01/09/2014 3:36PM

Dave Tuley: Florida State favored to repeat as college football champion


LAS VEGAS – Florida State beat Auburn 34-31 to win the final BCS title Monday night, but it could have gone either way.

Of course, that’s as far as the straight-up result was concerned. Florida State, which had mostly been favored by 8 or 8.5 points in the month leading up to the game, got bet up to a 10.5-point consensus favorite here in Vegas, but it’s hard to cover that big of a number when you never lead by more than a field goal the whole game.

Auburn jumped out to a 21-3 lead and dominated on both sides of the ball before Florida State rallied. It was back-and-forth in the fourth quarter, and fans were on the edge of their seats nationwide, but the underdog bettors were smiling at the end of the night (except for those who took Auburn on the money line at odds of around 3-1).

In fact, it was a very good first week of 2014 for underdog bettors as a whole. Dogs went 5-0 against the spread in the BCS bowl games, with four outright upsets (Michigan State over Stanford in the Rose Bowl, Central Florida over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Clemson over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl).

The NFL also was dangerous for chalk players, as dogs went 3-0-1 against the spread over the wild-card weekend, with the Colts closing as a 1.5-point home underdog and rallying to beat the Chiefs 45-44, the Saints beating the Eagles 26-24 as a three-point road dog, and the Chargers beating the Bengals 27-10 as a 6.5-point road dog.

But back to college football: The sports-betting world doesn’t pause before looking ahead to the next season, the next championship, the next bet. The LVH SuperBook made Florida State the 5-2 favorite to repeat, though next year will feature the new four-team playoff format, with the title game Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, at AT&T Stadium (aka Jerry World) in Arlington, Texas, after the semifinals are played in the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Alabama and Oregon, who appeared early in the 2013 season to be on a collision course for the BCS title game, are the co-second choices at 5-1, with Ohio State and Oklahoma next in line at 12-1. Auburn, despite being so close Monday, is at 20-1 along with LSU, UCLA, and Baylor. Michigan State and Wisconsin opened at 25-1, with Stanford and Arizona State at 30-1, Mississippi at 35-1, and Texas at 50-1.

The LVH put up its odds Tuesday, before Johnny Manziel announced that he was entering the NFL draft, but that announcement certainly didn’t take anyone by surprise, as the LVH opened Texas A&M at 60-1 along with Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Notre Dame, Clemson, and Kansas State.

You’ll note that none of the top 22 teams listed was from a smaller conference. Also, eight are from the SEC, which had won seven straight BCS titles before the string was snapped Monday.

Back to the betting board

I went 1-0-1 in last week’s wild-card games, as the Chiefs +2.5 looked like the right side the whole game before the Colts rallied to win 45-44, but I still got the cover, and then I pushed on the Packers +3 in their 23-20 loss to the 49ers. That’ll work after a disappointing regular season.

Let’s see if we can keep the momentum going with a game each Saturday and Sunday.

Colts +7.5 at Patriots

The Colts never give up, and that’s a key reason why I’m taking them here. I don’t often fade the Patriots at home, but they’re not as strong as they’ve been in years past. Besides, they’ve been eliminated at home in three of the past four postseasons. The Patriots also have a lot of holes on defense, so even if the offense clicks (and we’ve seen that it’s not as potent since Rob Gronkowski was injured), the Colts should be able to trade scores with them.

PLAY: Colts for 1 unit.

Chargers +9.5 vs. Broncos

I grabbed the +10 earlier in the week, and hopefully underdog bettors will see that come back over the weekend. Regardless, I think the Chargers are the right side. A lot of people are saying that they didn’t deserve to make the playoffs because they needed the Dolphins and Ravens to lose and then still almost blew it against the Chiefs’ backups, but if you can throw out that one game (like we do in horse racing when a horse has one subpar race in its past performances), they certainly fit.

The Chargers have won seven of their last eight games, and the only loss was to the Bengals, which they avenged in convincing fashion last week. They also beat the Chiefs and these same Broncos in that stretch (and all of those games were in the cold, proving that these Southern California boys can take their show on the road). The Chargers’ win in the last meeting wasn’t a fluke, and I’ll gladly take the points here.

PLAY: Chargers for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-0-1 for a profit of 1 unit. NFL regular-season record: 12-17 for a net loss of 6.7 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1).