12/05/2005 12:00AM

Trojans favored by about a touchdown


USC is No. 1, Texas is No. 2, and they're going to meet in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 in the BCS title game.

This is old news. Most would call it a foregone conclusion, since they were clearly the two best teams in the country. But the way recent years have turned out - with one undefeated team and several worthy one-loss teams - we had to wait for USC and Texas to play out their seasons.

So, when Texas defeated Colorado, 70-3, and USC defeated UCLA, 66-19, on Saturday, there was no suspense when the Rose Bowl matchup was officially announced Sunday.

With both teams winning easily, it was also no surprise that the sportsbooks here in town had the point spread on the matchup in the 6-7 range, just where it was last week.

The Stardust "opened" - I'm using that term loosely, since the line on this matchup has been up for a few months - USC as a 6-point favorite at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, and the MGM Mirage properties followed shortly thereafter with USC -6 1/2. The Golden Nugget also went with 6 1/2, which was the number most offshore books posted. Caesars, Harrah's, the Imperial Palace, and the Stratosphere all opened at USC -7.

As usually happens in cases like this, the numbers were bet toward the middle, and by Monday morning, the consensus line was 6 1/2, though the Caesars/Harrah's/IP group was holding the line at 7.

With both teams having such powerful offenses, the total was expected to be sky-high. Offshore books were posting 72. The only Vegas books to put up a total were the Stratosphere and Golden Nugget, and both went with 68. Those got early action on the over and were at 71 by Monday morning.

The Stardust was the only Las Vegas book to put up lines Sunday on the other BCS games. Ohio St. opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite over Notre Dame in the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl, Georgia opened as an 8 1/2-point favorite over West Virginia in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl (which this year will be played in the Georgia Dome since the Louisiana Superdome is unavailable), and Penn St. opened as an 8 1/2-point favorite over Florida St. in the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl. The Fiesta and Sugar bowl lines remained unchanged through noon Monday; the Orange Bowl line was bet to 8 on Sunday night before being raised back to 8 1/2 on Monday morning.

The rest of the bowl lines were due up early Monday afternoon, and I'll take a look at those in Thursday's editions.

* In the Leroy's College Challenge, the 35-year-old California school teacher who chose to go by his contest name, Maj Ent, went 4-3 to defeat the one-name professional gambler known as Fezzik in their first-place tiebreaker. Fezzik went 3-4. In the contest, which cost $250 to enter, Maj Ent won the top prize of $45,500, and Fezzik won $9,100. Fezzik was 3-3 and needed San Diego St. +3 1/ 2 vs. Hawaii in the Saturday night game to force a tie and co-champions, but Hawaii won, 49-38.

NFL line moves

On Sunday night - with no college games on the betting boards, with the exception of the four BCS games - the opening numbers for this weekend's NFL action were the focus for professional bettors.

The Stardust didn't put up NFL lines on Sunday night, so that left early bettors to run around between the Imperial Palace, Las Vegas Hilton, and Stratosphere. With favorites continuing to cash at an incredible rate - they went 11-4 against the spread on Sunday - professional bettors grabbed a lot of the favorites again before the lines moved.

At the Imperial Palace at 4 p.m., every move was on the favorites: the Raiders were bet from -1 to -3 vs. the Jets, the Colts from -7 to -8 vs. the Jaguars, the Bengals from -10 1/2 to -11 1/2 vs. the Browns, the Redskins from -2 to -3 vs. the Cardinals, the Broncos from -11 1/2 to -12 1/2 vs. the Ravens, and the Packers from -3 1/2 to -4 1/2 vs. the Lions.

At the Hilton at 4:30 p.m., the Steelers were bet from -3 1/2 to -4 vs. the Bears, the Broncos went from -13 1/2 to -14, and the Falcons were bet up from -9 to -10 vs. the Saints in the Monday night game. The Hilton received some money on the underdogs, since they opened some favorites higher than the IP. The Hilton saw the line on the Buccaneers go from +6 to +5 1/2 vs. the Panthers, Rams from +7 to +6 1/2 vs. the Vikings, Jaguars from +8 1/2 to +8 vs. the Colts, Browns from +13 1/2 to +12 1/2 vs. the Bengals, Chiefs from +3 1/2 to +3 vs. the Cowboys, and the Lions from +6 1/2 to +5 1/2 vs. the Packers.

The action was also split at the Stratosphere at 5 p.m., with the Steelers (-3 to -4), Bengals (-12 to -12 1/2), Chargers (-12 1/2 to -13), and Broncos (-13 to -13 1/2) seeing action as favorites and the Bucs (+5 1/2 to +5), Jaguars (+7 1/2 to +7), and Chiefs (+3 to +2 1/2) getting money as dogs.

Taylor-Hopkins won't be a trilogy

Before the Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins middleweight title fight Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, producer/director/actor Sylvester Stallone was shooting scenes for his upcoming "Rocky VI" movie, including Rocky Balboa making his entrance to cheers of "Rocky, Rocky, Rocky."

It was a night of repeats. For anyone who thought the Rocky scripts were pretty repetitive, they saw another repeat when Taylor and Hopkins finally got in the ring for the rematch of their July battle.

This time, just like last time, Taylor dominated the early rounds, Hopkins was better in the later rounds, Taylor won the decision, and Hopkins felt he was robbed.

All three judges scored the fight 115-113 for Taylor.

It wasn't a thrilling fight, with more time spent posturing in a defensive position than in actually trading blows, and the only good thing that came out of it was that we should be spared from this series even going half as long as Rocky.