Clemson's touchdown with 12 seconds left didn't change the outcome of Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship Game. But it won a lot of people who bet on the game some money.
The Tigers were a 6.5-point underdog to Alabama. The touchdown, a 24-yard pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson to tight end Jordan Leggett, made the score 45-40. That meant bettors who (legally and illegally) took Alabama minus the 6.5 points were out of luck and, cumulatively, millions of dollars.
Clemson didn't get any closer after a last-ditch onside kick following the touchdown was recovered by the Crimson Tide. The game was over after Alabama kneeled down on the final play. One sports book director estimated to ESPN that $10 million changed hands because the winning margin was five and not 12 thanks to the backdoor cover.
Alabama running back Derrick Henry's third touchdown made the game 45-33 with 1:07 left in the fourth quarter and Alabama bettors were breathing much easier at that point. However, Clemson sprinted down the field 68 yards in six plays to score with seconds left.
For much of the game, a Clemson win outright seemed incredibly possible. The Tigers had a 24-21 lead early in the fourth quarter but never got it back after Alabama scored a touchdown to take a 31-24 lead just two plays after Alabama kicked a surprise onside kick after tying the game 24-24.
Vegas sports books may not have been too disappointed with Clemson's backdoor cover, however. The director of MGM Resorts' sports book told the Las Vegas Review-Journal before the game that many people were betting Clemson to win straight-up and for Alabama to cover. Sports books collected losing bets on both.
"We're getting a lot of Clemson money-line bets. But I had a feeling we would see more Alabama money show up, and that's kind of what happened," Jay Rood said. "When it's all said and done, we'll probably be pulling for Alabama to win but not cover."
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