11/08/2004 1:00AM

College road teams draw early money


Back in September, I wrote about the importance of knowing what the oddsmakers are thinking. If they're overrating or underrating certain teams and conferences or shading numbers because of one trend or another, it's information that bettors can use to their advantage.

At the time, it was obvious that Las Vegas linemakers, primarily at the oddsmaking firm Las Vegas Sports Consultants and the Stardust, were not giving as much weight to home teams in college football, as their lines were consistently lower than those available at offshore books. That gave bettors the opportunity to shop for the best possible number, or arbitrage between the two markets.

On those preceding Sunday nights, early bettors at the Stardust took the lower price on the home teams, moving the line in the direction of the hosts in 14 of 17 games on the night of Sept. 19 and eight of 11 games on the night of Sept. 26.

During the month of October, things leveled out, but, looking at the accompanying chart, you can see that the trend appears to have fully reversed. Of the first seven college line moves (listed in Don Best rotation order), all are on the road team. Also of note: They all happen to be underdogs. I just haven't decided if that fact is related or a coincidence.

But I don't think it's a coincidence that the home/road discrepancy has been reversed - this happens all the time as oddsmakers try to balance the action over the course of a season. Overall, 10 of the 14 college games that were bet enough to move off the opening number moved in the direction of the road team. For the record, 11 of the 14 moved in the direction of the underdog, if you think that has more relevance than I do.

And if you look at the NFL numbers, there is some anecdotal evidence to back up that belief. There was a shorter NFL board offered Sunday night at the Stardust because of uncertain injury reports on some of the games, so only six pro games were available for early bettors. But of the three sides that were bet, all three were underdogs (two at home and one away).

The Buccaneers opened at +4 and took money vs. the Falcons, dropping the line to 3 1/2. The Stardust made the Giants a 3-point favorite at the Cardinals, but made bettors lay -120 (instead of the standard -110, or 10 percent vig) if they wanted the Cards +3. The bettors still bet it with the increased price and the line was dropped to 2 1/2. And it was probably worth it for those bettors, because as of Monday morning that game was a solid 2 1/2 both in Vegas and offshore.

The offshore influence was also seen in next Monday night's Eagles-Cowboys game. The Stardust opened the line Eagles -6 1/2 on the road while offshore books were dealing -5 and 5 1/2. By Monday morning, the line had settled at 6 everywhere. The total also was pounded into place between the two markets, as offshore books opened at 41 and the Stardust opened at 42 1/2. By Monday morning, 41 1/2 was the consensus number.

Sports book notes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Checker Auto Parts 500 at the Phoenix International Speedway on Sunday as the 6-1 co-favorite, and in the process tightened up the race for the season-long Nextel Cup points championship.

Las Vegas native Kurt Busch led the 315-lap race from laps 207-210 and was in position to build an insurmountable lead, but lost first gear on his engine while avoiding a crash, had to make an extra pit stop to get new tires, and faded to 10th. Busch is still in front with two races remaining, but he leads Jeff Gordon by only 41 points, Junior by 47 points (which would only be 22 points if not for Junior's 25-point penalty for cursing), and Jimmie Johnson by 48.

* Retief Goosen pulled off a rare final-round comeback vs. Tiger Woods to win the Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta by four strokes over the newlywed Woods. Goosen was the fourth choice at between 16-1 and 20-1 at Las Vegas sports books.

The struggling Woods, who used to be offered as low as even money in major tournaments because he was so dominant, was as high as 6-1 in this past weekend's tournament and can be found around town at between 5-1 and 7-1 for The Masters in April.

Vegas TV shows come and go

For those who can't get enough of the current Las Vegas-based and

-themed television programs ("CSI," "Las Vegas," "American Casino," all the poker programming and reality shows that come here to shoot, etc.), there's a new show debuting Wednesday night on Spike TV called "The Club." The unscripted show, set at the Ice bar on the corner of Koval and Harmon (former site of The Drink, for longtime Vegas nightclubbers), is scheduled to air the next five Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, and then will go on hiatus over the holidays before another five shows air early next year.

For those who think the number of Vegas shows has reached the point of oversaturation, the news came last week that NBC was canceling "Father of the Pride," the computer-animated show about Siegfried and Roy's animals, and CBS has canceled "Dr. Vegas," the show about a casino-based physician, starring Rob Lowe.

Early college football line moves

Took moneyOpenBet ToOpponent
Boston College+8.5+7.5WEST VIRGINIA
Baylor+27.5+25.5OKLAHOMA ST.
San Diego St.+6.5+5.5AIR FORCE
Pittsburgh+12+11.5NOTRE DAME
South Carolina+8.5+7.5FLORIDA
BOWLING GREEN-7.5-9.5Marshall
Boise St.-30-31SAN JOSE ST.

Early NFL line moves

Took moneyOpenBet ToOpponent
CARDINALS+3 (-120)+2.5Giants
COWBOYS (Mon.)+6.5+6Eagles
Buccaneers-Falconsover 3940  
Giants-Cardinalsunder 38.537.5  
Panthers-49ersover 4041  
Eagles-Cowboys (Mon.)under 42.541.5  

Last week: The early college bettors went only 8-10 against the Stardust's opening numbers to drop to 76-72 (51 percent) on the year. The NFL bettors went 1-1 on sides and are 12-13 (49 percent) on the season. NFL totals bettors continue to fare better as they went 2-1 to improve to 15-11 (58 percent).

Home team in CAPS