10/15/2001 12:00AM

Full house takes crack at opening lines


As a whole, football bettors didn't fare too well this past weekend, yet there was still a full house at the Stardust Sunday night for the opening lines of this upcoming weekend's games, and the "lottery" bettors were ready to fire away.

Of the 51 college football games on the board this week (including games on Tuesday and Friday nights), 26 received enough action to move the lines.

Among the early line moves was Friday night's game. Fresno State opened at -16 and the money came in on Boise State, getting dropped to 15 and 14 before someone bought back the Fresno State side and the line settled at 14 1/2.

Other college lines that moved more than a point include Temple getting bet from a 19-point dog at Syracuse down to 17, Toledo getting bet up from 21 to 22 1/2 points over Ball State, Ohio getting bet from a 6- to an 8-point favorite over Miami-Ohio, Central Florida getting bet from -30 to 31 1/2 over UL Monroe, and Vanderbilt being bet from an 18-point underdog at South Carolina down to 16 1/2.

The NFL had more action than usual, including line moves on three totals. The over/under on Thursday's Bills-Jaguars game was raised from 37 to 37 1/2, while the bettors liked the under on two NFC Central vs. AFC Centrals battles, the Bears-Bengals (from 37 down to 36 1/2) and Steelers-Buccaneers (33 1/2 down to 33).

In NFL sides, bettors liked the Lions (+7 down to +6 1/2 vs. the Titans), the Cardinals (+3 down to +2 1/2 vs. the Chiefs), the Vikings (they remained a 3-point dog vs. the Packers, but the money line on taking 3 points moved to -120 instead of the standard -110), and the Eagles (from +3 1/2 to +3 vs. the Giants).

In last week's lottery, the record on college line moves was 11-16. The record for the year is 64-50 (56 percent) after being over 60 percent early in the season. NFL line moves were 1-2 going into the Monday night game (the early money last week went on the Cowboys) and are now breaking even - if you consider the vig - with a record of 11-10.

Tough week for bettors

With a lot of line moves going in the wrong direction, it was no surprise that bookmakers around Las Vegas report a very profitable weekend.

The biggest upset of the weekend was the biggest loser for bettors. The Florida Gators, assumed to be on the way to a national championship showdown, opened as a 20-point favorite against Auburn and got bet up to -26 and even 26 1/2 by kickoff Saturday. It never was close. Auburn's 23-20 outright victory also killed a lot of teaser and parlay cards. Those cards are printed early in the week and most had Florida -21 1/2, so when the line kept going up, a lot of parlay bettors thought they saw value on the cards and fired away.

Another parlay-card decision that went the books' way was the Bears-Cardinals in the NFL. On the betting boards, the game pushed at a lot of books, with the Bears winning 20-13 as a 7-point favorite. But most parlay cards faded the Bears to 7 1/2. Parlay bettors, especially tourists, love to parlay favorites, and they ended up on the wrong side of that decision.

Another big loser for bettors was the Rams, who opened as a 9-point favorite over the Giants and were bet all the way up to 13 at many books. The Rams' non-covering 15-14 victory also killed a ton of teasers and parlays. It wasn't surprising that the public jumped all over the Rams because it was their biggest winner versus the books last week, in a Monday night rout of the Lions. But the bookmakers got a lot of that money back on Sunday.

There were a lot of exciting finishes Sunday, and most went the bookmakers' way, including the Lions' late cover against the Vikings, the Saints' non-cover against the Panthers, and the Jets' rally against the Dolphins.

One that slipped away from the bookmakers was the 49ers' 37-31 overtime win over the Falcons. Most of the money was bet on the 49ers to cover a 3 1/2-point spread, so bettors needed a San Fran TD to get the money. A field goal wouldn't do it. The 49ers were at the Falcons' 16 on their first possession in overtime and appeared ready to go for a game-winning kick, but Jeff Garcia fumbled the ball away. The 49ers got the ball back and Garcia hooked up with Terrell Owens down the sideline and Owens outran two potential tacklers to score the winning touchdown. If either defensive back had pushed him out of bounds, the 49ers probably would have settled for the field goal.

Betting on "minor" sports

Baseball has had some exciting playoff games, but they take a backseat to the NFL in Las Vegas. During the Sunday night game between the Raiders and Colts, the Stardust switched the main screen and audio to the Game 5 battle between the Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals. Customers started complaining. That illustrated how football is No. 1.

In case anyone's interested, here are some trends from the baseball playoffs heading into Monday's Game 5's in the American League: The road teams were 10-6 (the difference being the road team won the first four games of the A's-Yankees series) while the unders, despite the fact they are lowered during the playoffs, were 11-4 with Sunday's 6-2 win by the Mariners being the first push of the postseason.

* Bob Estes won the Invensys Classic as part of the field at 6-5. But the bigger news locally was that Tiger Woods didn't play for the fifth straight year. Tournament organizers gave Woods an exemption in 1996 when the tournament was called the Las Vegas Invitational and that was his first Tour victory. Woods was spotted playing at a private course in town over the weekend, practicing for the upcoming Tour Championship, instead of drawing huge crowds to the tournament.