Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
College football bettors have found a reliable friend in the Alabama Crimson Tide recently.
Alabama, the top-ranked team in the country in every poll, has opened the 2010 season by easily covering the spread in each of its first three games. Alabama has covered in just less than 70 percent of its games over the last three seasons.
Dating back to last year’s national championship and SEC title game, the Crimson Tide are on a five-game winning streak against the spread.
This week could be the end of Crimson Tide’s run. Alabama travels to No. 10 Arkansas as a 7-point favorite in its toughest road test of the last two years.
“I think the line is pretty inflated,” said Mike Colbert, race and sports book director at the M Resort. “I would have made it more like 4 or 5, but I expect the public to back Alabama. I assume the smart guys will bet Arkansas late.”
Alabama vs. Arkansas, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, will draw a lot of betting interest around Las Vegas as the marquee matchup of this weekend’s college football slate.
Another tilt between ranked teams that promises to demand attention will occur when No. 3 Boise State hosts No. 24 Oregon State. The Broncos opened as 16-point favorites and bettors have pushed the number up to 18 at most spots.
Like the Alabama game, Colbert thinks the underdog may be getting too many points.
“There’s a lot of Boise bettors out there now,” Colbert said. “They cover a lot, so people aren’t afraid to lay a big number with them. But I expect Oregon State to go in there and give them a game. I expect this game to be a lot closer than people think.”
Colbert and other sports book directors around town hope this weekend follows the trend of the past two. Sports books have started the football year on a torrid pace, wiping out bettors early-season bankroll.
Colbert said the M sports book enjoyed its most successful weekend since it opened more than 18 months ago last week. Similar reports have come from across the Las Vegas Valley.
Most of the success has come in the NFL. Sports books have benefited from supposed doormats like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs starting 2-0 and perceived powerhouses like the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys going 0-2.
Despite their rough start, Colbert said, the Cowboys should still maintain a high betting volume as a 3-point underdog against the Texans this weekend.
“It will be a big-bet game,” Colbert said. “The Cowboys are facing a must-win situation. If you see the Cowboys lose here, I don’t know if you’ll ever see Wade Phillips coach again.”
Other NFL games Colbert projected to carry a heavy handle were the Monday Night Football showdown between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, two undefeated divisional rivals, and defending Super Bowl champions New Orleans Saints' home test against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Packers are three-point favorites on the road, while the Saints are four-point home favorites.
“The Saints were really fortunate Monday night with San Francisco making all those turnovers,” Colbert said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see support on the Falcons.”
If bettors have learned everything to start the football season, it’s that the bookmakers are way ahead of them. With that being said, it might be worthwhile to hear Colbert’s play of the week.
“UCLA is a 15-point underdog at Texas,” Colbert said. “I think that’s way too high. I think Neuheisel will have UCLA ready to go in there and give Texas all they can handle. Texas hasn’t looked good all year and I don’t have much respect for Texas Tech. They are overrated. I expect them to keep it real close.”