12/08/2011 3:29PM

Early money pours in on Alabama in BCS title game vs.LSU


It was made official Sunday that LSU will be playing Alabama in the BCS Championship Game on Monday, Jan. 9.

Before and after the announcement, there was the usual pontificating about the absurdity of how we determine a national champion at the highest level of college football, about whether or not people wanted to see a rematch of LSU’s 9-6 win at Alabama last month, whether a team that doesn’t even win the division of its conference (Bama finished second in the SEC West) should be playing for the national title, and whether other teams should have the chance instead. A lot of people broke out their mythical four-team, eight-team, or 16-team tournament brackets and argued for a playoff.

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Here in Vegas, those conversations take place just like anywhere else, but I argue that they last shorter than other places because as much as Vegas is a fantasyland, we also are able to focus in on the reality of the situation.

The reality is that – as much as we personally want another system – LSU is playing Alabama in the only championship we’re going to get. The Wynn Las Vegas already had LSU as a 2-point favorite when the game was made official and the Las Vegas Hilton went with LSU -1 and saw early money on LSU. The offshore book CRIS also opened at -1 and saw that number bet to -1.5 and then -2 before all the books saw a reversal with more money coming in on Alabama. By Tuesday, a lot of Vegas and offshore books were dealing the game at pick-em with some holding the line at LSU -1.

The over/under opened at 40 points, but with neither team scoring a touchdown in the first meeting and the vast majority of people saying the under was the only way to go, that dropped to 39.5 by Monday and has pretty much stayed there since then.

The other BCS games also were posted shortly after they were finalized Sunday afternoon. The biggest discrepancy between the Wynn’s opener and offshore was the Wynn making Virginia Tech -3 vs. Michigan in the Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl – a game where many people believe neither was worthy of a BCS payday, especially at the expense of Boise State among others – while CRIS made Michigan a 1-point favorite. That line has gravitated toward the offshore number (and beyond) with the Wolverines now -2.5 at many books.

The other big mover in early wagering was the Jan. 2 Rose Bowl. Wynn opened the Pac-12’s Oregon -4.5 vs. the Big 10’s Wisconsin and CRIS went with -3, but both saw money come in on the Ducks and the consensus line as of noon Thursday was Oregon -6 and still climbing.

The lines on the other BCS games are more solid with Oklahoma State -3.5 vs. Stanford in the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl and Clemson -3 vs. West Virginia in the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl.

The rest of the bowl games were posted on Monday with a lot of competitive matchups, as evidenced by 15 of the 35 bowls having point spreads of 3 points or less (and another at 3.5). The biggest spreads are Oklahoma -14.5 vs. Iowa (down from an opener of -16 at the Wynn) in the Dec. 30 Insight Bowl and Boise State -14 vs. Arizona State in the Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl.

Back to the NFL betting board

I went 1-2 with my NFL plays last week as I won with the Colts +20.5 vs. the Colts but lost with the Bengals vs. the Steelers and the Rams vs. the 49ers. With every team having four games left in the 16-game regular season, we’re at the quarter pole (and don’t we all chuckle when we read/hear sports commentators talk about teams being at the quarter pole after the first one-fourth of the season?) so hopefully we’re in for a winning stretch drive.

Texans +3 vs. Bengals

The Texans showed last week that they’re a real team as their defense was able to shut down the Falcons and third-string quarterback T.J. Yates was able to lead them to the victory and improve to 9-3 overall and 8-3-1 in the ViewFromVegas NFL ATS Standings (second only to the 49ers at 10-1-1). The Bengals have overachieved this season (and I’ve had success backing them – except against the Steelers), but I think the Texans are still better than them on both sides of the ball and should pass this test as well.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Raiders +11 vs. Packers

Yes, the Packers stayed undefeated last week with a 38-35 win over the Giants, but they didn’t cover the 7-point spread, so they’re not invincible against the Great Equalizer (aka the spread). In fact, they’re 3-4 ATS when laying a touchdown or more. The Raiders didn’t help my confidence level with the Dolphins blowing them out 34-14, but that’s the NFL and I expect them to at least bounce back and be competitive as their backs are against the wall with the Broncos catching them in the AFC West.

PLAY: Raiders for 1 unit.

Bears +3.5 vs. Broncos

Speaking of the Broncos, the marketplace has certainly caught up with them. They have covered five straight games and are favored for the first time since facing the winless Dolphins in Tim Tebow’s debut in Week 7. The last time they were favored against a winning team was Week 2 against the 1-0 Bengals, so we’re definitely seeing a shift in respect from the oddsmakers and public perception (perhaps bigger proof of that is the Broncos are only +6 vs. the Patriots in Week 15 advance wagering when that line would have been a lot closer to double digits a few weeks ago). Anyway, no team is as good as it looks when it’s winning and no team is as bad as it looks when losing (such as the Bears’ 10-3 loss to the Chiefs last week), so the value is on the Bears here even without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.

PLAY: Bears for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-2 for a loss of 1.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 14-21-1 for a net loss of 8.1 units.