11/24/2003 12:00AM

Early football betting moving to Mondays

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The college football season is winding down, and so is the early wagering on Sunday night at the Stardust in which bettors take the first crack at the opening numbers for the following week's games.

Starting next week, the "lottery" will be moving to 8 a.m. Mondays because the emphasis will be on the NFL. Of course, it's anticipated that college football will again be the main attraction at the Stardust on Monday, Dec. 8, when the college bowl lines are expected to be posted.

"It just makes sense to wait for the next morning with so few college games on the board after this week and with a lot of NFL games being off the board," said Bob Scucci, the Stardust's race and sports book director.

Moving the NFL betting opener to Monday morning also allows oddsmakers the chance to gather more injury information. The long season takes a toll on players around this time and you start to see more games off the board. For example, in addition to the games involving teams that were playing Sunday and Monday night, there were four other games off the board because of various injuries. As we head into the final month of the NFL season, oddsmakers also need to look at factors such as which teams might be throwing in the towel or giving more second-stringers the chance to show if they've got what it takes.

In this week's early betting, despite only 29 college games being on the board compared to an average of 45-50 on a normal week, there was as much line movement Sunday night as there has seen the past two weeks, and certainly a higher percentage of games were being bet.

Several of the games that moved were around the key numbers of 3 and 7, so they will bear watching during the week. In Friday's games, Nebraska was bet from a 2 1/2- to a 3-point favorite in its game at Colorado. Bettors sided with the home teams in the Arizona St.-Arizona and Texas A&M-Texas rivalries.

In Saturday's games, early bettors laid -3 with Miami-Fla. vs. Pitt and Notre Dame vs. Stanford, while taking Rutgers +7 at home vs. Syracuse. The biggest surprise was Virginia being bet from pick-em to -2 1/2 vs. Virginia Tech, which was once thought to be on a collision course with Miami-Fla. for an undefeated season and a spot in the Sugar Bowl. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

In the NFL, early bettors sided with two home teams - the Colts vs. the Patriots, which looks like it will be settling in at Colts -4, and the Chargers vs. the Chiefs, which is likely to come down to Chiefs -7.

Early bettors also went for the over in the Patriots-Colts game, betting up the total from 42 to 42 1/2, and the under in the Eagles-Panthers game, moving the number from 37 to 36 1/2. It should be noted that early bettors have won seven of the eight times they've bet enough to move an NFL total this season. If you like that trend, the Patriots-Colts over and Eagles-Panthers under would be the plays.