How degenerate are we feeling today, fellow wagerers? Because do we have a doozie for you — let’s bet on COVID-inspired college football attendance.
And, weirdly, I’ve been crunching numbers on this for the last few days, and have cranked out what I think are some winners for you.
All props via SportsBettingDime, the offshore that ordinarily provides our lines and odds.
Interesting over/unders on 2020 college football attendance ... from Vegas: pic.twitter.com/DJ7hNsiRhY— Eric Hansen (@EHansenNDI) June 29, 2020
Some really interesting ones jump out immediately, and I’m going to give you some guaranteed, pay-your-mortgage advice.
Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner
Ohio State ( O/U 32%, 32,999) — This one is a no-brainer. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has been aggressive in his response to the ‘Rona already. And, more to the point, OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith has been planning for months on 20,000 in attendance, and has stated that 15-20% is the realistic goal. If you take any bet, take this one. UNDER
Nebraska (O/U 55%, 49,140) — Nebraska hasn’t done much about social distancing from the outset, and NU football is too much of an event for persons from outlying areas to not risk it. They’ll hit this one pretty easily. OVER
Highest Attendance (O/U 101,000) — If you had to put your money on any place to do it, it would be at traditional football school with a very lax approach to prevention.
That gives you Georgia, the Texas schools, Tennessee, the Alabama schools, and the Florida schools. Penn State falls into the Michigan / Ohio political reality camp. Indiana (ND) is simply too small, and Notre Dame Stadium not large enough. And for that same reason, you can check off other football-mad places with too-small venues, like Nebraska, Iowa, etc.
Tennessee? Well, that’d be a good call, but UT AD Phil Fulmer has consistently been the staunchest opponent of reopening plans, and Governor Bill Lee has been a reluctant fighter against transmission. But, once numbers go up in Nashville, he acts. And, given the peculiarities of Tennessee home rule, the Cities have very different standards than the state. Knoxville could establish very different shelter-in-place and occupancy standards.
Alabama? Like Bill Lee to her north, we’ve seen Gov. Kay Ivey pull the trigger when she must. As of yesterday, that was not the case. Since we love our football, you’d probably take Alabama here — they’ll put as many butts in seats as are available. But there is a giant complication in all of this: Stadium construction. With BDS under renovation, attendance won’t hit 101,000 even if every case of the ‘Rona disappeared tomorrow. And Jordan Hare is even smaller. For the same reason, we can strike the 92,000-seater in Athens off the list. The ‘Dawgs won’t get there either.
Florida has essentially never shutdown, and they don’t seem particularly chaffed about it either. But, none of its venues are large enough — Doak is just 80,000; the Swamp just 83,000.
Then you have Texas, and whatever they decide to do this week. The Lone Star State is in the midst of what many public health officials there are calling a capacity crisis. Leadership may have no choice but to begrudgingly install some sort of distancing regime. If not for the uncertainty, and out of control case count, I’d put my money on Aggie to break this one with a bullet.
But, at the end of the day, I suspect that not even money will be enough motivation for Texas A&M, and thus no single game reaches 101,000. Under
Season Attendance: 13.62 million
I’m not convinced that medical or political realities — congressional, internal and otherwise, will permit a season. I have no doubt that many schools will attempt it — there’s simply too much money at stake. But I also am pretty certain that if a season actually makes it over the long run, that it will be with severely limited attendance (or no fans at all.) And, there is the very real possibility that the schedules will eventually get contracted (conference-only, for instance), postponed once begun, or even cancelled if that projected Fall second-wave occurs.
Throw in the fact that attendance is already in decline and has been for years, and this one is like stealing candy from babies. Under.
Not With a 10’ Pole and Stolen Money
Michigan (O/U 35% 38,850) — Again, one has to look to the political realities at play. And, despite some protests being astroturfed by business interests, the general anger was real. There simply is not the political will in Michigan to shut ‘er down again. But, at the same time, Michigan’s extraordinarily loud fanbase — one always at odds with its sports establishments, may demand that the school simply not play. Not to mention Governor Whitmer initially seemed determined to save lives at the expense of her political career. But, is that political will there to do it all over again, in a swing state, during an Election year? Too many questions here. Tough call, so don’t touch it.