DraftKings’ Johnny Avello Talks Handicapping Michigan Vs. Hawaii, MSU Popularity In Opener

Written By Dave Bontempo on September 8, 2022

Ahhh, the price of being good.

Michigan sports bettors, sit tight and enjoy the weekend of dominance for the state’s powerful college football teams.

Enjoy that, because it may be tough to find a good wager. 

Sportsbook numbers hail forthcoming blowouts by Michigan over Hawaii and Michigan State over Akron, leaving bettors to debate seeking other games.

Combined, the two nationally-ranked teams are giving 86 points as of Thursday morning. Fourth-ranked Michigan lays a whopping 51.5 to Hawaii and 14th-ranked Michigan State is favored by 34.5 points against Akron.

There’s not much for bettors to sink their teeth into this week, other than the 67 total for the Michigan game at -115 and the over-under of 56 for the Michigan State game at DraftKings Sportsbook MI.

But that’s how it is in early September across the college-football spectrum. There are going to be blowouts. Thus, when No. 1 ranked Alabama visits Texas at -19, that’s  a relative nail-biter. The bigger games will come later.

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Michigan football spread a tough pill for bettors

Those betting on Michigan football may be looking for different options, or simply using this game as a marker for the future. How do you give more than seven touchdowns and still find that the early sentiment is on the chalk? Hawaii has been outscored 112-27 in two games and gave up 63 points to Vanderbilt in its opener.

And how much does Michigan want to win by? Coach Jim Harbaugh is using this week as a quarterback audition between Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy.

McNamara started last week in Michigan’s 51-7 trouncing of Colorado State. 

It’s McCarthy’s turn this week.

Bettors don’t know his go-to targets, his tendencies, or whether he prefer to run or pass. They also don’t know long he, or the other starters, will play.

“It’s hard to even get a prop up for a game like this,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayMichigan. “You go into it understanding that Michigan is going to win the game, and probably big, but you don’t know when they are going to call off the dogs.”

There are some props that stand a chance if they go up on the board later in the week. Hawaii committed eight turnovers including a Pick 6 in its 49-17 loss to Western Kentucky. A Michigan defensive score, interception prop or the length of a scoring play could be enticing.

“You might look at Michigan in the first half, knowing the players will go all out and then consider whether that number (-32.5) is right for you,” Avello added. “Once Michigan gets past this part of the season, though, it’s going to be in for some big games and they are going to generate a big write for us.”

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McCarthy or McNamara? Harbaugh still deciding Michigan starting QB

Before that happens, Harbaugh is going to get his quarterback ducks in a row.

McNamara completed 64.2% of his passes (210-for-327) for 2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions last year. He led them to the College Football Playoff semifinal, where they were toppled by eventual champion Georgia 34-11. He’s a strong-armed passer with good pocket presence.

McCarthy, who will make his case to be the starter this week, also is a good running threat.

Harbaugh plans to name a starter after this game, let the winner get his feet wet next week against Connecticut and settle in for the tough part of the schedule after that.

It’s likely both quarterbacks will have to be ready, anyway.

Michigan seeks its first national title since 1997. It reaches the meat of its schedule against Maryland on Sept. 24. October matchups against Iowa and Penn State mark the early part of October. And then there’s Michigan-Michigan State on Oct. 29.

Michigan State also a big draw for bettors

Michigan State plays a good No. 2 to Michigan in terms of popularity. The Spartans are ranked 14th in the nation and also have a lopsided matchup this week against Akron.

Like the Wolverines, the betting on the Spartans is popular.

Their 35-13, season-opening triumph over Western Michigan struck a chord with bettors on Sept. 2, Avello indicated.

“Both teams did well with the gamblers last week,” Avello said. “Michigan was one of the top 10 betting games last Saturday. And Michigan State against Western Michigan on Friday night was the highest bet game we had, and that includes baseball along with some other sports.

“Considering that Western Michigan was the opponent, that was a very good spend. I was a little surprised that this was the top game of the night.”

Photo by Al Goldis / Associated Press
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