The word “hater” gets thrown around in college football fandom lexicon like footballs in a Mike Leach practice.
Spend enough time in enough message boards and it’s easy to realize: Somebody hates every program in America. No team gets enough respect and every team will go at least 8-4 with a bowl trip at the end.
Heck, that makes Mitt Romney’s math look impressive. (Great job. Ten months ago thinks that’s topical.)
Good news: The Golden Nugget posted lines for more than 200 college football games.
Better news: We’re here to break down who Las Vegas loves and who it hates. That means fan bases no longer have to guess. We can just tell you.
Vegas loves these teams:
Alabama – #duh #noduh #umduh (Great job if you get that. Not gonna link to it, though.) Alabama is favored in every game posted, which isn’t a shock. The Crimson Tide is even a touchdown-favorite at Texas A&M. More telling, Nick Saban’s team is giving 11.5 points in a key divisional game against LSU. Aside from those two games, only Ole Miss and Virginia Tech (in a season-opening, neutral-field game) are getting fewer than 20 points against the two-time reigning champs.
Oregon – Not only are the Ducks considered the favorite to win the Pac-12 in the desert, they are expected to receive just one significant test – a Thursday night game at Stanford. Oregon is expected to win that game by four points, meaning it would be at least a touchdown favorite on a neutral field. In every other game listed the Ducks are picked to win by at least 12 points. Every game at Autzen Stadium sees Oregon as at least a 16-point favorite.
Ohio State – With no lines within six points, Vegas sure does seem to favor an undefeated regular season for the Buckeyes. Road games at Michigan – in which Ohio State is a 6-point favorite – and at Northwestern – which sees the Buckeyes as an 8-point favorite – are expected to be the closest calls. Ohio State’s closest home call seems to come in a highly anticipated game against Wisconsin. The Badgers open that game as an 11-point underdog. On a neutral field, Michigan and Wisconsin would likely be the only Big Ten teams picked within 10 points of the Buckeyes.
Georgia – Vegas posts the Bulldogs firmly as the SEC East frontrunner. Georgia is giving points in every game posted, including a season-opening game at Clemson, a potentially division-deciding home game against South Carolina and a neutral-field game against Florida. Ironically, Georgia is not picked to dominate games the way Alabama is. Only two lines are listed with Georgia giving 12 points or more. Georgia and the next team, Texas A&M, would essentially be a pick ’em game on a neutral field based on some transitive point spread work with common opponents.
Texas A&M – While the Aggies are picked to lose two games, one is against Alabama and the other is a virtual pick ’em game at LSU. The Tigers opened as a 1-point favorite. College football teams typically get at least three points – and sometimes more for elite programs – at their home venue. Tiger Stadium could easily warrant four points, meaning odds makers consider Texas A&M to be a favorite against LSU on a neutral field. The Aggies are also picked to dominate Auburn and Vanderbilt at Kyle Field.
Stanford – Though not as loved as division mate Oregon, Vegas does like the Cardinal. David Shaw’s team is a preseason underdog in two games – a home game against Oregon and a late road test at USC. The Trojans are favored to beat Stanford by just one, meaning the Cardinal is considered a slightly better team on a neutral field. Vegas eyes a road game at Oregon State as a potential stumbling block, with the Beavers opening as 3-point underdogs.
Texas – The Longhorns aren’t underdogs in any games this year. They do have a pick ’em neutral-field game against Oklahoma, but are favored to win every other game – including a road game TCU. Interestingly, though, Texas is only an eight-point favorite against Ole Miss. For comparison’s sake, Texas A&M is a four-point favorite in Oxford and Alabama is a 17-point favorite at home against the Rebels. In other words, Vegas likes a couple SEC West teams better than co-Big 12 favorite Texas.
Oklahoma State – Based on spreads provided in the round-robin between Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, one of two assumptions almost have to be correct. The first is that Vegas strongly values the advantage Darrell K. Royal Stadium presents. The other is that Oklahoma State does not match up well with the Longhorns at all. That is the only game in which the Cowboys are underdogs (+6.5). They are, however, 3-point favorites in the Battle of Bedlam.
Oklahoma – Vegas has essentially listed the Sooners as a co-favorite with Texas and Oklahoma State if all the games were played on a neutral field. Problem is some games are at home and others on the road. Oklahoma is actually an underdog in games at Notre Dame (2-point spread) and Oklahoma State (3-point spread). The Sooners are in a pick ’em game against Texas at the Cotton Bowl. Vegas does seem concerned for Oklahoma in a couple road games – a 6-point spread at Baylor and a 4-point spread at Kansas State.
