09/22/2002 11:00PM

Early money likes home teams

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LAS VEGAS - With so many road teams winning (or at least covering) so far this season, you would think home-field advantage was a thing of the past in football. But early bettors were loading up on home teams Sunday night at the Stardust lottery, in which the professional bettors get first crack at the opening numbers.

Of the 16 college games that took enough money to move the line, 10 favored home teams. The biggest move was on Hawaii, which opened as a 19-point favorite over SMU and was bet in increments up to -20, -20.5, before settling in at -21.5.

The home trend was even stronger in the NFL, despite the fact home teams went only 4-8-1 against the spread on Sunday. But in games for the upcoming weekend, home teams were backed in six of the eight pointspread moves. Big bettors thought they saw value on the Bills, Jaguars, Steelers, and Raiders as home favorites, while also siding with the Chiefs and Ravens as home dogs.

But the most intriguing opening line move was on a road team, as the expansion Texans were bet from a 21-point dog down to 20.5. That spread is the largest in the NFL since the 49ers were a 23.5-point favorite over the Bengals in 1993. FYI: The 49ers won, but didn't cover, 21-8.

Another interesting note: The Stardust didn't post a total on the Texans-Eagles game. Las Vegas Sports Consultants recommended an over/under of 36, but Stardust race and sports director Joe Lupo said they didn't want to get flooded with correlation bets on either Texans/under or Eagles/over (which, because of such a high pointspread and a low total, would have a much better chance than the normal 13-5 odds offered on a two-team parlay). A posted total is expected later in the week.

Early football line moves

COLLEGE

Took moneyOpenBet ToOpponent

TEMPLE+7+6Cincinnati

NAVY -2.5-3 (+100)Duke

MICHIGAN ST.-21-21.5Northwestern

UTAH-8.5-9Air Force

Texas-28-29TULANE

AUBURN-10.5-11.5Syracuse

Minnesota+4+3.5PURDUE

SAN DIEGO ST.+14.5+14Ucla

HAWAII-19-21.5Smu

Central Michigan+22+21BOSTON COLLEGE

Toledo +3.5+3PITTSBURGH

CONNECTICUT-5-5.5Ball St.

Kent+6+5.5NO. ILLINOIS

AKRON+11.5+10.5Miami-Ohio

OKLAHOMA-27.5-28.5South Florida

North Texas+16+15ARIZONA

NFL

Took moneyOpenBet ToOpponent

CHIEFS+3.5+3Dolphins

BILLS-2.5 (-120)-3Bears

JAGUARS-3-3.5Jets

Texans +21+20.5EAGLES

STEELERS-6-6.5Browns

RAIDERS-6-6.5Titans

Vikings +3+3 (-120)SEAHAWKS

RAVENS+8+7.5Broncos

Bears-Bills under4443.5

Panthers-Packers under4443.5

Last week: The college lottery line moves hit only 50 percent for the second straight week, going 8-8. Navy was the big loser for early bettors as several bets were made to move the Midshipmen's line from -2.5 to -3 over Northwestern, only to have them lose outright 49-40. For the season, the early college bettors still have a losing record at 36-39. In the NFL, the early bettors went 4-0 - winning with the Dolphins, Saints, Lions and Falcons - and were 9-9 on the season heading into Monday night's game (the bettors pounded the Bucs at +3 when the line went up last Sunday).