08/29/2013 2:44PM

Dave Tuley: 'Over' bettors on Alabama need perfect season to cash


It’s back to school time.

Yes, as a father of three who saw the kids increasingly get on each other’s nerves (and mom’s and dad’s as well) at the end of summer break, it was great to ship the two older ones off to school each morning this week. But I’m just as excited about hitting the books myself with the start of the college football season this weekend.

Any discussion of the season, which is the last of the BCS era before the playoff era begins next year, has to start with two-time defending champion Alabama. Heading into their season opener Saturday – in which they’re a 20 1/2-point road favorite at Virginia Tech – the Crimson Tide is the 5-2 favorite at the LVH SuperBook to win the BCS title game.

Ohio State is coming off an undefeated season, is off probation, and is the second choice at 9-2. Oregon is in the post-Chip Kelly era but is the 7-1 third choice, with Georgia and Texas A&M at 12-1 (Note: A&M was 15-1 on Wednesday before the resolution of the NCAA’s investigation into the Johnny Manziel autograph-signing scandal and universally panned half-game suspension, and then lowered to 12-1 after the announcement). Stanford is next at 15-1, followed by South Carolina at 20-1 (heading into its Thursday night opener) and then workers at Churchill Downs and other Louisville fans will be proud to know that the Cardinals are next in a group at 25-1 that also includes LSU, Florida, Clemson, and Florida State.

http://DRF SPORTS: Latest betting lines, StatFox matchups, and handicapping news for every game http://www.drf.com/sports

Back to Bama, the Tide is favored in every game this season, with the lowest being the 7-point spread when they go on the road to College Station, Texas, on Sept. 14 to seek revenge for last year’s only loss to A&M. Bama also is the 4-5 favorite to win the SEC championship game on Dec. 7 in Atlanta, and their over/under win total is the highest in the land at 11, meaning they would have to go 12-0 to cash as 11-1 is only a push. The LVH has the “over” favored at –120 (you have to risk $1.20 for every $1 you want to profit) with the under at even money. Oregon also is at 11, but the under is favored on that prop at –125. Ohio State and Louisville, both with schedules that are seen as easier than the other title contenders, have the next highest over/under at 10 1/2, with Florida State at 10 and Clemson, Texas, Georgia, Nebraska, South Carolina, Stanford, Oklahoma State, USC, and Boise State all at 9 1/2.

But as much as I love to discuss all these future-type bets, the biggest thrill of the season is the action on a game-to-game and week-to-week basis. Saturday’s slate is as small as we will see each week for the next 2 1/2 months as there are just 30 games on the main betting board, with another 17 “extra games” that are mostly top programs playing what are normally non-board teams (for example, Oregon –59 vs. Nicholls State, Tennessee –49 vs. Austin Peay, Georgia Tech –48 vs. Elon, and West Virginia –45 1/2 vs. William & Mary), but I have two games I like.

Northern Illinois +3 at Iowa

First things first: Some readers know that I went to NIU, but I long ago stopped betting on teams that I root for (which is a good thing since I’m also a die-hard Cubs fan). However, I do feel this is a good spot for the Huskies. I’m also not a big “revenge” handicapper, but the fact is that Iowa beat NIU, 18-17, in last year’s season-opener before the Huskies ran off 12 straight wins and earned a BCS berth in the Orange Bowl. Huskie QB Jordan Lynch and the rest of the team didn’t hit their stride until after that game and should be far better prepared. I certainly expect a higher-scoring game than last year, but I’m thinking NIU won’t have to score too much more as the Hawkeyes, coming off a 4-8 season and on a six-game losing streak, also are going with inexperienced (no college passes) sophomore Jake Ruddock. The Huskies just look like the better team coming in and after playing in the Orange Bowl, they shouldn’t be as intimidated as past NIU teams that have gone to Iowa and lost all eight times (including when I covered the team in 1986 and witnessed a 57-3 rout). The Huskies should be able to pull the outright upset, but if it’s a repeat of last year’s 18-17 result, that will work, too.

PLAY: Northern Illinois for 1 unit.

Toledo +24 at Florida

I’m going again with a Mid-American Conference team, but getting the amount of points we’re expected to see when a MAC team travels to a major conference opponent. Toledo was right with NIU last year after a 9-1 start and ranked No. 25 before fading late. The Rockets return most of their key players, including dual-threat QB Terrance Owens and tailback David Fluellen (1,498 rushing yards last season and 13 TDs). The key will be if they can succeed against a defensive unit that should be Florida’s strength again this year. The Gators’ offense isn’t as high-powered as it has been in the past, and that’s another reason I feel Toledo can compete here. After all, I’m not expecting the Rockets to beat the Gators outright (that’s paying 12-1, but I feel that’s short compared to the true odds of an upset), but I like their chances of staying within three touchdowns.

PLAY: Toledo for 1 unit.