10/24/2004 11:00PM

A light day for football plays


Sunday night had a different feel than any other this fall.

There was no Sunday night NFL game on ESPN and the sports world instead focused its attention on the second game of the World Series, with Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox taking on the St. Louis Cardinals.

So, with football on the backburner of many people's minds, it wasn't surprising that there was less early betting when the opening lines were posted for this upcoming weekend's gridiron action. Sure, there were still professional bettors to be seen shopping around for the best numbers, but at the Stardust - where a week ago 26 college football games were bet off their opening numbers - there were only nine college line moves out of 41 available games (six college games were off the board due to uncertain injury status of key players).

Seven of the nine line moves were on away teams, a complete reversal of an earlier trend in which Vegas bettors were seeing more value on home teams compared to offshore numbers.

The biggest college move was No. 1 ranked Southern Cal getting bet from a 22-point favorite over Washington St. up to -23 1/2. The reason for the move was because offshore books opened the line at USC -24.

In the NFL, four sides and four totals were bet enough to move off their opening numbers. The biggest point-spread move was on the Texans, who opened as a 1-point home underdog to the Jaguars and were bet to a 1-point favorite.

As we've seen more and more, there were two lines that took significant action, but instead of moving the number, the Stardust adjusted the vigorish. The Cowboys opened at -3 with the standard -110 vig vs. the Lions, but instead of moving to 3 1/2 when money showed on the home favorite, the price was changed to -3 (-120), meaning if bettors still wanted to back the Cowboys they would have to risk $1.20 for every dollar they wanted to win instead of the standard $1.10. To entice money on the other side, bettors wanting to take the Lions would get even money on +3.

The same thing happened in the Dolphins-Jets game, except the Jets opened as a 7-point favorite and money came in on the underdog. Because of this, it was the Dolphins bettors who then would have to lay -120 if they still wanted the +7, and Jets backers were able to get even-money on -7. Offshore books were dealing the Jets -6 1/2, but bettors had to lay -110.

The only other point spread to move was the Packers being bet up from 1 1/2-point road favorites over the Redskins up to 2 1/2. By Monday morning, that game was off the board because of the questionable status of Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre. Another game that was taken down since the opening numbers were posted was the Colts-Chiefs. The Colts opened as 2 1/2-point favorites, but the game was removed because of injuries to Kansas City running back Priest Holmes.

The early NFL bettors continued their hot streak on NFL totals, going 2-0 Sunday to improve to 12-6 (67 percent) on the season heading into Monday night's game. There were four totals bet for this upcoming weekend's games, with the biggest move coming in the Dolphins-Jets game next Monday night. The Stardust opened the over-under at 37 points and - with offshores having it as low as 34 1/2 - it got bet down to 35 1/2. The Packers-Redskins and Ravens-Eagles also took money on the under, and the only over was on the Jaguars-Texans, which opened at 41 1/2 and was bet up to 42 1/2. That game will be a contrast of styles and trends; the Jaguars are 5-2 with the under and the Texans are 4-2 with the over.

Breeders' Cup week off and running

Las Vegas racebooks are welcoming horseplayers this week for the Breeders' Cup, and two casino companies are starting the festivities early.

The "Pick the Ponies" handicapping tournament, slated for Wednesday through Friday at the Las Vegas Hilton, has sold out with a full field of 200 entries, with those registering by the early-bird deadline of Oct. 4 paying $400 and the late entries paying $500. The Hilton makes up the difference in the $100,000 paid out to the top 30 finishers. The winner will take home $38,000.

* The Coast Casinos family of racebooks is going with another format with the live-money "Coast to Coast Shootout," which is being run concurrently Wednesday and Thursday at the Gold Coast and Suncoast.

The entry fee is $300.