The field has widened for sports betting options in college football, as the Big Ten kicked off its belated league-only schedule Friday night, and sportsbooks were more than happy to receive the increased action.
The Big 5 power conference, with 14 schools spread throughout states with legalized betting including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, had all of its teams in action starting with Friday night’s romp by Wisconsin over Illinois. The action was highlighted by Indiana’s controversial upset of Penn State on Saturday and wrapped up in primetime with Michigan rolling over Minnesota on the road.
Illinois and New Jersey do not permit wagering on games involving in-state teams, but bettors found more than enough options in the Land of Lincoln beyond the Illini and Wildcats. It can be argued, however, those in the Garden State missed out on a special moment not being able to bet on the Scarlet Knights, who ended a 21-game Big Ten losing streak by upending Michigan State. (A state constitution prohibition on betting in-state schools may get lifted next year.)
Busy books throughout the Midwest
Big Ten football is BACK 😍
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) October 24, 2020
The Michigan-Minnesota crossover showdown proved to generate huge interest. BetRivers reported the 49-24 victory by the Wolverines had the highest handle of any college football game for the weekend, with FanDuel noting it was the most-wagered on college football game in Illinois, Indiana, and overall nationally.
A Big Ten game drew the largest handle in five of the seven individual states where FanDuel operates, with West Virginia bettors opting to wager more on their hometown Mountaineers and those in New Jersey riding the Alabama-Tennessee contest. Overall, though, FanDuel reported the Michigan-Minnesota and Penn State-Indiana games ranked as its top two handle generators for the weekend.
DraftKings noted the Big Ten drew the biggest cumulative handle for college football betting over the weekend, while PointsBet noted a 20% increase in the volume of bets and a 70% increase in overall handle across Indiana and Illinois with the help of the Big Ten beginning play.
Iowa bettors also came out in force as William Hill — which is the dominant sportsbook in the Hawkeye State — reported 16% of all its betting tickets and 10% of handle came from the Iowa-Purdue matchup prior to kickoff for the early Saturday games. Four of the top five games in terms of bets placed in Iowa were on Big Ten contests, accounting for nearly 40% in volume and 29% handle.
A Hoosier hootenanny
GAME OF INCHES 👀
INDIANA UPSETS NO. 8 PENN STATE IN OT. pic.twitter.com/YwhCpMD5Jp
— ESPN (@espn) October 24, 2020
Of the seven games on the docket, none generated as much excitement, drama, and controversy as Indiana’s 36-35 overtime win over then-No. 8 Penn State. The game was decided on Michael Penix’s successful 2-point conversion try, with the call of it being successful upheld on video review.
It was the last act in a series of late wild swings for bettors. The Hoosiers were in control for most of the contest despite being 6.5-point underdogs, only for the Nittany Lions to be in contention to cover after Indiana opted to let Penn State score and running back Devyn Ford did so, providing a 28-20 lead with 1:42 to play instead of picking up the first down that would have helped run out the clock.
The Nittany Lions were again in contention to cover after scoring on their first overtime possession, but that turned out to be merely a prelude to Penix’s heroics.
DraftKings took the unexpected step of refunding all straight moneyline bets for those who took Penn State, with a spokesperson explaining to Sports Handle, “There was obviously a controversial call at the end of the game that impacted some of our players. As a customer-first company we felt the need to do right and refund all Penn State moneyline straight bets.”
🗣 CALLING ALL PENN STATE ML BETTORS
That was a tough call at the end but we have your back.
We are refunding all straight, moneyline bets on Penn State against Indiana today. pic.twitter.com/N0RXMJdDy4
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) October 25, 2020