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December 19, 2014

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First football betting weekend features two major matchups

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Kellen Moore of Boise State holds up the MVP trophy after his team defeated Utah 26-3 in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010.

No one changes the channel when a meteorologist pops up on the screen to issue a severe storm warning.

Similarly, no bettor should turn away when a prominent Las Vegas bookmaker offers advice a day before the first weekend of football season.

“Bettors shouldn’t care if it’s two marquee teams,” said John Avello, race and sports book director at Wynn Las Vegas. “There are other games with interest. It’s almost like a horse race. Sometimes, you’re better off betting the maiden claimer instead of the Grade 1 Travers. You can find something you like and some real value in there.”

In other words, don’t forget there are more games than the two matchups featuring teams with numbers by their name this weekend.

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Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11) reacts with teammate Caleb King (4) after a first half Bulldog score against Auburn in an NCAA college football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010.

It’s understandable that those two early season clashes are receiving the most attention, though. Many football fans have spent the last few months dreaming about 5 p.m. Saturday, when No. 5 Boise State meets No. 19 Georgia at the same time No. 4 LSU challenges No. 3 Oregon.

Both SEC teams are underdogs, with the Wynn currently listing Georgia at +3 and LSU at +3.5. Both games are at “neutral sites” that aren’t neutral at all.

Georgia gets the benefit of playing in Atlanta, a short drive down I-85 from its campus. LSU and Oregon meet at Cowboys Stadium, which is some 1,700 miles closer to Baton Rouge, La., than Eugene, Ore.

We’ll break down the two games below.

Boise State (-3) vs. Georgia, over/under 51

Breakdown: The Golden Nugget was the first shop to put a spread on this matchup earlier this summer as part of its Games of the Year series. It posted Boise State as a 6-point favorite and sharp money immediately poured in on Georgia to lower the spread to 1.

Possible reasons why include Boise State’s 0-4 record against the SEC. But on the opposite end, the Broncos have a history of covering in big games under coach Chris Petersen. They opened last season in a similar situation — as 1.5-point underdogs against Virginia Tech in Washington D.C. — and won outright.

Another cause for concern is the loss of three playmakers in the secondary for Boise State, which should bode well for Georgia super sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray. Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore should also pile up yards against a Bulldogs defense that struggled at times last season.

Avello’s thought: “This looks to be the better game. Boise State isn’t going to miss a beat and Georgia is supposed to be better. You can make an argument for both sides. I see them both writing a fair amount of money.”

How to approach: Fire on the over, but pass on the side. Both of these teams will score, but it’s unclear who will provide more resistance.

LSU (+3.5) vs. Oregon, over/under 54.5

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Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James in the first quarter against the Auburn Tigers during the BCS National Championship NCAA football game on Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, in Glendale. Oregon lost the game 22-19.

Breakdown: The line predictably shifted against LSU with the suspensions of quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns. At Wynn, Oregon went from a 1-point favorite to a 3-point favorite with the news.

Some would argue LSU backup quarterback Jarrett Lee isn’t a huge drop off, but against-the-spread records suggest otherwise. Covers.com reports Lee is a putrid 1-8 against-the-spread as a starter. The Ducks are loaded on offense with quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James returning, but also have a better defense than most realize.

Three of the Tigers top four tacklers are back this season and it’s traditionally a unit with plenty of speed, which should come in handy against a team like Oregon.

Avello’s thought: “It’s going to be hard betting on LSU with key players out and that’s reflected with the line over a field goal. You may look at the total in this game. LSU has won a lot of games on defense and they could slow down Oregon. It might get into one of those Auburn vs. Oregon-type games.”

How to approach: Sit this one out and enjoy what should be a great game. If anything, take Avello’s advice for a small play on the under.

Quick Weekend Betting Hits

• “It doesn’t really help that they are at the same time. I wish they were at different times, an hour or two apart,” Avello said of the identical kickoff times for Boise State vs. Georgia and Oregon vs. LSU.

• Favorites the public will flock on according to Avello? Alabama -38 over Kent State, USC -24 against Minnesota and Texas -24 over Rice.

• Two-way action is keeping the South Florida vs. Notre Dame line at around -10.5 in favor of the Irish. Take the points with the Bulls. Although Notre Dame should be improved in coach Brian Kelly’s second season, this looks like the usual case of hype breeding a few unjust points.

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BYU quarterback Jake Heaps looks to pass to McKay Jacobson (6), right, during the first quarter of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game against UTEP, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010, in Albuquerque, N.M. BYU won, 52-24.

• BYU starts its new life as an independent with a daunting task — the Cougars are 3-point favorites on the road at Ole Miss. No matter who’s playing quarterback for the Rebels, a home SEC underdog to open the season sounds tasty.

• The annual game where Marshall plays over its head against rival West Virginia is scheduled for Sunday. The Thundering Herd are 23-point underdogs, but have gone 3-1 against-the-spread the past four years against the Mountaineers.

• Try to resist temptation and not bet the only game on Monday night, Miami at Maryland, where the home team is a 3-point favorite. With all the happenings at Miami, it’s hard to figure out how it will respond.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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