11/03/2011 10:11AM

At least Breeders' Cup doesn't have to buck LSU vs. Alabama


Ever since starting in 1984, the Breeders’ Cup has always had to compete with college football.

Compete for TV time, compete for coverage on the day of the races, compete for headlines in the Sunday newspapers, and now in the new-media age competing for mentions on Twitter and Facebook. When your event is held in the middle of the day on a fall Saturday, there’s no way to avoid it (of course, if the BC was held instead on Sunday, that would be even more of a mismatch, so we won’t go there).

The battle continues this Saturday with the Breeders’ Cup World Championship races going against a full slate of college football for the attention of viewers, and the wagering interest of gamblers. But it should be noted that horse racing caught a major break last month that should help in both regards.

DRF SPORTS: Latest betting lines, StatFox matchups, and handicapping news for every game

You see, the top two college football teams in the nation – No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama – are facing off at 8 p.m. Eastern in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about an hour after the Breeders’ Cup Classic is run at Churchill Downs. The game was originally scheduled for 3:30 p.m., which would have put it smack dab in the middle of the BC card, stealing viewers, gamblers, and media attention during that time.

Instead, horse racing gets a more captive audience (though there’s plenty of other games going on, but at least the marquee match up has been pushed back) and can conduct its business and then after the trophies are awarded and the post-race interviews have been conducted, we can all sit back and relax while watching the big game.

As far as the betting on the game goes, Alabama was as low as -4 and as high as -6 last week in advance wagering on this game. Predictably, just about all books settled in at -5 earlier this week, but some more money has come on LSU to push the consensus to Bama -4.5 as of Thursday morning. That’s pretty much in line with the Don Best Linemakers Poll, which has had the Crimson Tide ranked No. 1 all year. That poll included power ratings and Alabama is currently 123.5 while LSU is 121.9, or a difference of 1.6. When you factor in 3 points for home field, that’s pretty much spot-on the current line.

I have no opinion on the side as the line is obviously pretty tight, though I would lean to the under 42 points as the defenses should dominate as we often see in the SEC.

Back to the Breeders’ Cup.

If you’re in Vegas and looking for a place to watch/wager, the two biggest public Breeders’ Cup parties are held at the Orleans and South Point. Both open ballrooms to accommodate the crowds (it also makes it a little less crowded in the book for the football bettors). Every other race book is open for business, though it will be harder to get a seat and spread out your Racing Form .

◗ If you’re looking to compete beyond the parimutuel pools (which is where the big money can be made on BC Day), Jerry’s Nugget in North Las Vegas has a $10 buy-in handicapping contest with a guaranteed prize pool. If you want to take a shot at a bigger prize, Station Casinos is offering a $20,000 Twin Quinella in which you try to pick the top two finishers in two designated races. The races weren’t finalized as of press time but Stations race and sports book director Jason McCormick said the BC Classic will be one of the races.

Back to the (football) betting board.

I went 2-1 for the second week in a row, winning with the Vikings +3.5 vs. the Panthers as they won outright and the Redskins-Bills under 46 as the Bills won by half that amount, 23-0. The loss was on the Jaguars +9.5 as they lost to the Texans, 24-14, with Houston adding a late field goal. I had to take the loss with the posted play at 9.5, but sincerely hope anyone playing the same side got the +10 that was widely available over the weekend.

Buccaneers-Saints o/u 50

I’m 3-0 the past three weeks with isolated under plays (as I was anticipating the early-season trend of an overabundance of overs to reverse, which it has), so I will try to keep that going. These teams met just three weeks ago with the Bucs pulling off a 26-20 upset, staying under the total of 50. We get the same number here (I guess that’s due to the game being on the faster track of the Superdome, plus the Saints putting up 62 points against the Colts and then going over the total of 48.5 last week in their 31-21 loss to the Rams doesn’t hurt), but that’s fine as I expect this game to be lower-scoring with more on the line with the NFC South lead hanging in the balance.

PLAY: Bucs-Saints Under 50 points for 1 unit.

Bengals +3 (-120) vs Titans

These are two of the surprise teams this season as both are a half-game out of first in their respective divisions and very much in the wild-card hunt. The Bengals have been more consistent, thanks to their defense, which is ranked fourth in the NFL, allowing less than 300 yards per game. The offense has been getting more in sync during their four-game winning streak. I get that the Titans are favored because they’re at home, but that just gives us some more betting value, though to get the +3 we have to lay a little more juice at -120 (risk $12 as opposed to the standard $11 to win $10).

PLAY: Bengals for 1 unit.

Ravens +3 (EV) vs. Steelers

Here’s a case where we get even money instead of -110 with the Ravens +3 (though you may prefer to risk -120 if you can get +3.5 and turn a potential 3-point push into a win). However, I’m hoping we don’t need the points at all, so the +155 on the money line might be the best bet of all. While many will point out that the Steelers are out for revenge for their 35-7 Week 1 loss at Baltimore, I often like the team that won the earlier meeting. And getting points is a bonus.

PLAY: Ravens for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1 for a net profit of 0.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 7-13 for a net loss of 7.3 units.