We’re less than a month into the 2023 college football season, but one team has already emerged as the peoples’ champions.
The Colorado Buffaloes, under the leadership of first-year coach Deion Sanders, have raced out to a 2-0 start — taking bettors and bookmakers by storm.
The Buffs’ began the year with a win total of 4.5 on DraftKings Colorado. As of Tuesday afternoon, that figure had ballooned to 6.5 thanks to CU’s thrilling 45-42 come-from-behind win in Fort Worth against TCU in Week 1, combined with its 36-14 rout over Nebraska at home Saturday.
Tipico Colorado Feeling CU’s ‘Prime’ Run
Another of the state’s online operators, Tipico Colorado, has seen a drastic increase in CU betting traffic this month. The sportsbook has experienced a 5075% increase in handle on the Buffs’ to win the Pac-12 title and a 525% jump in handle on the team to win the national championship, according to Andre Zammit, who serves as the VP of sportsbook. Zammit told BetColorado.com the surge in interest surrounding the Buffs’ has been unlike anything he’s seen during his time with the Maltese betting operator.
“Right now, one in two [CFB bettors] is placing a bet on CU,” Zammit said. “And another interesting fact that we looked into is the difference between what customers are betting on CU games — versus those betting on all the other college games — and the big difference is the spread. So they have a big belief that CU is always going to be covering the spread.”
Zammit is interested to see how CU bettors will react to the Buffs’ being a 23.5-point favorite on Colorado betting apps over their in-state rival, Colorado State, in a nationally televised game on ESPN on Saturday night. Overall, he believes there will continue to be overwhelming interest in the Buffs’, so long as they continue to hold up their end of the bargain by beating (or at least covering) against their opponents this fall. Regardless of where CU goes from here, the main thing that jumped out to Zammit so far is just how much traffic a school that went 1-11 one year ago has drawn.
“Another interesting fact is that only the Cowboys-Giant Sunday night game and Thursday night’s Lions-Chiefs opener had a higher handle than Saturday’s [CU-Nebraska game],” Zammit said. “So that was quite big for us as well.”
Betting Public on Board with Colorado
The ripples from the impact of Sanders arrival in Boulder have also been felt at Caesars Colorado. Joey Feazel, who serves as the college football lead for Caesars, told BetColorado.com the Buffs’ have been the story of the season so far. Feazel highlighted the CFP futures climb from +50000 preseason to +6000 as of Tuesday morning as proof the betting public is fully on board with Sanders.
“The ‘Coach Prime Effect’ has been substantial for the first two weeks, reaching our top handle game for the year last week [against Nebraska], and it was some really one sided action,” Feazel said. “We saw a lot of future action towards Colorado, which was a team that we weren't quite sure was going to have immediate success, but they've sure proved us wrong. And the public has been enjoying every second of it. And it's reaped rewards.”
At DraftKings Colorado, Hall of Fame bookmaker Johnny Avello has seen his share of Cinderella stories over the years. In his 40-plus year run in and around the country’s wagering marketplace, the one thing Avello’s never seen is an overnight success story like what’s brewing along the Front Range this fall.
“You know, I don’t think so,” Avello said about the rise of the Buffs’ football team under Sanders. “And Deion certainly is the name out there that has kind of carried this whole story, but so is his son, Shedeur Sanders, who is playing really well. So, between the Deion Sanders style and Deion Sanders discourse, and then the players that he has brought over with him — yeah, I don’t think I have seen a story like this.”
How Long Can Cinderella Story Continue?
While CU’s meteoric Colorado sports betting rise out of the gate has been the storyline of the year, there’s still a lot of work to be done for the Buffs, who haven’t been to a New Year’s Six game since reaching the Fiesta Bowl in 2001.
Between their 23rd-ranked strength of schedule (per TeamRankings.com) and ESPN’s Football Power Index placing CU outside the top-50 nationally, it seems like now is not the time to start planning a championship parade. Still, longtime industry insider Brendan Bussmann, who serves as a managing partner at B Global Advisors, see parallels between the Buffs’ rapid climb and similar success stories in pro sports leagues of late.
“The Golden Buffaloes become one of those special circumstances that have come up every so often where a team comes out of nowhere and represents,” Bussmann told BetColorado. “It’s similar in nature to the inaugural season of the Golden Knights that no one thought as an expansion team would do well. They about ran the table. Not saying Ralphie is going to do that this time, but Coach Prime has put them on the map.”
Avello struck a cautious note in breaking down the Buffs’ chances from here — noting the fact CU is slated to play against six teams ranked in the latest AP top 25 poll. Still, regardless of where Sanders and company go from here, there’s no denying an energy surrounding CU football that hasn’t been seen since Bill McCartney roamed the sidelines more than 30 years ago.
“To me, what [Deion Sanders has] achieved so far, it’s pretty phenomenal,” Avello said. “And the bettors are going to ride with him; as long as this ride lasts, our betters are going to stay with him. And if CU continues to perform as they have so far, we're going to be in for a long season with Colorado. I mean, we'll do good overall, but Colorado certainly is going to be a team that we're going to have to contend with every each and every week.”