09/01/2011 3:14PM

Pollsters, oddsmakers agree Oklahoma, Alabama are favorites


Oklahoma and Alabama.

With the college football season kicking off this week, I’m sure you have heard plenty of people saying that Oklahoma and Alabama are on a collision course to meet in the BCS national title game in the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 9.

They are the top two teams in all the mainstream polls. Now, this is usually the time that I tell you that the oddsmakers here in Nevada have a different opinion, but that’s not the case this year. The news is that the pollsters appear to have it right – at least until the games start getting played (and we all know that great opinions can be humbled in a hurry, whether it’s on the racetrack or the playing field).

Oklahoma and Alabama are the teams with the lowest future-book odds to win the national championship, with the Las Vegas Hilton having the Sooners at 4-1 and the Crimson Tide at 5-1.

Kenny White, the former head of Las Vegas Sports Consultants, has moved his Oddsmakers’ Poll to Don Best Sports, Inc (donbest.com), where he now serves as COO and can be seen giving analysis on videos with hosts Brian Blessing and Pat Williams.

The Oddsmakers’ Poll also has Oklahoma and Alabama as the top two teams and, in fact, has them tied with the same power rating of 119.5. The ratings can be used to compare teams and see what the point spread should be if they were to meet on a neutral field. So, basically, it’s saying that match-up would be a pick-em.

DRF SPORTS: Latest betting lines, StatFox matchups, and handicapping news for every game

Of the marquee games this Saturday, we can see that Boise State is a 3 1/2-point favorite vs. Georgia and that makes sense with the power ratings being 114.8-111.5, though it should be pointed that the game is being held at a “neutral” site of the Georgia Dome (and it should also be noted this line opened Boise -9 at the Golden Nugget when the first college lines were posted this summer before being bet down, so they obviously had a bigger difference in their power ratings).

In the other game with ranked opponents, Oregon should be around a 4 1/2-point favorite (117.3-112.7) at LSU, according to the Oddsmakers’ Poll, before factoring in home-field advantage for the Tigers. Assuming 3 points for HFA, that means the opening number that the Hilton had with Oregon -1 1/2 is about right, though it has been bet up to 4 as of Thursday morning due to suspensions at LSU.

“Our poll has LSU ranked No. 12 while the Associated Press has them No. 4,” White said. “That’s because the AP Poll came out before the problems at LSU; that’s a great illustration of the dangers of putting out a poll like that too early especially with all the scandals we’ve been seeing lately in college football.”

Another team that the Oddsmakers’ Poll doesn’t hold in as high regard as the AP poll or even some of the books in town is Nebraska, which has moved from the Big 12 to the Big 10 this year. While the AP has the Cornhuskers at No. 10 and some books have had them favored to win the conference’s first title game (Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis), the Oddsmakers’ Poll has them ranked No. 21, one spot ahead of Ohio State but well below No. 6 Wisconsin, which has a 114.8 power rating compared with Nebraska’s 110.8.

“The transfer of quarterback Russell Wilson from N.C. State to Wisconsin really makes them a title contender,” White said of the Badgers, who were scheduled to start their season Thursday night as 35-point favorites over UNLV. “He meant a boost of 4 points in my power rating.”

Another power house flying under the radar, in White’s opinion, is Southern Cal, which the Oddsmakers’ Poll has at No. 14 while AP ranked the Trojans No. 25.

“They have as many pro prospects as anyone,” White said. “The only concern is if they have nothing to play for [since they are on probation and not eligible for the Pac-12 or national title].”

As for others who are eligible – at least for the time being – for the national title, here are the future-book odds of top contenders heading into the season: Florida State at 8-1; Notre Dame at 10-1; Oregon, obviously in an early elimination game with LSU, at 12-1; Stanford, Boise State, Virginia Tech, and LSU at 15-1; Nebraska at 18-1; Wisconsin and South Carolina at 20-1; and West Virginia at 30-1.

The Oddsmakers’ Poll will also be featured on the new TV show that White is doing with several Vegas bookmakers that longtime residents, visitors, readers of this column are sure to recognize: Richie Baccellieri, Lou D’Amico, Rick Herron, Vinny Magliulo, and last (alphabetically) but not least, Jimmy Vaccaro. It’s called “The Linemakers” and will air weekly on Fridays at 8 p.m. Eastern starting Friday, Sept. 9 on Discovery HD Theatre (check your dish/cable carrier’s guide, it’s channel 1687 on Cox Cable here in Vegas). The pilot was more of a general overview of sports betting that the network requested while the regular show will discuss the upcoming weekend’s game in more detail. It has been airing the past two weeks with the next re-run on Monday at 3 a.m.

◗ Note: the two biggest NCAA handicapping contests here in Vegas, the Leroy’s College Challenge and the Last Man Standing contest at Station Casinos, don’t start until the games of next weekend. That’s done to garner entries from people who might be coming in for the holiday weekend, plus to coincide with the start of the NFL contests.