12/09/2010 12:28PM

Oddsmakers flip, making Auburn favorite vs. Oregon

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A funny thing happened on the way to the BCS Championship Game . . .

Last week’s column mentioned the Wynn Las Vegas sports book posted a line on the potential Auburn-Oregon match-up with Oregon -4 1/2. That was in line with the consensus here in town. All season long, the Oddsmakers’ Poll by former Las Vegas Sports Consultants chief Kenny White and his oddsmaking friends has had Oregon rated around 3 or 4 points better than Auburn.

And then last Saturday, Oregon struggled to put away unranked rival Oregon State before prevailing 37-20 while Auburn blew out ranked South Carolina, 56-17, in the biggest blowout in the history of the highly respected SEC championship game.

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Now, in a lot of cases, oddsmakers try not to put too much stock in one performance, preferring to rely on analyzing a team’s full body of work with minor adjustments along the way. So, with that in mind, shortly after Auburn’s victory, the Las Vegas Hilton posted Oregon -3 vs. Auburn in the BCS title game to be played Monday, Jan. 10, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The MGM books here in Vegas also went with Oregon -2 1/2.

But everything changed when the offshores put up their lines. Pinnacle was the first and it went with Auburn -2 1/2. That’s quite a difference, but obviously Pinnacle anticipated that everyone would be looking to bet Auburn based on the most recent results and didn’t feel like letting them have Auburn at +3, +2, +1, pick-em or even -1 or -2. The Vegas books took just a few bets at the original numbers before moving into line by the end of the night. By the time all the books in town posted the game Sunday morning, the consensus was Auburn -2 1/2.

And the offshores proved to be right that bettors were looking to bet Auburn regardless of the price as the money continued to flow in on the favorite and was a solid Auburn -3 by Sunday night. However, the full grading of who set the better line won’t be known for another month. If Oregon goes on to win the BCS title by more than 3 points, a case could be made that the offshores cost themselves a lot of early losing bets on Auburn by making the Tigers the favorite.

Personally, I’m happy to see the change of favorites. I’m among those who think Oregon is the better, more consistent overall team and I’m happy to take any extra points the bookmakers give me. I will be waiting to see if the public continues to bet the number higher after Cam Newton’s expected victory in the Heisman Trophy voting this Saturday and all the added hype that will come for the SEC champs.

Stations hosting bowl contest

Survivor pools in which contestants try to last the longest without a loss have become increasingly popular and the biggest ones in Las Vegas are the “Last Man Standing” contests hosted by Station Casinos with one for college football and one for NFL starting at the beginning of the season.

Well, they have added a “Last Man Standing Elimination College Football Bowl Contest” for the games starting Tuesday, Dec. 28, and running through the BCS title game on Jan. 10.

The cost is $25 per entry and if you buy four entries you get a fifth free (so $100 for five entries). Players then make one pick against the spread each day there is a bowl game, so they will have multiple games to choose from on Dec. 28 through Jan. 1, and then single games on Jan. 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. The person lasting the longest will win the entire pool, which is guaranteed at $15,000, but since the contest is commingled with the eight Station properties plus six more under their Fiesta and Wildfire Gaming brands, there’s little doubt they’ll meet the guarantee as they’ve always done with their season-long contests.

Back to the betting board

I went 2-0 last week with my plays. I should have included all my Hilton SuperContest plays as I went 5-0 to get back in contention, but I’m going to stick with two games again this week.

Rams +9 vs. Saints

The Rams are one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season. They lead the NFC West, albeit with a 6-6 record that keeps them from getting too much respect. But bettors know how well they have played as they have the best record in the NFL against the spread at 9-3. They have been competitive in just about every game, and I expect them to do the same here getting more than a touchdown. Granted, the defending Super Bowl champion Saints are looking better than they did earlier in the year and have won five straight game, but the last two weeks they barely escaped vs. the Cowboys and Bengals and didn’t cover the spread. I can see the same thing happening here.

PLAY: Rams for 1 unit.

Cowboys +3 1/2 vs. Eagles

The Cowboys were among the pre-season Super Bowl favorites, but we all know how that all went leading up to the firing of head coach Wade Phillips. But since Jason Garrett took over, the Cowboys have covered four games in a row with their only loss being the spread-covering 30-27 setback to the Saints on Thanksgiving. They are playing like the team they were expected to be, even without Tony Romo, and now we get them at home against a division rival getting more than a field goal. If they can hang with the Saints and beat the Colts like they did on the road last week, they can do the same on Sunday night.

PLAY: Cowboys for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-0 for a profit of 2 units. NFL season record: 22-16 for a net profit of 4.4 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1).