Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
Casual sports fans across the nation are undoubtedly expressing surprise as they find out Las Vegas sports books’ take on Monday’s BCS National Championship Game.
Despite losing to LSU earlier in the season, Alabama has settled as a 1- or 1.5-point favorite on betting boards across the valley. Most books opened the line reversely, with LSU as a slight favorite, before flipping it when money streamed in on Alabama.
Others, like Cantor Gaming, have stuck with Alabama -1.5 from the beginning.
“I think Alabama is the better team,” said Mike Colbert, Cantor sports book director. “But LSU, after watching them all year, it’s hard to believe they are the underdog. I think they’ll be prepared, but Bama is slightly better across the board — better coach, bigger, stronger and they have a better quarterback.”
Oddsmakers aren’t putting much stock into LSU’s 9-6 victory at Alabama on Nov. 5. The Crimson Tide out-gained the Tigers and had more chances to win in the showdown between the nation’s top two teams, but made too many mistakes.
Chief among the miscues were four missed field goals and an interception on a trick play from the one-yard line.
Sports books are more partial to statistics, which paint Alabama as superior to LSU. Alabama leads the nation in both pass and rush defense. The Crimson Tide also don’t have any glaring weaknesses like LSU’s 106th-ranked passing offense.
“Up until around Christmas time, we had three times the amount of money on Alabama,” said Jason McCormick, sports book director at Red Rock Resort. “Since we moved the line, wagering has basically stayed the same. We are getting good two-way action.”
Colbert reported an altogether different experience for Cantor, which runs five books in Las Vegas including those at The Venetian and The M. He said the betting so far had indicated a pro-LSU sentiment.
Of all the tickets Cantor has printed on the national championship, 75 percent of them are on the Tigers.
“It’s nothing huge, but we’re getting quite a few bets on LSU,” Colbert said. “All of those bets on LSU are starting to add up.”
But Colbert has refrained from moving the line for two reasons — he’s confident it’s the right mark and he expects sharp money to come in on Alabama and balance the book at some point before the 5:30 kickoff from the Super Dome in New Orleans.
McCormick didn’t anticipate a lopsided amount of bets coming in on either side in the next few days. All indications point the local clientele, which makes up the majority of Red Rock’s customer-base, as evenly split on the game.
“Around here, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find dedicated Alabama and LSU fans,” McCormick said. “They are going to be betting on the game because they want to bet on it. It’s a betting town. That’s what’s great about Las Vegas.”
Neither McCormick nor Colbert thought the game would finish with as few points as the first matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Tigers. The over/under posted at 40 points more than a month ago and has mostly stayed there.
“I think it’s a few points too low,” Colbert said. “I think this game will go over the 40. I think the first game was played a little safe. I think both teams are going to be able to exploit some things they saw in the first game.”