Notre Dame – New quarterback, a few key replacements on a dominant defense, no problem according to Vegas. The Fighting Irish are favored in all but two of their 11 games listed by the Golden Nugget. The two exceptions are a road game at Michigan – posted as a pick ’em game – and the season finale at Stanford. In the game against the Cardinal, Notre Dame is a 5.5-point underdog. Based on a five-point spread earlier in the season favoring the Irish over USC, it seems Vegas projects Notre Dame as a top-10 team somewhere between Oklahoma and USC on a neutral field. Notre Dame is favored to win both of those games (2-point spread against OU). Assuming a 3.5-point home-field advantage, Vegas would favor the Sooners by 1.5 points on a neutral field against the Irish and would favor Notre Dame by 1.5 points on a neutral field against USC.
Florida State – Even with a freshman quarterback – Jameis Winston – almost certainly taking the reins, odds makers seem to really like Florida State. The Seminoles are thrice listed as double-digit road favorites, including in the season opener against Pittsburgh. Florida State is projected to lose just two games, both on the road and both within the 3-3.5-point margin created by most home-field advantages. Clemson and Florida are each projected to beat the Seminoles by two points in their home stadiums.
Clemson – If only the Tigers didn’t play games against the SEC, they would be favored to win all their games. Instead, Clemson is projected to lose the book-end contests at home against Georgia and at South Carolina while sweeping the 10 games in between. Only one of Clemson’s games is picked within one score – a season-defining home game against Florida State in which the Tigers are listed as a two-point favorite. The two-point spread indicates Vegas likes the Seminoles a little more than Clemson on a neutral field, thus explaining how they got the nod ahead of the Tigers.
Surprising teams Vegas likes:
USC – Considering that USC is listed in some books as a 50-1 long shot to win the BCS National Championship, the point spreads would indicate that is an outstanding value play. The Trojans aren’t projected to win all their games, but they are at least a pick ’em to win nine of the 11 contests with lines. Contrast that to cross-town rival UCLA, also a 50-1 play to win the national title. The Bruins are underdogs in five of 11 games posted. By the way, USC opened as a 7-point favorite to beat UCLA in the Coliseum. USC benefits from a home game against Stanford – the Cardinal would likely be at least a 2.5-point favorite on a neutral field. The Trojans are 5-point underdogs at Notre Dame and 2-point underdogs at Oregon State, meaning Vegas likes Notre Dame slightly more than USC and Oregon State slightly less on a neutral field. A road game at Arizona State sees the Trojans in a pick ’em situation.
Wisconsin – Vegas clearly isn’t too sure what to do with Wisconsin under first-year coach Gary Andersen. Only six of the Badgers’ games are currently listed, including a pick ’em game at Arizona State. Wisconsin is an 11-point underdog at Ohio State. In many of those unlisted games Wisconsin should be a heavy favorite. Odds makers simply might not know how heavy a favorite to make the Badgers right now. Vegas seems to like the Badgers for at least a 10-2 or 9-3 season.
Miami – Odds makers aren’t keen on the ACC, but they seem to like Miami. The Hurricanes are home underdogs against Florida (but as you will read later, Vegas doesn’t like a single ACC team to beat a team from a reputable conference). Miami is also an 8-point underdog at Florida State. Then again, Florida State made the “loves” list. Aside from the aforementioned two games and a pick ’em game at North Carolina, the Hurricanes are projected to win all their games. Who in Miami wouldn’t take a 10-2 season in 2013?
Northwestern – Ohio State is such a heavy favorite to win the Big Ten according to Vegas odds that it’s smart to remove the Buckeyes from the equation altogether. Once that happens, it’s clear to see that Vegas thinks Northwestern could be in for a strong season. The Wildcats are projected to win all but two games – they are 8-point underdogs against Ohio State and 6-point underdogs at Camp Randall Stadium against Wisconsin. Importantly, Northwestern is projected as a three-point home favorite against both Michigan and Michigan State. That means, even taking home-field out of the equation, the Wildcats would likely be in pick ’em games against the Spartans and Wolverines.
Michigan State – For a team as mediocre as the Spartans were last year, Vegas seems inclined to believe a bounce back is on its way. How else can you explain Michigan State being favored in four of its seven listed match-ups? Most – if not all – of the unlisted games should see the Spartans as favorites as well. Michigan State lost good talent from last year, but Vegas likes this team to win a home game against Michigan and stay competitive in road games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Northwestern.
