Monday, July 24, 2006 | 7:19 a.m.
Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Ohio State are considered the top three contenders to win this season's BCS championship game and college football's national title, according to Las Vegas odds.
The Hilton sports book has Notre Dame a 9-2 favorite followed by Oklahoma at 5-1 and Ohio State at 6-1. Every other team on the board is 8-1 or higher to win the championship game.
Their "Big 3" status is also reflected in the season-win over / unders recently posted at the Hilton and in the Week 1 college football lines now available at the Stratosphere.
Of the 30 teams on the board at the Hilton, Notre Dame and Oklahoma have the highest totals attached to them, at 10 1/2 victories. In each case, bettors pay a premium to play the "under:" minus-150 (risk $1.50 to win $1) on the Sooners, minus-200 on the Irish.
(Each team must play its 12 scheduled regular-season games for bets to remain live, according to the standard rules.)
Ohio State is listed at 10 wins, minus-120 on the over and even money on the under.
The Stratosphere, which has lines up for the entire first weekend of college football (Aug. 31-Sept. 4), has Oklahoma a 27-point favorite against Alabama-Birmingham, Ohio State an 18-point favorite against Northern Illinois, and Notre Dame an eight-point favorite at Georgia Tech.
I'm intrigued by a longer shot on the college football betting board: defending Big East champ West Virginia, which faces conference rival Louisville on Thursday, Nov. 2, in its toughest game of the season. The Mountaineers, who beat Louisville 46-44 last year as seven-point underdogs after trailing 17-0 at halftime, are listed as 6 1/2-point underdogs at the Hilton in this year's encounter.
West Virginia's season-win total is holding steady at 10 victories, minus-110 either way, at the Hilton. If the Mountaineers do get past Louisville again, they could certainly find themselves not only going over that total but playing in the title game.
Odds on West Virginia to win the title are as low as 7 1/2-1 at one major offshore sports book, yet they have actually drifted up to 20-1 at the Hilton from an opener of 15-1.
Writing for Insiders' Football News magazine, Las Vegas college football handicapper Arne Lang noted the Mountaineers finished last season on a 7-0 run both straight-up and against the point spread.
They return quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton and are in good hands with Rich Rodriguez, who Lang calls "the cleverest coach in the country."
In addition to their early Week 1 college football lines, oddsmakers at the Stratosphere sports book are planning a number of attractive wagering opportunities that will make the property a "must see" for football bettors making the rounds this season.
The Stratosphere is using a favorable 20-cent betting line on its season win over / unders (example: if the "over" is minus-130, the "under" is plus-110) and has about 50 NFL "games of the year" available for wagering.
For Week 1 of the NFL, the Stratosphere has posted not only point spreads, but also money lines and totals, according to race and sports book director Robert Jaynes.
Expected to be posted any day now are a series of season-win matchups pitting various college teams against one another, as well as college teams against NFL teams.
When the regular season begins, the Stratosphere will add a half-point, first-half-only parlay card to its menu, making a total of eight weekly football parlay cards at the property.
For the fourth season, the Stratosphere will post NFL and college football betting lines for the following weekend about 5 p.m. each Sunday.
The Stratosphere will again offer some reduced-vigorish football specials, Jaynes said. On Thursday nights, bettors can lay $1.05 for each $1 they're trying to win, rather than the traditional $1.10 to win $1. The discount applies to NFL and college sides and totals, and parlays using the reduced vigorish are permitted. The same discount on the vigorish will apply to Monday night halftime betting lines, Jaynes said.
The sports books at both Arizona Charlie's properties are linked to the Stratosphere.
The Hilton will again offer reduced-vigorish football betting from 3 p.m. through closing each Thursday during the regular season. Bettors can lay only $1.05 for each $1 they're trying to win. The special discount applies to NFL and college sides only (no totals or parlays).