11/26/2001 1:00AM

Bookmakers take a beating in football


Football bettors have a little extra Christmas money in their pockets after Nevada's sports books had a losing Thanksgiving weekend.

Bettors were continually on the right side, especially in games in which the point spread moved several points. Often, the professional sports bettors are on one side of the game with the public on the other side. This weekend, the pros and the public teamed up to beat the bookmakers.

An accurate gauge of how the wise guys fared is last Sunday's results in the Stardust "lottery," in which the Stardust posts Las Vegas's opening numbers and professionals fire away with $5,000 and $10,000 bets to hammer out an adjusted line that is then made available to the public. Lottery bettors went 11-7 against the spread in the college games, while the NFL line moves fared even better at 7-3.

That's a winning weekend in anyone's book, but a lot of times the public doesn't follow the wise guy's money, either because it has perceived that the value is gone on the side bet by the pros, or because there is a different perception by the public of the teams involved in the bets.

But that wasn't the case this weekend. In college games in which the public followed the wise guys, the public went 9-6. It was even better when the public agreed with underdogs, going 6-2.

Underdogs were barking loud in the college games, as Colorado and Oklahoma State knocked off Nebraska and Oklahoma, respectively. The public was all over Colorado, betting the Buffaloes down from a 10-point dog to 8 or 9 around town. As everyone knows, the game, and especially the cover, was never in doubt as Colorado won, 62-36.

The public was even behind such successful underdogs as Arkansas and Southern Mississippi on Friday. On Saturday, the public backed a number of teams from smaller conferences that came through, namely Tulsa, Central Michigan, Kent, Northern Illinois, and Hawaii.

There was even a case in which the wise guys had it wrong initially, and the public money corrected the market. Texas opened on Sunday, Nov. 18, as a 12 1/2-point favorite over Texas A&M. A professional bettor in the Stardust lottery bet it down to an 11 1/2 spread, but during the week the public backed Texas, betting the Longhorns up and up - until the line closed at between 14 and 15 1/2 by game time on Friday. Texas scored a late TD to win 21-7, so all bets at 11 1/2, 12, 12 1/2, 13, and 13 1/2 were winners. All bets at 14 were refunded. When the line moved to 14 1/2 and 15, there was some buyback on the Aggies, and those bettors also cashed.

NFL bettors won on the home underdogs on Thanksgiving Day (Lions and Cowboys), and the public stayed hot on Sunday. The public followed the wise guys on the Redskins, betting them down to a 7-point underdog versus the Eagles, and on the Chiefs, betting them from a 1-point dog to a 2-point favorite over the Seahawks. The Redskins beat the Eagles, 13-3, and the Chiefs beat the Seahawks, 19-7. The public also made the right moves on the Jaguars (bet from a 5-point dog versus the Ravens down to 3, so when the Ravens won, 24-21, all early Jags money won while bets at 3 were refunded), Patriots, Cardinals, and Raiders.

Those four games were the Sunday afternoon games, so they kept a lot of parlay action alive, too. Parlays are a proven winner for the house, but the books lost money on them this weekend, as the players were hot from start to finish.

As line moves go, so go results

For the season, opening line moves at the Stardust lottery are 121-94 (56.3 percent) in the colleges and 35-22 (61.4 percent) in the pros. This week's line moves are in the accompanying chart.

Bettors showed that they don't expect Miami-Fla. and Florida to be upset victims like other title contenders. Miami-Fla. was bet from an 11 1/2-point favorite at Virginia Tech up to 12 1/2. Florida, playing at home against Tennessee, was bet up from 16 to 17 1/2 points.

The NFL continued to see more action from the professional bettors, as the lines moved Sunday on eight of the 11 posted games (teams playing on Sunday and Monday night aren't on the board).

The biggest move was on the Titans, against the Browns. The Browns opened as a 3-point favorite, but the early money came in on Tennessee. The Stardust moved the Browns to -3 and even-money (rather than 11-10) to try to attract more Cleveland money, but the bettors kept playing the Titans until the line was lowered to 2 1/2. A half-point might look like a small move, but it takes a lot to get bookmakers to move off the key number of 3.

With the college football regular season ending, that also ends the lottery on Sunday nights. The Stardust will begin to post its opening numbers at 8 a.m. on Mondays for the remainder of the NFL season.

Upsets the result of parity

Parity has made the saying "On any given Sunday . . . " truer today than ever before. But it's also true on just about every other day of the week. Wednesday is the only day on which no pro or major college games were played this year.

But parity has also spread to Canada. The Calgary Stampeders beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 27-19, in the Grey Cup Sunday. The Blue Bombers (14-4 during the regular season) were a solid 7-point favorite over the Stampeders (8-10 record), but Calgary QB Marcus Crandell led his team to victory.

Crandell played last spring in the XFL, which isn't so strange since the Rams won the Super Bowl two years ago with the Arena League's Kurt Warner. Crandell is the third Stampeder QB to win Grey Cup MVP honors. The others? Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia.