12/04/2006 12:00AM

Little fluctuation in Ohio State-Florida line


Shortly after 5 p.m. Pacific on Sunday, it was announced that Florida had leaped over Michigan to No. 2 in the BCS standings and would play Ohio State in the national championship football game on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

It didn't take long for the odds to go up on the marquee matchup. Las Vegas Sports Consultants sent out Ohio State as an 8-point favorite, and that's what the Las Vegas Hilton and the Palms opened with at the bottom of the hour. The MGM Mirage books went with Ohio State -7 1/2, which was the same line used by Pinnacle, the offshore giant, as well as the Harrah's/Caesars group in Vegas a short time later.

Wynn Las Vegas leaned the other way and made Ohio State -8 1/2. When smaller books posted lines later, they invariably went with the consensus line of 8. In fact, by noon Monday, every book I checked in Vegas and offshore was at 8, except for Harrah's/Caesars holding the line at 7 1/2 and Wynn still with the only 8 1/2 out there. Barring injuries, academic ineligibility, or suspensions, it's unlikely that line will ever go beyond those parameters.

After USC's loss to UCLA on Saturday, the debate began about whether Florida or Michigan was more worthy of facing Ohio State for the title. Should Michigan, with its only loss being at Ohio State and the No. 3 team behind USC (after still being No. 2 after its loss to the Buckeyes and before USC beat Notre Dame), get a rematch on a neutral field? Or did Michigan already have its chance and deserve to get bypassed since it didn't win its conference, especially when Florida won the hands-down best conference in the country?

During "SportsCenter" on Saturday night, the talking heads were giving both sides of the argument and at one point Chris Fowler chimed in, "Vegas has Michigan as a 6-point favorite over Florida on a neutral field."

Ken White, LVSC's co-owner and COO, confirmed that Fowler had gotten that number from calling the LVSC office and talking to senior oddsmaker Tony Sinisi. White said no one else was in the office at the time and Sinisi gave him his number, though the office consensus was actually Michigan -3 vs. Florida (note: White said his own number was -1). LVSC has its own Oddsmakers' Poll and has Michigan ranked No. 2, three power points ahead of Florida, which would have made it a 5-point dog if there had been a rematch vs. Ohio State.

Anyway, none of those numbers matter now, only the ones on the betting boards.

Other bowl lines

The MGM Mirage was the only book in Vegas to put up numbers on the rest of the BCS games on Sunday night. Michigan opened -1 1/2 vs. USC in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl and was bet to -2, Oklahoma opened -7 vs. Boise State in the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl, Louisville opened -9 vs. Boise State in the Jan. 2 Orange Bowl, and LSU opened -7 1/2 vs. Notre Dame in the Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl and got bet to -8.

It's interesting to note that, even though the BCS games are supposed to be the most competitive matchups with the top teams, only the Michigan-USC line is less than a touchdown.

The rest of the bowl odds didn't go up around town until Monday morning. The most competitively priced game in all of the bowls is Arkansas -1 vs. Wisconsin in the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl, pitting an SEC team vs. a Big 10 team. Arkansas lost to Florida in the SEC title game, while Wisconsin's only loss this season was at Michigan and the Badgers didn't get a chance to play Ohio State.

In all, there are 32 bowl games, leading off with TCU -13 vs. Northern Illinois in the Dec. 19 Poinsettia Bowl. That's the biggest spread on the board, followed by Texas -11 1/2 vs. Iowa in the Dec. 30 Alamo Bowl, Central Michigan -11 vs. Middle Tennessee in the Dec. 26 Motor City Bowl, and Clemson -10o1/2 vs. Kentucky in the Dec. 29 Music City Bowl.

The second bowl is here in Sin City, with BYU -6 vs. Oregon in the Dec. 21 Las Vegas Bowl. BYU is making its second straight trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, and with the Cougars' loyal following, just like last year when the Las Vegas Bowl set an attendance record, the game is already a sellout.

NFL opening line moves

The bowl odds were the big news to come out of the sports books on Sunday night, but the NFL numbers also got posted and pounded into shape.

One of the wackiest line moves I've ever seen happened at the Hilton for this Thursday's Browns-Steelers game. The Steelers opened -8 at the Hilton, but money came in on the Browns and it dropped to 7. Then, it got bet to -9 over the next half-hour. It stayed there overnight, and then Monday morning it got bet to 8 1/2, 8, 7 1/2, and finally 7.

There were some other strange occurrences. LVSC sent the Vikings out as a 1 1/2-point road favorite over the Lions. The Hilton made the line pick-em and the Stratosphere went with Lions -1 1/2. The bettors backed the Lions up to -3 at the Strat and to -2 1/2 at the Hilton, which was the consensus number as of Monday morning.

When the Hilton had its advance lines up last week prior to any games being played, the Buccaneers were a 1-point favorite vs. the Falcons. After the Falcons beat the Redskins and the Bucs were routed by the Steelers, the Falcons are now 3-point favorites.

In a less-logical adjustment (at least in my eyes), the Seahawks were -6 a week ago for their upcoming game at Arizona. The Cardinals beat the Rams, which is no big deal as the Seahawks beat the Rams twice, and the line was moved to Seahawks -3 at the Stratosphere and -3 1/2 at the Hilton.

The game was then taken off the board as the Seahawks played the Broncos on Sunday night. After Seattle went into Denver and won, the line was reposted with the Seahawks still only -3. Grab that if you can as it's much more likely to rise again to 3 1/2 or 4, which is where I'm thinking it should have been in the first place.

The adjustment was much more understandable in the Chargers-Broncos game. The Chargers opened at -6 and -6 1/2 at the Stratosphere and Hilton, respectively. On Monday morning, the consensus line around town was Chargers -7 1/2.