10/11/2012 12:58PM

Tuley: Time to start thinking BCS title game


LAS VEGAS – This is the seventh weekend of the college football season, and each team will be at least halfway through its 12-game schedule, but in a way the race for the national championship is just beginning.

Oh, sure, we’ve had some games that have separated the contenders from the pretenders, but as we’ve seen in recent years, teams can bounce back from an early season loss to still play for the BCS title. We’ll really start sorting things out and see the pecking order of the top teams when the official BCS rankings come out at 8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. That’s when we’ll see how teams with early season setbacks – preseason favorite USC vs. Stanford back on Sept. 15 and both Florida State and LSU last week – have dropped in the eyes of the pollsters and the computer rankings, and how many teams they have to climb over to get to the BCS title game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Jan. 7.

There are many websites, TV networks, and publications that go to great pains to crunch the numbers and try to project what the BCS rankings will be, but I think the easiest way is to check the future-book odds here in Vegas. The bookmakers obviously take in bets, and that greatly influences where they set each team’s odds, but they’re also keeping a close eye on what the BCS rankings are likely to be so they can determine the true odds of each team winning the title game.

BCS title game futures

(Courtesy LVH SuperBook)

Team Odds

Alabama 7-5

Oregon 7-2

South Carolina 7-1

West Virginia 7-1

Florida 8-1

USC 10-1

LSU 18-1

Kansas State 18-1

Notre Dame 20-1

Oklahoma 50-1

Georgia 50-1

Florida State 50-1

At the LVH SuperBook, Alabama is the obvious favorite at 7-5. There’s no doubt the Crimson Tide will be in the BCS game if they run the table. The only question is if they would be able to get back in the picture if they lose at LSU on Nov. 3 or some other game. Oregon is the clear second choice at 7-2 after the loss by Florida State last week. There’s a dropoff to South Carolina and West Virginia, both at 7-1, with Florida at 8-1, but then we see the one-loss teams haven’t plummeted too far as USC is just 10-1 and LSU is 18-1.

USC and LSU have the luxury – if you can call it that – of playing the top two teams (USC also faces Oregon on Nov. 3, so that’s a big day in this whole scenario). First, LSU has to take care of South Carolina this Saturday (and it is just a 2.5-point favorite at home, so the oddsmakers see that as pretty much a coin-flip), but then if LSU can beat Alabama, it would not only help those teams above them but also probably push LSU past them.

If South Carolina prevails Saturday, that will certainly boost its ranking, but it still has to go to Florida next Saturday, Oct. 20 (essentially an elimination game for those two) and will also have to survive the SEC title game. West Virginia and Kansas State also have what amounts to an elimination game Oct. 20, but have potential Big 12 stumbling blocks ahead of them, too.

And then there’s ole Notre Dame. It is 20-1 and relevant for the first time in a while. Notre Dame need some help from multiple teams being knocked off in front of them, but the Fighting Irish can help themselves with wins this week over Stanford (though they lost some luster by losing to Washington two weeks ago), Oklahoma on Oct. 27, and USC on Nov. 24.

So buckle up, it could be a wild ride.

Back to the NFL betting board

I went 1-2 last week as I won with the Eagles but lost with the Titans and Chargers to drop back to .500. Time to get back to profitability with this pick three:

Raiders +9 vs. Falcons

Yes, the Falcons are 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread, but take a closer look at their last two games, and they very well could have (should have?) lost to the Panthers and Redskins if not for Cam Newton’s untimely fumble and Robert Griffin III’s concussion. Even though they got over the number last week, they’re mostly content to grind out the win and stay undefeated, and there is extra wiggle room here getting more than a touchdown. In horse racing, you sometimes have to throw out a horse’s bad race, and I prefer to throw out the Raiders’s blowout loss to the Broncos and instead count on them reverting to the form shown in their 34-31 overtime win over the Steelers three weeks ago.

PLAY: Raiders for 1 unit.

Giants +6 vs. 49ers

If oddsmakers are going to keep giving me points with the defending Super Bowl champions (2-0 ATS as a dog this year vs. Panthers and Eagles), I’ll keep taking them – especially on the road, where we’ve seen the Giants play better anyway. The 49ers are coming off two blowout wins after their loss to the Vikings, but that was against the Jets and Bills. They’re usually willing to settle for field goals and rely on their defense, so I see this coming down to the final possession, and getting more than a field goal is a bonus.

PLAY: Giants for 1 unit.

Packers +3.5 vs. Texans

Completing the theme, I’m going against the Texans and again I think they’re giving too many points against a quality opponent (when they weren’t able to cover against a lesser team on Monday night). The Packers are obviously embarrassed after their loss to the Colts last week, and I usually don’t put too much stock in things like this, but they are the team that needs this more or their season could be slipping away from them.

PLAY: Packers for 1 unit.

Last week: 1-2 for a loss of 1.2 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL overall: 7-7 for a net loss of 0.7 units.