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Not a surprise to lose those games. But, no ticket cashers.
Underdog bettors might step in because of “intangibles” if +11 comes into play. This is obviously Ole Miss’s “bowl” game because the Rebels are ineligible for the postseason due to sanctions. Mississippi State is already locked into a bowl bid. Will the Bulldogs come in complacent after that easy annihilation of Arkansas?
Speaking of easy annihilations … that describes the last two weeks of Saints’ football. A 51-14 blowout of the Cincinnati Bengals was followed by a 48-7 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles. Those victories beat the spread by 31 and 34 points!
The market is FINALLY starting to adjust to this extreme level or excellence. New Orleans opened as a 14-point favorite over Atlanta. Compare that to a line of Atlanta -2 at home back in week three. The Saints won that game 43-37 in overtime, launching an eight-game point spread cover streak that’s still active.
Early money was on the underdog because Atlanta is a divisional rival that still has a shot to chase down a wildcard berth, and because the Falcons are used to playing in a dome, which helps reduce the Saints’ home field edge. The line had settled at Saints -13 at publication deadlines.
Good luck with your picks, or just rooting for your favorite teams. Let’s quickly recap key handicapping stats from last week’s results.
▪ New Orleans outgained Philadelphia 546-196 on 7.9 to 4.1 in yards-per-play. Drew Brees led FOUR touchdown drives of 84 yards or longer! It’s not supposed to be THAT easy in the Big Easy.
▪ Mississippi State outgained Arkansas 475-291 on 7.3 to 3.2 in yards-per-play. The Bulldogs converted 70% of their third down tries and didn’t turn the ball over a single time.
▪ Ole Miss (+3) lost an overtime heartbreaker at Vanderbilt 36-29. Our condolences if you took the points and took the loss in OT. Mississippi won total yardage 578-387 on 7.0 to 5.5 yards-per-play. How did the Rebels lose? Five drives ended with made field goals. A credit to kicker Luke Logan. But not the way to maximize almost 600 yards of total offense.
▪ Southern Miss (-2) beat Louisiana Tech 21-20. That’s a straight up victory to move the season record to 5-5, but not a point spread cover for bettors. The Golden Eagles have had a few recent games where stats didn’t match the final score. Here. Louisiana Tech won total yardage 311-280 on 4.7 to 4.4 yards-per-play … and won the turnover category 1-0. Southern Miss had a relatively cheap TD drive of 45 yards after a nice defensive stand deep in Tech territory. That helped trump lesser game stats. Note that quarterback Jack Abraham returned from injury to the starting lineup. He was a sharp 24 of 29 passing, but for light volume at 195 yards.
Southern Miss will close out its 2018 campaign Saturday at UTEP. With a game lost to weather earlier this season, the 5-5 Golden Eagles must win straight up as 13-point favorites to become bowl eligible.