Updated on 09/16/2011 6:36AM

Bettors hit dogs hard


Something strange happened in the hours leading up to the bowl games on Tuesday: Football bettors were betting underdogs in nearly all the New Year's Day bowl games.

With so many tourists in town, conventional wisdom would have the favorites getting most of the action, but that didn't happen.

* South Carolina was a 1 1/2-point favorite over Ohio State, but got bet down to pick-em, and some sports book even made Ohio State a 1-point choice as money continued to flow in on the Buckeyes Tuesday morning.

* Oklahoma was a 13 1/2-point favorite over Arkansas before late money moved the line down to 12 at most casinos.

* Virginia Tech was a 2-point choice over Florida State but got bet down to -1 or pick-em.

* Tennessee was favored by 3 1/2 over Michigan at most books all week and got bet down to 3.

* LSU, which was a 2 1/2- to 3-point choice over Illinois, was bet down to 2 and even 1 1/2 at some books by noon Tuesday.

* The only New Year's Day favorite to get significant action was Colorado, which was bet up to -3 after being at 2 1/2 most of the week.

* In Monday's and Tuesday's bowl games, Florida was bet down to 14 1/2 after being as high as 16 1/2, while Nebraska was bet from 9 down to 8 1/2.

Maybe it was a mass New Year's resolution by football bettors to take more underdogs.

Football betting trends

The decision to bet more underdogs might also have been fueled by so many dogs covering recently in the college bowls and in the NFL.

Through Monday's games, underdogs were 11-6 against the spread this bowl season, with eight straight-up victories.

In the NFL, underdogs were 10-4-1 against the spread last weekend to improve to 114-105-14 on the season.

* NFL road teams were 9-5-1 against the spread, which makes sense since most home teams are favored. In fact, road dogs were 8-3-1 last weekend. Road favorites were just 1-2.

* The over bets were 9-6 to snap a string of five straight weeks in which there were more unders. The Colts have now gone over in 13 of their 15 games, and their defense was again the cause of an over in their 42-17 loss to the Rams Sunday. The Bears and Jets are both 11-4 with the under.

* Despite their loss to the Bengals Sunday, the Steelers still have the league's best spread record at 10-4-1. The Patriots and Bears are next at 10-5. The Chargers finished their season with the NFL's worst spread record at 4-10-2.

* The NFC was 2-0-1 against the spread vs. the AFC over the weekend, with the Falcons-Dolphins game ending in a push. Straight-up, the ledger is even at 29-29 for the season, but the NFC holds a commanding 32-22-4 spread edge.

Season-long contest updates

Coast Resorts sports book director Bert Osborne won $10,000 in the Stardust Invitational by defeating Mike Orkin in the championship match last weekend in the winner-take-all, single-elimination tournament that started with 16 contestants. Orkin posted a 3-3-1 record with a best-bet winner on the Buccaneers. Osborne compiled a 4-2 record with a best-bet winner on Purdue (and a bet remaining on Michigan +4 on New Year's Day) to clinch the title.

* Brent Crow of Alatex Sports was 6-0 to defeat Bryan Leonard (who went 3-2-1) and win the $7,500 first prize in the Sunset Station All-Star Handicappers Invitational. The field of 12 professional handicappers was narrowed down to four for the semifinals two weeks ago. Bob Donahue, who had the best overall season, was eliminated before the semi-finals. Donahue still collected $2,500 for having the top best-bet record.

* Tony Salinas leads the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest by two games going into the last weekend of the NFL season. SuperContest entrants put up $1,500 and select five NFL sides a week. Salinas has an overall record of 50-27-3 for 51 1/2 contest points (pushes count for a half-point). Tied for second are The Bud Man and local radio host Tim Trushel with 49 1/2 points. Juss Teen is fourth with 49 points, just ahead of former leader James Pronovich and Bruno's Boys at 48 1/2. First place is $135,600. No one will win the $10,000 bonus for hitting 67 percent. The leaders' selections will be available in the Hilton sports book by Friday afternoon.

NFL bankroll bombs

While my bowl picks continue to do well, my NFL bankroll had its worst weekend of the season last Saturday and Sunday.

The weekend started with an 11-unit loss on the Ravens, then continued with a 22-unit loss on the Titans (who were covering a 6 1/2-point spread with a 38-24 lead early in the fourth quarter only to lose 41-38), and 11-unit losses on the Colts, Steelers (another late collapse that turned into an outright loser), and 49ers. Winners were the Cardinals and Seahawks. The net loss of 46 units dropped the bankroll, which started the season at 1,000 units and entered the weekend at 923, to 877.