10/26/2006 12:00AM

Dr. Bob steam train keeps on rolling


The legend of Dr. Bob and the Thursday line moves continues to grow.

As stated last week in this space, San Francisco-based handicapper Bob Stoll sends his plays to his clients and they, along with other people riding the steam train, bet the games immediately. Like clockwork, at 10 a.m. Pacific on Thursday, the screens start lighting up. If you saw the line moves as they were happening, you would guess Dr. Bob had a lot of releases, but in reality he only had three best bets: Miami-Ohio, South Carolina, and Marshall. This is how those got bet in the minutes following their release:

Bob's pick Open Move Foe
Miami-Ohio -3.5 -5.5 Ball St.
S. Carolina +4.5 +3 Tennessee
Marshall -7 -10 Memphis

But, with as hot as Dr. Bob has been (hitting over 70 percent on a weighted basis), what he calls his "strong opinions" were also pounded, including Virginia, Northwestern, Texas Tech, Oregon St., Arizona St., Nevada, and San Jose St. And another thing is happening. Bettors are trying to predict Dr. Bob's picks and betting games ahead of time in hopes of beating the steam.

Veteran bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro, who is now the marketing director for Leroy's, says all of this is good for the business.

"Even though this guy is doing great, the last four Saturdays for Leroy's and most other books I've talked to have been good," Vaccaro said. "I believe it's good for the industry because it shakes things up during the week, especially at 10 a.m. on a Thursday when you could usually drive a tank through a lot of these books and not hurt anyone."

He likened it to the 1980's and 90's when another doctor, Doc of Doc's Sports, was all the rage in the middle of hitting his Big 10 Game of the Year in 19 straight years. Vaccaro said when he was at the Mirage, bettors would fire away on all five Big 10 games the week of Doc's release just to make sure they got it ahead of the move.

"The current situation is like having a Doc's Big Ten Game of the Year every week," Vaccaro said. "This drives volume and gets people betting, and that's always good as long as you're writing tickets. And the books know it's coming at that time, so they can move the lines quicker or lower limits or whatever they want to do to manage their risk."

Like a lot of people, I sat Thursday morning hoping the steam would come in on bets I'd already made and help me get better lines on plays I was waiting to make. It worked out fairly well in that regard.

Tennessee (-3) at South Carolina

This is a game I had already bet at Tennessee -4 and I wasn't going to include it as a bankroll play, but with the move to 3, I decided to add it. For me, it comes down to thinking the Tennessee offense has a bigger edge vs. the South Carolina defense than the South Carolina offense does vs. Tennessee's defense. In fact, with the benefit of watching extra game film on Gamecocks quarterback Sylvelle Newton, the Vols' defense might not be at a disadvantage at all. Tennesse should just have too much as I expect big plays from quarterback Erik Ainge and receiver Robert Meachem.

PLAY: Tennessee for 1 unit.

BYU (-8) at Air Force

I'm taking another road underdog here as I think BYU lays all over Air Force. BYU quarterback John Beck nearly pulled off an upset of Boston College five weeks ago and has been superb ever since. Air Force won't be able to keep up with its running attack, and if the Falcons try to pass, this will turn into even more of a blowout.

PLAY: BYU for 1 unit.

Syracuse (+6 1/2) at Cincinnati

These teams have had similar seasons. Both covered in wins over Miami-Ohio, both lost and covered vs. Louisville, both didn't cover vs. Pittsburgh. For me, Syracuse was slightly better in those games and this game should be more around pick-em or under a field goal, so I'll take the points.

PLAY: Syracuse for 1 unit.

New Mexico St. (+17 1/2) at Nevada

New Mexico St., with the No. 1 ranked passing offense in the nation at 419 yards per game, is perfectly suited to get back-door covers, as they did for me last week in the 49-30 loss to Hawaii. And if the Aggies can actually stay closer in the first half of a game, as they might be able to do this week with Nevada quarterback Jeff Rowe possibly having to sit out with a hamstring injury, that could make this big number even easier to cover.

PLAY: New Mexico St. for 1 unit.

Buffalo (+35) at Boston College

Like New Mexico St., Buffalo is a team that tries hard to the end. The Buffs are 1-6 on the year but 4-2-1 against the spread. Boston College tends to play down to the level of competition and plays close games - despite their 6-1 record, the Eagles are just 3-3 against the spread (the 22-0 win over Division I-AA Maine was off the betting boards) - and after big wins the last two weeks vs. Virginia Tech and Florida St., I can't see them getting up too much for this game. I'll take the five-touchdown head-start.

PLAY: Buffalo for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-1, both of which were 2-unit plays, for a net loss 0.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). College season record: 22-20 for a net loss of 0.1 units.