01/10/2013 5:36PM

Dave Tuley: Alabama opens at 5-2 in bid for three-peat


LAS VEGAS – Alabama’s 42-14 rout of Notre Dame in the BCS title game Monday night put to rest many questions, but left some unanswered.

The Tide easily covered the 9.5-point spread as they rolled to a 28-0 halftime lead and 35-0 before the Irish were able to get on the board. Before the game, there were more tickets bet on Notre Dame at Las Vegas sports books including on the money line (though the big money came in on Bama). However, all that confidence was beat out of the Irish backers, as the joke at halftime was that after all those people were willing to take +9.5 or +10 with the Irish for the game, very few were taking the +7 with them at halftime (essentially getting +35 for the game, yet that was the one bet Notre Dame did win as the second half ended 14-14).

Alabama’s win also showed that the SEC is the best football conference in the land as it has claimed the last seven BCS titles. As expected, Alabama also claimed the No. 1 spot in all the polls as no major college team went undefeated. Oh, wait, Ohio State was 12-0, but they’re under probation. The Associated Press ended up ranking them third behind Alabama and Oregon; besides, the Buckeyes would have been about 14-point underdogs against Alabama, according to Vegas oddsmakers.

Many people are wishing we had a playoff in place or at least a +1 to see if Oregon could have matched up with Alabama. However, we still have one more season to go under the current format until we get the four-team playoff at the end of the 2014-15 season.

So, our attention turns to next year, and it’s no surprise that Alabama, the two-time defending champs with quarterback A.J. McCarron expected to come back to try to win a third, was the 5-2 favorite when the LVH SuperBook posted its opening future-book odds for the BCS title game to be held on Jan. 6, 2014, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The usual suspects also are at the top of the future-book list, with Oregon at 5-1, Ohio State (eligible again) at 6-1, and then the next five teams all from the SEC in case they can unseat Alabama: Georgia, Texas A&M (with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel), and South Carolina at 12-1; LSU at 15-1; and Florida at 20-1 (though they’re tied with Oklahoma State, Stanford, and Louisville, which also are 20-1). That’s basically six of the top eight (or 11, depending on how you’re counting) teams coming from the SEC.

Teams in the next tier include: Notre Dame, Michigan, Clemson, and Texas all at 30-1, and Florida State and Oklahoma at 40-1. This year’s preseason favorite, USC, is 60-1 along with cross-town rival UCLA. No other team opened under 100-1.

Back to the NFL betting board

I went 0-2 against the spread last week as the Bengals and Vikings fell short. I’m just glad I didn’t pick all four underdogs as favorites went 4-0 SU and ATS. Let’s go with one underdog each from Saturday and Sunday this weekend, and though I’m obligated to list them at +9.5, both could very well go up to +10 by kickoff, so as my momma told me: “You better shop around” (note: in the other games, I prefer the Packers-49ers under 45 and the Falcons –2.5 over the Seahawks).

Ravens +9.5 vs. Broncos

The Broncos have won 11 straight (and they’re 8-2-1 ATS in that stretch after starting the season 2-3), so it’s no surprise that the public is on the Peyton Manning bandwagon as they’re now the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the 5-2 Super Bowl favorite. The Broncos won the earlier meeting 34-17, but keep in mind that was the week they changed offensive coordinators and were missing Ray Lewis and several other starters that are now back and healthy. The Ravens fell behind 10-0 in that game and were marching late in the first half, but instead of a TD to get within three, the Broncos got a pick six to make it 17-0 and the rout was on. If the Ravens can avoid getting down big early, they should stay in the game throughout, especially with the ground game of Ray Rice (and look for backup Bernard Pierce to make some plays if the Broncos ignore him when Rice takes a breather). Besides, I’ve had success going against Manning over the years as he’s 9-10 ATS in the playoffs.

PLAY: Ravens for 1 unit.

Texans +9.5 vs. Patriots

It may sound strange, but the Patriots are another team whose reputation exceeds their playoff accomplishments, especially in recent years. They’re just 2-7-1 ATS off of a postseason bye week (first-round byes, but also includes their two Super Bowl losses to the Giants) and 1-7 ATS in their last eight playoff games as chalk. This is another rematch of a previous rout as the Patriots blew out the Texans 42-14 in Week 12. As this line creeps toward double digits, keep in mind that the Patriots were 2-4 as double-digit favorites this year, and they often let teams stick around. Arian Foster needs a big game to keep the Patriots’ offense off the field, but the other key will be J.J. Watt and company needing to put more pressure on Tom Brady. I think they can do both in a game that shouldn’t be played as loose as the previous meeting.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Last week: 0-2 for a net loss of 2.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 25-26 for a net loss of 3.6 units.