09/30/2001 11:00PM

Early money this week goes to the dogs

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If the wise guys in Las Vegas are to be believed, it will be a dog day afternoon this Saturday .

The first eight bets made in Sunday night's "lottery," when big bettors get their names drawn to get first crack at the Stardust's opening football lines - were on college football underdogs. Bettors took the points with Indiana, Wake Forest, Colorado State, Central Florida, Temple, Iowa, Nevada, and Louisiana-Monroe before the first favorite, Maryland, was bet.

The trend continued as the next four line moves were toward the underdogs, making it 12 of the first 13. After an hour and a half, there were 30 separate college line moves and a whopping 27 (90 percent) were on the underdogs. Even Troy State, which opened as a 53-point underdog to No. 1-ranked Miami-Fla. got bet down to 52.

Only two NFL lines were adjusted. The first was the Chargers, who opened as a 3-point choice over the Browns. The line was moved to -3, -120, meaning bettors would have to lay $12 to win $10 on the Chargers while getting even-money on the Browns +3. A bettor did take the reduced juice on the Browns and the line was moved back to -3 with bettors laying $11 to win $10 on each team again.

The only other NFL line move in the lottery was the Saints, bet from a 4 1/2-point favorite over the Vikings down to 4.

Last week: College line moves were 9-9 and are now 36-26 over all. NFL line moves were 2-1, winning with the Steelers and Chargers and losing with the Dolphins, and are now 10-6 for the season.

Bettors slip a bit

After a banner week for bettors last week, bookmakers reported a modest profit this past weekend.

College football games mostly went the house's way, with a lot of favorites failing to cover the spread even when they won straight up. Examples: Oklahoma, Northwestern, Iowa, BYU, Washington, South Carolina, and Fresno State.

But players who teased those favorites (reducing the spread by 6, 7, or 10 points) in those games were able to stay alive on their tickets. A number of books paid off 10- and 15-team teaser cards worth thousands of of dollars, cutting significantly into their profits.

In NFL games on Sunday, the public cashed on the Packers, Chargers, Steelers, and Eagles. It's no coincidence that those were all favorites that were bet up. The books won their share of decisions with the Ravens and Browns winning outright as dogs. The most shocking result was the Patriots' 44-13 blowout of the Colts as a 14-point dog. That killed a lot of parlays and teasers for the house.

Books cheer for Bonds, Mariners

Las Vegas bookmakers are on the verge of being bailed out of some major liability. Around the All-Star break, several sports books (most notably the Imperial Palace, Mandalay Bay, and Stardust) posted props on whether Barry Bonds would hit 71 home runs to break Mark McGwire's record. The Stardust also had a prop asking if the Mariners would win 115 games to break the Yankees' American League record of 114.

In both props, the books took in more money on the "no" side. The bettors were figuring that Bonds would either feel the pressure or would get walked too often to have a decent chance. And Mariners doubters figured that they couldn't keep up their pace, or might rest their starters down the stretch for the playoffs.

Well, heading into Tuesday night's game, both Bonds and the Mariners were nearing their marks. Bonds had 69 homers with six games to play, including Tuesday through Thursday at Houston's Enron Field. The Mariners needed to win four of their last six games, which include three at Anaheim and three at home against Texas.

*Another baseball betting note: Go against a team the day after it clinches a division title. Last year, four of the six division winners lost their next game, and three of their opponents had prices of at least +140. This year, the Mariners lost the day after celebrating their title while the Yankees won the following day, but those betting both would have made a profit as the Angels opened as a +180 underdog against the Mariners at some books. But be sure to make this bet early. Professional bettors jumped all over the Angels and bet them all the way down to +130 at some outlets.

Public selectors score

Lem Banker, probably the best-known sports bettor of all, selected Bernard Hopkins to beat Felix Trinidad in the middleweight unification bout in New York on Saturday on Larry Grossman's "You Can Bet On It" radio show. Hopkins opened as a

3-1 underdog and was bet down to 5-2 at some bet shops. He won.

A golf writer in Buzz Daly's "Player's Choice" newspaper named Marco Parr predicted that Justin Leonard, the tournament's defending champ, to win the Texas Open. He did so easily at 10-1.