11/22/2012 3:02PM

Tuley: Alabama holds edge over Notre Dame with Vegas oddsmakers


LAS VEGAS – Who’s No. 1?

In college football, that would be Notre Dame in the BCS rankings, which determine the national title game, as well as the AP writers’ poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll. Notre Dame ascended to the top after Kansas State and Oregon both lost last Saturday after having the inside track for the national title game.

However, according to oddsmakers out here, Alabama is a clear No. 1 (even with their loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago that knocked them from the top of the other polls) in the Don Best Linemakers Poll and the Pregame Vegas Rankings, and the Tide is listed in their respective power ratings as a 6.5- to 8.5-point favorite over Notre Dame on a neutral field. In a real-world application of those ratings, the Wynn Las Vegas opened betting on the potential national title matchup with Alabama opening as a 9-point favorite and getting bet up to 9.5. Also, the Wynn made Georgia, which would likely make it to the title game if they beat Georgia Tech this weekend and then Alabama in the SEC championship game, a 1-point favorite over Notre Dame and that also got bet up to 1.5 (the matchup must take place or all wagers are refunded).

In the NFL, the question of who is No. 1 isn’t as clear. The Falcons and Texans have the best record in the league at 9-1, but while I’ve seen a few rankings online with the Falcons on top since they were undefeated the longest and using W-L records as their criteria, there is a wide range of opinions on the strongest team. I do a Vegas NFL Bettors’ Poll for ESPN Insider along with fellow handicappers Sal Selvaggio of madduxsports.com and Teddy “Covers” Sevransky of sportsmemo.com, and our composite power ratings (used for comparing the numbers to the point spread each week) have the Patriots as the top team, with a half-point edge over the Texans, 49ers, and Broncos who are all tied for second. In the Don Best Linemakers NFL Poll, they have the 49ers as the No. 1 team with a half-point lead over the Patriots, while the Pregame Vegas Rankings have the Broncos and Texans tied for the top spot, with the Patriots and Packers a half-point back.

In the future book at the LVH SuperBook, the 49ers moved back to 7-2 favoritism after their impressive 32-7 rout of the Bears on Monday night with backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Heading into Thanksgiving, the Patriots, Texans, and Broncos were next in line at 5-1, with the Packers at 7-1 and the Falcons at 8-1.

There’s a lot of football to be played, so we’ll see how that all plays out in the pro ranks. In the colleges, we should have an even clearer picture after this weekend. Of course, that’s assuming Notre Dame is able to get past USC as a 5.5-point favorite, and that’s far from a given. The Trojans were the preseason No. 1 team, and while they’ve underperformed this year, they still have the talent to knock off the Irish, even with backup quarterback Max Wittek filling in for Matt Barkley. I haven’t bet the game yet myself, but that’s obviously the way I’m looking, especially if the line climbs back to 6 or higher.

Back to the NFL betting board

I went 3-0 last week (that’s more like it) as the Cardinals got out to an early lead and held on to cover the 10-point spread in 23-19 loss to the Falcons, the Chargers looked like a dead 8-point dog all day but got in the back door in the final minute to lose just 30-23 to the Broncos, and the Steelers battled to cover +3.5 against the Ravens in a 16-13 loss. Hopefully, these three dogs perform as well.

Bills +3 vs. Colts

The Colts, 6-3 heading into last week’s game at New England off a pretty weak schedule (their four-game win streak was against the Browns, Titans, Dolphins, and Jaguars), were exposed a little bit by the Patriots in their 59-24 loss. The Bills aren’t the Patriots, but they are playing a lot better than they were earlier in the year as evidenced not as much by their 19-14 win over the Dolphins a week ago Thursday, but by their 37-31 spread-covering loss to the Patriots and a hard-fought 21-9 loss at Houston.

PLAY: Bills for 1 unit.

Chiefs +10.5 vs. Broncos

As regular readers know, I love double-digit NFL dogs and home underdogs. Here’s a stat from Marc Lawrence of playbook.com: home dogs of 8 points or higher are 22-2 ATS over the past three years. I’ve been on a lot of those, despite how bad the dogs have looked (the Chiefs fit the bill here) or how strong the favorite looks (ditto for the Broncos), but that’s exactly why we see the line inflated so much. Also, keep in mind the Chiefs have stepped up the most against the best teams, beating the Saints and covering against the Ravens and Steelers.

PLAY: Chiefs for 1 unit.

Chargers +1 vs. Ravens

This home dog is a little harder to take. The Chargers have let me down a few times and then lucked out to cover against the Broncos last week, but I like them in this spot here. The Ravens are coming off a hard-fought win over the Steelers (and have them coming up again next week in a much more important game to them). The Chargers might actually play better now with less pressure on them.

PLAY: Chargers for 1 unit.

Last week: 3-0 for profit of 3 units. NFL season record: 17-14 for a net profit of 1.6 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1).