09/27/2004 12:00AM

Bettors still siding with the home team

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The trend of early professional bettors in Las Vegas betting the home teams in college football seems to be continuing.

As mentioned in this space last Wednesday, the discrepancies among many opening lines seem to show the offshore books giving home teams a little more credit for home-field advantage, whereas the oddsmakers in Vegas are not giving as much. Consequently, when the Stardust puts up its opening lines after the kickoff of the Sunday night NFL game, there has been a tendency for the early bettors to grab the choice lines on some home teams.

Two weeks ago, 14 of the 17 lines that were bet enough to move off the opening number were adjusted in the direction of the home team. Last week, it was eight out of 11.

As shown in the accompanying chart, 12 of the 19 line moves this week were on the home team (12 out of 16 if we're not counting the last three games off the "added board," featuring teams that are usually not on the betting boards in Vegas).

Last week, early college bettors went 6-5 against the Stardust's opening numbers, though they were slightly better (5-3) with the home teams.

Despite the recent success, these are not predictions per se, but are one more handicapping tool to see where the lines are heading on these particular games. It's important to know if it's better to wait for the line to continue to move so you get a better number, or if it's best to bet earlier before it moves more (or pass the game altogether if all the value has already been lost on a particular side).

In addition, the movement on the listed games is usually because of differences in the opening lines posted between the oddsmakers in Vegas and those located offshore, and games that are not listed here generally have pretty "solid" numbers that will likely be the same - no more than a point - no matter where you bet.

The homebound trend also extended to the NFL this week. Both plays were on home teams, and home dogs at that. The Jaguars, off to a 3-0 start after their upset of the Titans on Sunday, opened as 4 1/2-point home dogs to the Colts for next Sunday at the Stardust but were bet down to 4 (the line was as low as 3 at some other offshore and Vegas books). The Cardinals opened at +4 at home vs. the Saints and were promptly bet down to +3 1/2.

There was a limited NFL board offered at the Stardust on Sunday night since upcoming games involving the teams playing Sunday and Monday night (Buccaneers, Raiders, Steelers, Dolphins, Cowboys, Redskins) were not posted, plus games involving the Packers, Bears, and Titans were off the board because of quarterback injuries.

No NFL totals were bet enough to move off their opening numbers. Early bettors went 3-1 last week, winning on all three under bets and losing on the one over play.

Sports book notes

An estimated crowd of 80,000 was at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday night for its "Double Down in the Desert" twinbill. Sebastien Bourdais won the Champ Car World Series race as the 9-5 favorite, holding off second choice Bruno Junqueira by half a length. Shane Hmiel, a 20-1 longshot, won the Nascar Craftsman Truck Series race.

* In Nascar's Nextel Cup Series, Ryan Newman won the MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway, but Jeff Gordon's third-place finish made him the series points leader, just one point ahead of Kurt Busch.

* Glen Johnson knocked out Roy Jones Jr. in the ninth round of a light heavyweight bout Saturday night in Memphis. Johnson was defending his IBF belt, yet he was a 5 1/2-to-1 underdog to the former best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. In the heavyweight division, aging former champs James Toney and Riddick Bowe launched comeback attempts with victories this past week. Toney, 36, won a 12-round decision over Rydell Booker on Thursday night, and Bowe, 37, knocked out Marcus Rhode on Saturday night. Toney and Bowe were both heavy favorites.

* Vijay Singh won the 84 Lumber Classic on Sunday at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa., as the overwhelming 7-2 favorite. The second choice at the Las Vegas Hilton was a distant 16-1.

Race books welcome Oak Tree meet

With the opening of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet on Wednesday, Coast Casinos resumes its free handicapping contests on Wednesdays through Fridays. The contests run through Oct. 22, but will not be held the week of the Oct. 14-16 Fall Classic handicapping tournament at The Orleans.

There is $2,000 in daily prizes available, plus a progressive jackpot that starts at $1,000 and increases by $1,000 a day for anyone lucky enough to go 5 for 5. In addition, a berth in the $1 Million Horseplayers World Series in January will be awarded to the person who compiles the most points in all contests. See the race books at The Orleans, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, and Suncoast for details.

Station Casinos also restarts its daily (Wednesday through Sunday) $5,000-guaranteed twin quinella promotion. Twin quinellas, in which bettors pay $2 for each combination in trying to pick the one-two finishers in two separate races, are also offered at the Plaza and Rampart.

Early football line moves

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

TOOK MONEYOPENBET TOOPPONENT
MARSHALL -4.5 -5.5 Miami-Ohio
Miami-Fla. -11.5 -12 GEORGIA TECH
Michigan St. +8.5 +7.5 IOWA
KENTUCKY -13.5 -14 Ohio
CENTRAL MICHIGAN +4.5 +3.5 Kent St.
TEMPLE +8.5 +7 Bowling Green
GEORGIA -3 -3.5 Louisiana St.
STANFORD -10 -10.5 Washington
LOUISIANA TECH +14 +13 Fresno St.
OKLAHOMA ST. -16 -17 Iowa St.
TEXAS -37 -37.5 Baylor
OKLAHOMA -26 -29 Texas Tech
Southern Miss -3.5 -4 SOUTH FLORIDA
West Virginia +3 +2.5 VIRGINIA TECH
TEXAS A&M -1 -3 Kansas St.
HAWAII -10 -11 Tulsa
UL-Monroe +14.5 +14 WYOMING
Utah St. +14.5 +13.5 TROY
Mid Tennessee St. +3.5 +2.5 NORTH TEXAS

NFL

TOOK MONEYOPENBET TOOPPONENT
JAGUARS +4.5 +4 Colts
CARDINALS +4 +3.5 Saints

Home team in CAPS

Last week: The early college bettors went 6-5 against the Stardust's opening number and are now 20-14 (58.8 percent). In the NFL, totals bettors went 3-1 to improve to .500 on the young season at 5-5. The only point-spread move last week was a loss on the Buccaneers vs. the Raiders, dropping the record on NFL sides to 1-2.