Alabama may have won the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, but those who bet money on the Crimson Tide didn’t emerge as winners.
Alabama was leading 45-33 when Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson connected with Jordan Leggett for a 24-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left. The play didn’t alter any outcome on the scoreboard but it altered a lot of what happened in Las Vegas.
The play shrunk the Alabama lead from 12 points to five points as the final score adjusted to 45-40 in favor of the Crimson Tide. The touchdown led to what's referred to as a "back-door cover" for the Tigers and an estimated $10 million changing hands at the sports books, according to Darren Rovell.
Wynn sports book director Johnny Avello estimates $10 MILLION changed hands in Vegas on back door cover Clemson TD.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 12, 2016
When the game kicked off, Alabama was a 6.5-point favorite at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. When Derrick Henry plowed into the end zone with 1:07 left, the Tide had obtained their biggest lead of the game at 45-33 and the Alabama bettors had their cover. However, six plays later Watson hit Leggett and after the extra point, the final score was set as a five-point game. Clemson bettors were back on the correct side of the score if not the game and it led to the Tigers eventually covering the spread, taking millions off one side of the board and putting it on the other.
Ed Salmons, race and sports book manager for the Westgate SuperBook, told ESPN the outcome worked out well for odds makers. "It was enormous for us," Salmons said. "It's just like the Super Bowl. You want the favorite to win because there are a lot of underdog bets on the money line, but you don't want them to cover the spread. So it worked out perfectly for us."
With most of the spread action on Alabama but much of the money line action on Clemson, the best they could have hoped for was an Alabama win but a Clemson cover. So while Alabama had four big scores in the fourth quarter, it was the Tigers touchdown with 12 seconds left that had the most impact in Las Vegas.