Betting on ‘Big Game’? Here’s what you need to know.

Nov. 15, 2022, 8:38 p.m.

While sports betting is still not legal in California following the lopsided poll results of Propositions 26 and 27, there will still be thousands of dollars of wagers coming in from out-of-state fans and bettors. With the Big Game scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving break, many Stanford students will be returning to their hometowns to spend time with their families, and several of these hometowns are in the 31 states that have legalized sports betting. This is not gambling advice; rather, this is intended to provide information that will allow bettors to make informed wagers.

The Spread

To start off, it is important to know how exactly betting, specifically spread betting, works.

The standard odds for a spread bet are -110, meaning that risking $110 would return $100. The spread represents the oddsmakers’ attempts to even the odds between two unevenly matched teams.

For example, the spread for this year’s Big Game is currently at 4.5 in favor of Cal. This will typically be written as Cal -4.5, and it means that the Golden Bears are favored by (expected to) win by 4.5 points. Betting on Cal -4.5 means that you believe Cal will win by at least 4.5 points. Conversely, betting on Stanford +4.5 means that you believe that Stanford will not lose by over 4.5 points. If you prefer simply betting on the winner of the game, you can bet on a team’s moneyline.

Bettors were not heavily inclined to place their hard earned money on the Cardinal in last season’s Big Game, as they entered the game with a record of 3-7-0 against the spread. These concerns were warranted, as the 1.5-point underdog Cardinal lost by a score of 41-11. 

This season, Stanford has performed even worse against the spread, posting an FBS-worst 2-8-0 record. On the other hand, the oddsmakers have hit the nail on the head with Cal, as they are an even 5-5-0 against the spread.

This may not be the most enticing Big Game in recent memory, with Cal entering on a six-game losing streak, the longest in the conference, and Stanford coming off of three straight losses of 25+ points. In addition, Stanford and Cal both had their bowl aspirations axed last weekend after blowout losses to Utah and Oregon State, respectively. However, this storied rivalry should serve as more than enough motivation for a hard-fought game, and I expect a one-score contest. The spread for this game opened at Cal -6, and has since moved to Cal -4.5. Nevertheless, I still like Stanford to cover the spread and at least keep it close in Berkeley.

For those interested in betting on the outright winner, you can bet on either team’s moneyline. A bet on Stanford to win outright has odds of +175, meaning a $100 bet would win $175. Cal’s moneyline is set at -210, meaning you would need to wager $210 to win $100.


The total is set at 46.5, which represents the amount of points that the oddsmakers expect to be scored in this game. Bettors can either bet that over/under 46.5 points will be scored. The total has gone over in five of Cal’s 10 games, while Stanford’s record against the over is 4-5-1. With Cal recently firing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and offensive line coach Angus McClure, I don’t expect an onslaught of scoring from the Golden Bear offense. On the other side of the ball, Stanford’s offense has failed to reach 20 points in each of its past five games. The Cardinal’s running back room is perhaps the most depleted in the nation, with sophomore Mitch Leigber, who began the year as a safety, atop the depth chart. With two struggling offenses, I would not be surprised to see a low-scoring battle, with under 46.5 points total.

A final note on the total: The total has gone under in all of Stanford’s wins this season, so if you would like Stanford to win, the under might not be a bad idea.

The Picks

Stanford +4.5 (-110)

Under 46.5 (-110)

Drew Silva is a writer for the sports section. He is a junior from Pawtucket, Rhode Island studying computer science and symbolic systems. In his free time, he enjoys watching Executive Editor Tammer Bagdasarian play blackjack. You can find him watching NFL Redzone on Sundays.

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