Vegas hates these teams:
Pretty much the entire ACC – There are teams Vegas seems to think can be pretty good – at least in the conference. Both Clemson and Florida State, for instance are favored to win every conference game not played against each other. On the whole, though, there isn’t a lot of betting respect on the ACC. In 15 games against teams from the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or games against Notre Dame or BYU, ACC teams are projected to go a staggering 0-15. So how good, exactly, do you think the wise guys in the desert think the ACC really is?
Kentucky – The best chance Vegas gives Kentucky to win a game with an early line is a home game against Tennessee in which it is a 7.5-point underdog. This is the same Tennessee team favored by just one point against Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium. Every other game with early odds has the Wildcats losing by two touchdowns or more.
Colorado – I mean, who doesn’t, really? But being a 37-point underdog on your own home field – as the Buffaloes are against Oregon – shows Vegas thinks of Colorado as an average or below-average mid-major team. Six of Colorado’s nine conference games already have lines. The Buffaloes are at least 20-point underdogs in all of them. They are also 3.5-point underdogs in a neutral-field grudge match against Colorado State.
Auburn – Well, the Tigers are projected to win their opener against Washington State. After that… Yikes. Even potential wins against Mississippi State and at Arkansas see Auburn as underdogs. Tennessee is favored by eight points to beat Auburn. The Tigers are heavy underdogs in four games – at Texas A&M, at LSU and in home games against Georgia and Alabama. Auburn fans might be on the Gus Bus. Vegas pulled the stop cable as soon as possible.
Iowa – For those resigned to the fact that Kirk Ferentz will remain at the wheel to make horrible decisions such as hiring Greg Davis to run his offense, this won’t be fun. Not only are the Hawkeyes underdogs in all six of their listed games, they are projected to lose to rival Iowa State (again). Iowa is a 9-point underdog at home against Michigan State and is a double-digit underdog in home games against Northwestern and Michigan. The Hawkeyes are picked to lose badly at Ohio State (23-point spread) and Nebraska (14-point spread) as well.
California – Vegas expects for Year 1 under Sonny Dykes to go not much – if at all – better than the final season of the Jeff Tedford era. The Golden Bears are projected to lose non-conference home games to Northwestern and Ohio State (by 21). They are picked to lose nine games by double digits in 2013, meaning no bowl and no chance to make a serious move back toward the middle of the pack in the Pac-12.
Nevada – Considering projections from some that have the Wolfpack as a potential BCS buster, the lines don’t seem favorable. Nevada is a 26-point underdog at Florida State and a 15-point underdog at UCLA. BYU is favored to beat Nevada by more than a touchdown in Reno as well.
Kansas State – OK, it’s not as though Vegas thinks the Wildcats will have a losing record. Still, the defending Big 12 champs are more than touchdown underdogs at Texas and Oklahoma State. They are also projected to lose a home game against Oklahoma by four. More telling, K-State is favored by less than a touchdown in home games against Baylor and TCU.
Texas Tech – While the Red Raiders belong on this list, it’s worth noting that Vegas is hedging its bet during Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. Tech is a 14-point underdog at Oklahoma and a 16-point dog at Texas – both of which are fairly safe early lines considering those are likely the two Big 12 teams on whom bettors place the most action. The telling line is Tech’s league opener – a Thursday night matchup against TCU in Lubbock in which the Horned Frogs are favored to win by four points.
UCLA – Don’t count odds makers among those believing in Year 2 of the Jim L. Mora era to run smoothly. The Bruins are projected to lose five games – four in conference. There’s no doubt UCLA faces a daunting schedule, but Vegas also essentially declares the Bruins lucky to get Arizona State and Washington at home. Both are preseason underdogs to enter the Rose Bowl, but within the three- or four-point margin usually associated with a college football home-field advantage.
LSU – Many assume LSU can reload and continue on its dominant path. Early lines suggest Vegas is not among them. The Tigers are a four-point favorite against TCU in a neutral-site opener (though odds makers might be giving the Horned Frogs the home-field advantage with the game in Arlington, Texas). The Tigers are expected to lose at Georgia and by 11.5 points at Alabama. They are also just 4-point favorites at home against Florida and 1-point favorites at home against Texas A&M. Most notably, LSU is a 2-point underdog at Ole Miss. Comparably, Texas A&M is favored to beat the Rebels in Oxford by four points. At 18-1 odds to win the BCS National Championship, those inclined to trust the lines should probably avoid laying money on the Tigers.
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