Monday, September 6, 2010

First Week Of College Football Fares Well For Las Vegas Sports Books

By Micah Roberts

The first weekend of college football went well for the Las Vegas sports books and in the process, kind of served as a pre-season of sorts leading into next week’s big weekend. The busy and intense atmosphere got all the supervisors and ticket writers into their game-face mode in preparation for a week that will be twice as busy when the NFL games are slated to play.

The Orleans Race and Sports Book
“Despite not having a lot of premier games and a bunch of huge favorites, we wrote relatively the same amount we did last year,” said Bob Scucci, Boyd Gaming’s Director of Race and Sports.

“Overall we were a small winner despite paying out a $50 ten team parlay that paid out $40,000.”

Scucci’s report of flat numbers at his book were similar to other accounts for books around the city -- other than the 10-teamer popping at his Orleans Hotel and Casino -- which is a great sign heading into this weekend.

There were four games that moved back and forth around the number last week that had possible middle opportunities, but Scucci said only one of them was a losing decision for the house.

“We had a lot of LSU money early before the Carolina suspensions and kept getting money after we re-opened the game from -4 ½ all the way up to -9 ½ until closing at -7 ½. The limited action after the announcements on both sides didn’t hurt as much as everything we had taken earlier before the suspensions.“

“Where we got lucky with was the UNLV game which landed 20 when most had laid Wisconsin -21. Most people like to play the favorites anyway, but we also had an increase in handle for that game because of huge Wisconsin crowds staying at our places. It was a big decision for us and we’re very fortunate to win that game, which was also helped by the game getting ‘over’ the total of 55,” said Scucci.

UNLV Lost 41-21 to Wisconsin, but still covered the 21 point spread
There is no doubt the Wisconsin bettors had the right side. Wisconsin outgained the Rebels 475 yards to 217 in their 41-21 win and if it weren’t for a couple of freak UNLV plays in the first half, the game likely would have been a lopsided blowout, but that’s why they play the games and that’s why the books put spreads on the game.

The other games that landed on or around the numbers began with Thursday night’s Utah game that landed “3” and Saturday with Notre Dame hitting “11”. Most books straddled the number in the Utah game, taking money at both plus-3 ½ with Pittsburgh and laying minus-2 ½ with the Utes. The Notre Dame game didn’t go past 11, but books did get sided with Purdue money pushing the number to -10 ½ where some Irish money came in. Neither game was good for the house.

The two high profile teams coming in with new quarterbacks were Florida and Texas as huge favorites, and both failed to come close to covering. The Gators were bet up from 36-point favorites to -39 by kickoff and got outplayed, or rather out-hustled, by Miami-Ohio despite winning 34-12. John Brantley looked uneasy throwing for only 113 yards and the rest of the team didn’t help him much either, as they committed three turnovers. Texas’ Garrett Gilbert didn’t fare much better, throwing for 172 yards and no scores in a 34-17 win over Rice in a line that jumped up two points from the opener to close at -31 ½.

Even though the Miami-Ohio State and Penn State-Alabama games have the most intrigue, I’m anxious to watch the Michigan-Notre Dame game just to see if Rich Rodriguez has turned the corner with the Wolverines, while Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish look to change everything about themselves from the former regime. The loser of this game will take a lot of heat because alumni and fans everywhere want positive results and restored glory.

The Michigan win over Connecticut last week was more impressive than Notre Dame’s over Purdue, but I can’t help feeling like Notre Dame is the side in this one with dynamic back Armando Allen and Coach Kelly’s apparent commitment to the run. I think that the Notre Dame kids have seen -- and believe -- there is a new day dawning for the better by all the changes Kelly has done, while the Michigan kids have seen that supposed day with Rodriguez and realize it might not be him to pull open the shades.

Here’s my selections for this weeks big games: Ohio State 31 Miami 14, Notre Dame 26 Michigan 16, Alabama 34 Penn State 17

NCAA Delayed Decisions
I‘m sure the NCAA doesn’t try to be nasty, but actions last week the organization took against two schools days before their season openers leaves the impression that they give rulings with spite as it’s sole intention. In the case of North Carolina where 13 players -- including 8 starters -- were ruled ineligible for their game against LSU, they waited until the last possible moment to drop the bomb on the school. If the players were guilty, they should be suspended, but that’s not the point. It’s the timing of the ruling that adds another chapter to what is wrong with the NCAA.

The NCAA started this investigation on the North Carolina players in early July and took two months to sort out all the facts, even though they already had most of the details which dealt with players taking perks from agents, which led to uncovering academic fraud, and then waited until the last minute to spring the results. Had they been more swift with their investigation, it would have prepared a Carolina squad better coming into a game without those who the NCAA knew would be suspended. All the other players and coaching staff who had game planned for LSU with the expected talent to be playing were put into a bad situation.

The NCAA didn’t create the mess, but they made it much more difficult for the university to handle and showed no compassion for the other student athletes of that program who did nothing wrong.

In the case of Jeramiah Masoli, the former Oregon quarterback who transferred to Mississippi, the NCAA waited four days before Ole Miss’ season opener to say that Masoli would be ineligible this year. This was after he was initially cleared a month earlier and had been practicing as the team’s starting quarterback. The coaching staff had to rush the back-up into game mode for the most important position and change everything for a ruling that could have been handed out immediately. A day before the game, Masoli had won an appeal and now is eligible, but the damage had been done as Masoli didn‘t start and the Rebels lost 49-48 to Jacksonville State.

In both cases, the NCAA forgot about the student athletes that their late decision was affecting. They acted more like a tyrant corporate boss rather than an association that is to help kids prosper, learn to be a man and get an education. Maybe the NCAA wanted to send a harsh broad message in regards to the Carolina case because of what is going on with these lurking pro agents, but that is something that should be dealt with separately where the NCAA minds -- along with all the cash resources these kids make for them -- to find a solution. Go after the agents. Get the NFL involved. Develpoe programs that help the young men stay out of trouble. Give them support and a solution, not a nasty iron fist.

Herbstreit Smarts
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit may be the smartest, most well versed college football analyst on TV today. If listening to his weekly upset selections, bettors could fare very well on money line wagers over the year. He doesn’t just throw things out there like silly Lee Corso, who he works with does, he actually studies all facets of each teams game, breaks it all down and comes up with sound reasons like a handicapper does.

Last week he stated that he thought Ohio State would win the National Championship and it’s quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, would win the Heisman trophy. Some may think he’s biased because of being a former Buckeye quarterback, but that’s hardly the case. In fact many in Columbus, where he still lives today, believe that he tries to hard on the Buckeyes just to prove that he isn’t biased. This is the first time that Herbstreit actually picked Ohio State to win it all since 1998, a year they were No. 1 all season until blowing a 15-point lead in a late season home game to Michigan State. They would eventually finish 11-1 and finish the season No. 2 in both polls.

This year’s schedule is much more favorable than 1998’s which featured two tough ranked non-conference teams. Should they get by Miami this week, the road games at Wisconsin (Oct 16) and Iowa (Nov 20) would appear to be the most troublesome. Unlike the other major conferences, the Big 10 doesn’t have a Championship game -- until next year -- which lessens the risk of them losing until the Championship game.

Currently at Lucky’s sports books, they have the Buckeyes favored at 9/2 odds to win the BCS title and 5/9 to win the Big-10.

Be sure to check back Thursday evening for updated Las Vegas line moves to give an idea of what some of the large and small money is playing.

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