08/30/2012 2:32PM

Tuley: Alabama tops oddsmaker's poll as college football season begins


The AP Writers’ Poll has USC ranked No. 1 over Alabama by a slight margin, while the USA Today Coaches Poll has LSU at No. 1 over Alabama by an even slimmer margin, so we go to the tiebreaker – and my personal favorite – the Don Best Linemakers Poll.

And the winner is . . .


That’s right. The Don Best Linemakers Poll has Alabama a half-point better than USC in its power ratings (124.3-123.8) with LSU nearly another point and a half behind at 122.4. Using the rankings in the three polls, Alabama is the consensus top team as it has a first and two seconds for 5 total points (lowest score wins), while USC has a first, second, and third for 6 points, and LSU is third with a first and two thirds for 7 points. And the Don Best Linemakers Poll is the only one to have them in that order.

The poll is the brainchild of longtime oddsmaker Kenny White. In 2003, he was part of a group that bought Las Vegas Sports Consultants, and he started it as the LVSC Oddsmakers Poll. He ran LVSC until the group sold to Cantor Gaming in 2008, staying on in the transition through 2009. He started his own company, MVP Elite, and did the poll under that name for one year and then became CEO of Don Best Sports last year. Last year, he was part of “The Linemakers” TV show on the Velocity Network and merged those two titles into the name. This year, “The Linemakers” will be streamed online at aol.sportingnews.com with White joined by fellow linemakers Lou D’Amico, Richie Baccellieri, Rick Herron, Jimmy Vaccaro, and host Brian Blessing.

The contributors to this year’s poll, include “The Linemakers” plus Jay Kornegay, director of race and sports book operations at the LVH Hotel-Casino, and Aaron Kessler, who works with Tony Miller at the Golden Nugget, the book that put up the first college football lines on June 11.

“In my personal rankings, I had Alabama and USC identical and 3 points better than LSU and 5 points ahead of Oklahoma and Florida State – but the consensus had Alabama ahead of USC,” White said.

The Don Best Linemakers Poll and the AP poll are a little more similar than in year’s past, which kind of concerns White because he doesn’t think the writers follow all the teams in the country as well as the oddsmakers (he doesn’t mind letting his professional pride show). But there are some significant differences mixed in there. For instance, Florida is No. 23 in the AP poll but No. 12 in the Linemakers poll. The full list, including numbers from both polls and each team’s power rating, can be found on donbest.com and my website, ViewFromVegas.com.

“Florida is loaded, but it’s scary because they’re in the SEC, so you don’t know how that is going to play out,” said White, who has always stressed that his poll shows the relative strengths of the teams and who would be favored on a neutral field, so won-loss records can be misleading. “Out of my top 27 teams, 10 are in the SEC, so that shows how much stronger that conference is than any other.”

There’s one other poll – the poll of public opinion – and it clearly has USC as the top choice. When the LVH put up the first future-book odds last January for the 2013 BCS Championship Game in Miami on Jan. 7, 2013, it made LSU the 7-2 favorite, with Alabama the second choice at 6-1 and USC as the co-third choice at 8-1 along with Oregon and Oklahoma. However, bettors jumped on the Trojans early and often and made them the second choice by late March and bet them to 9-2 favoritism by mid-May. And that was before the sanctions against Penn State allowed star running back Silas Redd to transfer to USC and LSU lost stud defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.

As the season approached earlier this week, USC was a more solid 3-1 betting favorite at the LVH, with Alabama at 5-1 (there appears to be value there if you trust the Don Best Linemakers Poll, though Alabama will have the proverbial bulls-eye on its back every week as defending champs) and LSU at 6-1.

Back to the betting board . . .

Okay, enough about who is going to win the national title and let’s look at two marquee games from this opening weekend.

Michigan +14 vs. Alabama

What? All this praise for the Linemakers poll and he’s going against the No. 1 team? Yep! The point spread is the great equalizer, and while Alabama might very well run the table and win the national title again, there’s no guarantee they’ll have a winning record against the spread as they’ll be laying big points most every week. And Michigan is no slouch. The Linemakers poll has Michigan ranked No. 10 with a power rating of 116.5, just 7.8 points lower than Bama, yet I’m getting two full touchdowns. If there’s one time you want to play a top team, it’s before it is in midseason form and possibly still working out the kinks. Besides, Michigan has quarterback Denard Robinson, who looks like he could go to any field without any practice and dominate, so I’m not worried about him being ready.

PLAY: Michigan for 1 unit.

Georgia Tech +7.5 vs. Virginia Tech

This is the Monday Night Football offering before the NFL takes over next week. Despite losing to Virginia Tech the last two years, Georgia Tech led both games into the second half, and it matches up well versus the Hokies. You know its offense is going to get off to a running start with Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack and with the starting line returning. How does the Linemakers poll see it? Virginia Tech’s power rating is 115.4. Georgia Tech is in the “next ten” after the Top 30, but its power rating wouldn’t be any lower than 111.0, so that equates to about a 5.5-point spread and under the touchdown (plus the hook) that we’re getting.

PLAY: Georgia Tech for 1 unit.