09/29/2004 11:00PM

Sift all the info to find what oddsmakers missed

Email

LAS VEGAS - Information is the key to success, whether it's handicapping the horses, betting football, or playing the stock market.

I love the stories about how back in the dark ages - the 60's and 70's - oddsmakers and bettors here in Las Vegas would collect out-of-town newspapers from incoming airplanes in order to get news on all the sports teams from around the country.

That's not necessary nowadays with 24-hour sports channels and easy access to hundreds of news sources through the Internet.

Also, back then, you might see two or three football games on TV on a given Saturday or Sunday, and rarely more. Now, games are shown from Thursday through Monday, with an occasional Wednesday game thrown in. It's much easier to make decisions on who you like and don't like.

Of course, the challenge for bettors is that the oddsmakers also have much more information. The key is to analyze the same information and try to find spots where the oddsmakers aren't adjusting enough, or maybe they're misreading how the public will bet a game. I think I've found four such games this Saturday.

(Note: As mentioned last week, it's a challenge every week to narrow down to four or five games. More and more games seem to jump off the betting board. But also as mentioned last week, I would have gone 3-3 on other games I was considering, and then I listed four games last week, and split those as well. If I had used all of those games, instead of being up 2.5 units with my college bankroll plays, I would only be up 2 units because of the vig on those five additional losses. In keeping with the experiment, here are the games I considered playing but decided to pass: Arkansas +7 1/2 vs. Florida, Northwestern +11 vs. Ohio St., Georgia -3 vs. LSU, Penn St. +14 vs. Minnesota, California -6 1/2 vs. Oregon St., Fresno St. -14 vs. Louisiana Tech, and UAB +2 vs. Cincinnati.)

Purdue (-2 1/2) at Notre Dame

This line opened Purdue -1, and professional bettors had driven it up to 2 1/2 as of noon Thursday. I agree with the move. Purdue should be close to a touchdown favorite. Oddsmakers are either underestimating the Boilermakers, or else they're just keeping the line low because they expect the less-sophisticated bettors to come in on the Irish as the game draws near. Either way, it's creating value on the short favorite. Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton is putting up Heisman-type numbers, and this could be his breakout game on the national scene. I've been a huge fan of his since two years ago, when I wrote that he was a better passer than the Boilermakers' starter at the time, Brandon Kirsch (my point is proven if you're saying, "Who?"). Most of Notre Dame's success this year has come from an opportunistic defense that creates turnovers; however, Orton makes very good decisions, as evidenced by his 13-0 TD-to-interception ratio. Notre Dame does have an edge in the running game, but Purdue's defense should be stout enough to keep the Irish from keeping pace.

PLAY: Purdue for 1 unit.

BYU (+3) at Colorado St.

This is a game where, frankly, I thought the wrong team was favored from the outset. On Sunday, Colorado St. opened at -5 1/2 and the line has been bet down to 3. What has Colorado St. done to deserve favoritism? Both of these teams were blown out by Southern Cal - no shame there, so those losses can be thrown out - but Colorado St. has also lost to Colorado and Minnesota (at home) before finally getting into the win column last week against Division I-AA Montana St. Meanwhile, BYU's victory came vs. Notre Dame, which is much more impressive. In addition to USC, the Cougars also lost to Stanford and then last week nearly pulled a major upset on the blue field of Boise St., which is a very difficult task. Neither BYU nor Colorado St. has much of a running attack, so this game will be won through the air, and I just trust BYU quarterback John Beck more than CSU's Justin Holland (nine INT's already this year).

PLAY: BYU for 1 unit.

Arizona St. (+2 1/2) at Oregon

Like Purdue above, Arizona St. is another team the oddsmakers haven't caught up with yet. And like BYU, it looks like the wrong team is favored. Oregon, which traditionally plays well at home, has already lost at Autzen Stadium to Indiana this year. After an expected loss at Oklahoma, the Ducks finally got into the win column by beating Idaho, whoop-de-do. (You might have caught on to the fact that I don't think beating up on weak competition helps a team prepare for tough competition.) Arizona St. has rolled to a 4-0 start behind quarterback Andrew Walter, but he hasn't done it alone. The defense has exceeded expectations, especially shutting down the run in victories over then-No. 16 Iowa and Oregon St. Even though Oregon has a capable QB in Kellen Clemens, the way to beat ASU isn't by getting into a shootout with Walter & Co.

PLAY: Arizona St. for 1 unit.

San Diego St. (+6) at UCLA

Two weeks ago, San Diego St. went into Ann Arbor, Mich., and easily covered the 20 1/2-point spread, nearly pulling the outright upset of the Wolverines - so you know they won't be intimidated by going into the Rose Bowl to face a less daunting UCLA team. The Bruins have had trouble stopping the run, and the Aztecs' Michael Franklin should have a big day and set up the passing game for Matt Dlugolecki. UCLA's offense relies on the run itself, but SDSU's defense stepped up last week in holding Nevada's Chance Kretschmer to only 86 yards last week. In addition to SDSU being 17-9 as road underdogs in the past five years, this non-conference game - just like the one against Michigan - just looks like it means more to the Aztecs, and they should give a more focused effort.

PLAY: San Diego St. for 1 unit.

Last week: 2-1-1 for a net profit of 0.9 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1). College season record: 8-5-1 for a net profit of 2.5 units.