Tuesday November 20th
LAS VEGAS – Alabama is back to the odds-on favorite to win the BCS title game. It’s as if the last two weeks didn’t happen.
Well, don’t tell that to Oregon and Kansas St. Two weeks ago, they were arguing who was the No. 2 team in the country and who should play Alabama for the national title. Then, with Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M, they were put on the inside track to face each other in the BCS championship game if they could just run the table. However, they saw those hopes derailed just as suddenly as Baylor unceremoniously routed Kansas St. 52-24 as a +400 (odds of 4-1) underdog on the money line and Stanford knocked off Oregon 17-14 in overtime as a +800 dog. A $100 money-line parlay on those two results would have returned $4,500 at most sports books. The William Hill books here in Vegas had Stanford at 10-1, so that same bet would have been worth $5,500.
So, after the dust had settled, Notre Dame moved into the No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings as the nation’s last unbeaten team (except for Ohio St., which is on probation and ineligible for postseason play), but they’re still not the favorite. That distinction again belongs to Alabama, who we wrote about last week that they only dropped to 6-1 in the future-book odds after their loss to Texas A&M and how they would need two of the top three teams to lose to move back into the title game. Well, they got it, and the LVH SuperBook here in Vegas re-installed them as the 5-7 favorite (stated as -140 in the more modern way of discussing odds) with Notre Dame at 3-1, followed by Georgia at 4-1, then a dropoff to Oregon at 10-1, and then a further dropoff to Kansas St. and Florida at 20-1.
It’s pretty much assumed that the winner of the SEC title game on Dec. 1 will be in the BCS title game on Jan. 7, but Alabama and Georgia must first get through their games this weekend. Georgia is a 13-point favorite vs. rival Georgia Tech at noon PST on Saturday while Alabama is a 32-point favorite over Auburn at 3:30 p.m. EST.
Notre Dame also controls its own destiny (and that’s not a knock at predeterminism!) as the Irish are a 6-point favorite at Southern Cal at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST. This is easily the most interesting point spread of the week. Before last week, the advance line on this game had USC -3, but that was before the Trojans were blown out by UCLA and Matt Barkley injured his shoulder and has since been ruled out for this game. With that happening, along with Notre Dame’s 38-0 rout of Wake Forest and ascension to No. 1, the Irish are now a solid favorite.
But they are far from a lock. Barkley is being replaced by Max Wittek, who also replaced him at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. Wittek is getting a baptism by fire against a Notre Dame defense that allows just 10.1 points per game, but he is 8-for-9 for 95 yards in limited relief roles this year and has the weapons with receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods to make this game interesting if his line can give him time to throw.
But don’t think I’ve forgotten about the NFL. We can all give thanks that the holiday weekend kicks off with a tripleheader of Turkey Day games on Thursday. Two of the league’s top teams, the Texans and Patriots, take the field with Houston invading Detroit as a 3.5-point road favorite over the Lions in the traditional early game and New England invading New York as 6-point favorite over the Jets in the nightcap. In between, the Cowboys are a 3.5-point home favorite over the Redskins in an NFC East battle as they both try to keep their playoff hopes alive as they’re both chasing the Giants.
Many think the Giants are a shoe-in to win the division, but they’re just a game ahead of the Cowboys and two ahead of the Redskins and have a tough schedule. The Giants are just a 2.5-point home favorite against the Packers on Sunday night in a game no one would be shocked if they lost. Then, the Giants have to play at Washington on Monday night, Dec. 3 (which gives the Redskins a realistic hope of catching them) and then home to the Saints in Week 14 before traveling in Week 15 to Atlanta and Week 16 to Baltimore.
There are several more games with NFL playoff implications this weekend: the Bears host the Vikings in a game that was off the board as of this writing early Tuesday morning (due to the Bears playing on Monday night, plus the question about whether or not Jay Cutler will be cleared to return; the advance line on this game last week was Bears -6), the Buccaneers are pick-em against the NFC South-leading Falcons, the 49ers are expected to be a short road favorite at surging New Orleans. The Seahawks, tied with the Buccaneers and Vikings for the last wild-card spot at 6-4, are a 3-point road favorite at Miami.
The AFC playoff picture is clearer, unless the Steelers and Colts lose their grip on the wild-card spots. The Bengals are the only team within a game of them. The Bengals are a solid 7.5-point home favorite over the Raiders, while the Colts are a 3-point home fave over the Bills while the Steelers can be expected to be favored by more than a field goal at Cleveland when that line gets posted.
Have a happy and safe (and profitable) holiday weekend!
Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website, ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 45, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas.