Published on June 11 of 2012 at 9:09 p.m. Eastern
By Brian Edwards
For the fifth straight year, The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas provided bettors with what basically equates to a national holiday by releasing early numbers for 111 regular-season college football games on Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. local time.
Here’s how it works: The Nugget allows each gambler to make up to three plays for a maximum of $1,000. After making your three favorite selections, you have to go to the back of the line. By the time one gets back to the window, lots of lines are adjusted and this year was no exception.
The big mover and shaker from last summer was Boise St. vs. Georgia in Atlanta. The Nugget opened the Broncos as six-point favorites but after a few hours of betting, BSU was down to 1 ½. Two years ago, the race and sports book opened North Carolina as a short favorite vs. LSU at the Ga. Dome.
When an NCAA investigation became public and a plethora of UNC players were suspended weeks later, the number obviously moved drastically. By kickoff, LSU was nearly a double-digit favorite. The Tigers ended up winning a 30-24 decision with the Tar Heels covering the spread for wagers made the week of the game.
However, the ‘sharps’ who initially took LSU as an underdog at The Nugget, and then came back months later with UNC money at plus 9 ½, came out with multiple winners thanks to a beautiful middle (similar to the result for the FSU-Kentucky 2007 Music City Bowl).
According to BeyondtheBets.com, 34 of the 111 games moved by at least one point within an hour of wagering. For instance, Virginia Tech opened as a one-point home favorite for its Thursday night showdown against FSU, but the Seminoles are now two-point ‘chalk.’ The ‘Noles also went from eight-point favorites versus Clemson to being favored by nine.
Another example was Michigan initially favored by three at Ohio St. Early action on the Buckeyes prompted The Nugget to move this game to a pick ‘em.
For Week 1, Alabama was a 12-point favorite against Michigan at Cowboys Stadium, but the number was adjusted to 10 by late afternoon Monday. Also, Michigan St. went from laying 6 ½ points to 7 ½ against visiting Boise St. in East Lansing.
Other season openers include Clemson (-2.5) vs. Auburn (in Atlanta), West Va. (-20) vs. Marshall, Notre Dame -13.5 vs. Navy (at 8:00 a.m. Eastern in Dublin, Ireland), Louisville (-11.5) vs. Kentucky and Colorado (-6) vs. Colorado St. (Denver).
Texas A&M will make its SEC debut at Kyle Field vs. Florida in Week 2 and The Nugget opened the Aggies as one-point favorites. After a few hours, however, the Gators were listed as 2 ½-point favorites.
In fact, Will Muschamp’s team got a lot of support Monday. Six of its seven games moved in favor of UF with the only exception being its trip to Knoxville. Florida went from minus five to minus four for that matchup at The Swamp North (I mean Neyland Stadium). Another move included the Gators going from 7 ½-point home underdogs to +6.5 vs. LSU. If this line holds, this will be the first time the Tigers have ever been favored at The Swamp.
The 2012 Gators are a mystery because the QB play is such a huge question mark. As true freshmen forced into action when John Brantley was injured against Alabama, Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskell struggled mightily (to say the least). If either or both can emerge as simply above-average signal callers this year, watch out.
I say this because Muschamp’s defense is going to be nasty. This unit ranked eighth in the nation last season and returns 10 starters. UF might also have the best place-kicker in America (Caleb Sturgis) and Alabama falls off of the regular-season slate.
Missouri also enters the SEC at home on Sept. 8 by hosting Georgia, which opened as a three-point favorite before being adjusted to four-point ‘chalk.’ LSU will take on Washington from out of the Pac-12 and the Tigers are favored by 22 ½ after being 21 to start.
In Week 3, Nick Saban’s squad is favored by 6 ½ at Arkansas. Also, Southern Cal is a nine-point fave at Stanford, while Sparty is giving four at home to Notre Dame.
Most of Monday’s numbers moved against Alabama, which went from a 17-point favorite at Tennessee to just 14 ½. Other examples included the Tide going from 14 ½ to 13 ½ at Missouri, in addition to the aforementioned opener vs. Michigan.
Let’s skip ahead to Week 5 for this quartet of matchups: Arkansas (-3.5) at Texas A&M, Michigan St. (-2.5) vs. Ohio St., Georgia (-12.5) vs. Tennessee and Oklahoma St. (-2) vs. Texas.
As always, the Red River Rivalry will have major implications. Oklahoma opened as a six-point favorite but Texas is now just a five-point underdog.
At this time last year, seemingly everyone was (accurately) pointing to the Alabama-LSU showdown as the Game of the Year. Since then, nothing has changed. Once again, the Crimson Tide’s trip to Baton Rouge to face The Mad Hatters is viewed as the most important contest of the 2012 campaign.
‘Bama will come to Tiger Stadium on Nov. 3 a week after hosting Mississippi St. On the flip side, LSU will have an open date prior to this crucial encounter. Remember, both teams had a bye the prior week in 2011.
The Golden Nugget opened LSU as the two-point favorite vs. Alabama and that number held steady.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–The line for the Iron Bowl didn’t have any adjustments. Alabama remains an 18-point home favorite vs. Auburn. The Tide is laying 20 to Texas A&M, 31 to Ole Miss and 24 to Mississippi St.
–Likewise, the Egg Bowl saw no line movement. Mississippi St. is a 10-point road favorite at Ole Miss.
–Two biggest spreads: USC -36 vs. Colorado and Boise St. -35.5 vs. UNLV.
–Pivotal games not yet mentioned: USC -6 vs. Oregon, Michigan -1 at Nebraska, Oklahoma -12 vs. Notre Dame, West Va. -6 vs. TCU and Texas -7.5 vs. TCU.
–LSU has four running backs that would start for at least 90 percent of the nation’s teams. My favorite? Rising sophomore Kenny Hilliard, who exploded in the second half to lead the Tigers to a 42-10 win over Georgia.
–Just like last year, Georgia has the good fortune of not facing Arkansas, LSU or Alabama.
–I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the 2012 Tennessee Vols and Derek Dooley. In fact, I’ve got so many that they’re going to be found in a separate column. But it’s on the way soon.
—Click here for more from Micah Roberts and a table (scroll down) of all the (opening) lines.