10/01/2008 11:00PM

Point spread figures a bit much for Trojans

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LAS VEGAS - I wouldn't go as far as to say "back by popular demand," but I've received more and more requests - both directly and indirectly - for more analysis of games in this column.

Now, even though I go by "tuleythetout" at my ViewFromVegas.com website as well as other online posting forums, the moniker is said with tongue firmly planted in my cheek. I don't sell picks and don't make outlandish claims about high winning percentages, locks, or guaranteed winners. Just like everyone else, I've had amazingly great runs and seasons but also embarrassingly poor ones as well.

The goal here is to assimilate all the information that I endorse on my site (from analyzing line movements, oddsmakers' polls and ratings, looking at trends and systems, as well as what I see when watching all the games each weekend, and getting second opinions from handicappers that I respect) to try and come up with logical plays.

Use what you read here and see how it meshes with your own handicapping, and hopefully it'll help you find more winners or pass on some losers. We'll start this week with one college play for Saturday and four NFL plays on Sunday.

Oregon +16 1/2 vs. USC

Former No. 1 USC was stunned by Oregon State a week ago Thursday night. Interestingly, the Oddsmakers' Top 30 Poll by Las Vegas Sports consultants only dropped USC to No. 2, just 0.7 of a point behind Oklahoma. So, we're still likely to see them favored by double digits in most of the rest of their games. Granted, the Trojans return home here and a lot of people are expecting them to bounce back with a vengeance, but professional handicapper Marc Lawrence points out that favorites off a straight-up loss when they were favored by 20 or more points are 11-26-2 against the spread when facing a team with a winning percentage of .400 or better. Both teams fit those parameters. I can't help but think that this Oregon team, averaging 47 points per game, is better overall than Oregon State, plus coach Mike Bellotti is 6-1 against the spread as a double-digit road underdog.

Play: Oregon for 1 unit.

Buccaneers +3 vs. Broncos

The Broncos have garnered a lot of attention so far this year as they started 3-0 before last week's loss at Kansas City. But it's my feeling they're not as good as everyone is making them out to be, and that's supported by a surprisingly subpar 1-2-1 record against the spread (and the push was the controversial 1-point win over the Chargers with the assist from referee Ed "Incredible Hulk" Hoculi). The Chiefs' offense further exposed the Broncos' defense, which has allowed 117 points in four games (29.25 per game). Only the Rams have given up more points. The Buccaneers aren't explosive, but they mix up the run and pass well and will certainly have success against Denvers' defense. On the other hand, the Bucs do play defense. I'm just hoping the public bets this to 3 1/2 for a little added insurance.

Play: Buccaneers for 1 unit.

Bills +1 vs. Cardinals

I understand most people allow 3 points for home-field advantage, but even with this game in Arizona, I'm not so sure the right team is favored. The Bills are 4-0 (3-1 against the spread) and are playing well on offense, defense, and special teams, certainly more consistent than the Cardinals.

Play: Bills for 1 unit.

Patriots -3 1/2 vs. 49ers

Okay, I can hear longtime readers yelling "Stop the presses!" because they assume that's a typo with me picking a favorite, especially one on the road and laying more than a field goal. However, I'm liking the taste of this chalk. The Patriots certainly put in a clunker with their stunning 38-13 loss to the Dolphins two weeks ago, but that's more a case of Miami having a great game plan and getting ahead, and everything steamrolling from there. I think the Patriots bounce back just fine, and we're getting a much lower price than if they had rolled to their expected victory. We have to assume Bill Belichick has had his team's attention during his bye week. We'll rely on Lawrence's database again to pass on that Belichick is 22-9 against the spread in his NFL career on the road after a loss, including covering the last nine in a row and last seven as a favorite of a touchdown or less. He's also 13-0 against the spread vs. the NFC West, and as you can tell from my previous pick of the Bills over the Cardinals, I'm not very high on that whole division either.

Play: Patriots for 1 unit.

Bengals +17 vs. Cowboys

Yes, this is an ugly pick. The Bengals have bungled their way to an 0-4 start, while the Cowboys were widely considered to be playing the best football in the league before losing to division rival Washington last week. But that's why we're getting so many points (plus, the injury to Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer making him questionable). I'm a firm believer that there's not that big of a difference between the best and the worst teams in the parity-centric NFL and that has certainly been the case this year, as double-digit underdogs are 6-0 against the spread with three of them pulling outright upsets (Bears over Colts in Week 1, Dolphins over Patriots in Week 3, and Redskins over these Cowboys in Week 4). One more note: the Bengals lone point-spread cover this season was at the New York Giants, so they do step up when playing better competition.

Play: Bengals for 1 unit.