10/22/2003 11:00PM

Oddmakers' rankings most realistic

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LAS VEGAS - The first BCS rankings of the season came out Monday and were met with the usual amount of criticism.

Some people questioned why Northern Illinois and Texas Christian - the only undefeated teams in Division I-A besides Oklahoma, Miami, and Virginia Tech - were ranked behind so many one-loss teams at No. 10 and No. 14, respectively.

Well, those people should be glad that the Oddsmakers' Top 25 isn't part of the BCS formula, which uses the AP writers' poll, the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, an assortment of computer ratings, and strength of schedule. In the oddsmakers' poll, TCU is No. 24 and NIU is No. 25.

"The other polls have Northern Illinois at No. 10, but I don't think there are only nine teams better than them in the country," said Keith Glantz, oddsmaker for Sports at a Glantz Inc. and probably best known as co-founder of the nationally syndicated Glantz-Culver Line. "I think every team we have ranked ahead of them would be favored on a neutral field."

The Oddsmakers' Top 25 began five years ago, was disbanded for a while, and started up again this year. In addition to Glantz, the voters include Cesar Robaina and Tony Sinisi, oddsmakers for Las Vegas Sports Consultants; Stuart Doyle, sports director of WWTS; Bob Scucci, race and sports book director at the Stardust; MajorStats.com handicappers David Malinsky, Bob Bredice, and Arne Lang; and the Winning Points newsletter.

"We have people who make the lines, people who take action on the lines and some that bet into the lines," Glantz said. "That's a good mix."

The traditional polls have many shortcomings, not the least of which is that coaches are too busy coaching their own teams to really study how well other teams are playing, especially out of their own conferences. In the same way, media voters have often been accused of a home or regional bias. Oddsmakers know they have to remain objective in a business that will eat you alive if you bet with your heart instead of your head.

"This isn't a popularity contest," Glantz said. "We're looking to rank teams based on how strong they are. Our voters are told to not even look at win-loss records and to rank teams based on who would be favored if they were playing each other. Sometimes you'll see a team ranked 15th (in other polls) that is favored over a team in the top 10. I think if you compare the two major polls and ours, you'll have a better idea of which team should be favored."

Further validation of the Oddsmakers' Top 25 came Wednesday night when Virginia Tech - ranked No. 3 by the coaches, writers, and the BCS but only No. 6 by the oddsmakers, behind one-loss teams Southern Cal, Georgia, and Florida State - got blown out, 28-7, by West Virginia.

The oddsmakers' rankings can be found each week at www.majorstats.com and in a growing number of newspapers around the country. Glantz said the goal is to be in close to 100 newspapers by next football season.

As for this Saturday's selections, most of the teams I was looking to back (Florida State, Kansas State, Nebraska, Southern Cal, Kentucky) are laying too many points, plus it was hard to find any live underdogs I could trust (though I considered Ball State, Arizona, and UL-Monroe). So, I'm going light with three college games, allowing me more time and money to concentrate on the Breeders' Cup.

Texas Tech (-3) at Missouri

Texas Tech is an offensive machine, led by quarterback B.J. Symons (completing 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,506 yards and 32 touchdowns with just eight interceptions). Symons & Co. should have no problem moving up and down the field against Missouri. The Tigers have been vulnerable against the run, so expect Texas Tech to spread the field and hand the ball to running back Taurean Henderson, who is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. I'm a fan of Missouri quarterback Brad Smith, but, just like in last week's blowout loss to Oklahoma, he doesn't have a strong enough supporting cast to keep up with the opposition.

PLAY: Texas Tech for 1 unit.

Notre Dame at Boston College (-4)

This is one of those fundamental handicapping situations where you have one team that is clearly better on offense (Boston College) while the other team has the better defense (Notre Dame). The problem is that the offenses aren't on the field at the same time, nor are the defenses, so we have to determine if one of the superior units will be able to be stopped or if one of the inferior units will have success. In this game, even though the Boston College defense isn't particularly strong, the Golden Eagles should still be able to contain a non-existent Notre Dame offense that has freshman QB Brady Quinn still experiencing growing pains. When BC has the ball, it won't be able to move the ball up and down the field on the Irish defense, but improving QB Quinton Porter and running back Derrick Knight should do more than enough to outscore the Notre Dame offense.

PLAY: Boston College for 1 unit.

Oklahoma St. (-6) at Texas A&M

This game has been bet down from the opening number of 7, and the only justifiable reason is because people might be betting the famous "12th man" (the crowd) at College Station. However, while the Aggies have a 3-1 record at home this year, they are only 1-3 against the spread. This is not a good Texas A&M team, and the defense has been lit up in every game except when it faced Baylor and Arkansas State. That should continue against an Oklahoma State offense that is fourth in the nation in scoring at 42 points per game. Oklahoma State should rack up yards on the ground with running back Tatum Bell (two 200-yard games already this season) or through the air with steady quarterback Josh Fields throwing to a talented group of receivers, led by All-America Rashaun Woods (44 catches, 804 yards, 9 TDs). Texas A&M is better at running than passing, and that plays to OSU's strength and away from its weakness, and once the Aggies get behind they're really in trouble.

PLAY: Oklahoma St. for 1 unit.

Last week: 5-2 for a net profit of 2.8 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

Season record: 22-17 for a net profit of 3.3 units.