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September 19, 2014

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College football by the odds: Betting overview of week two in Las Vegas

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (11)is pursued by Buffalo linebacker Lee Skinner (36) during an NCAA college football game, in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012.

A recreational gambler recently claimed he held an advantage over the sports books on college football this early in the season.

The argument was basically that books don’t have much information on the nation’s 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams during the first few weeks of the season. This is comical because any decent oddsmaker in town would point out that they’re operating at no more of an information disadvantage than customers.

Football bettors study preseason magazines, pour over last season’s statistics and read through trends obsessively for months before the season. It’s all worthwhile, but less so than seeing how a team performs over a prolonged stretch.

That’s worth remembering with week two underway for bettors. The season is long. Plan accordingly.

Check below for the usual betting breakdown of the two most prominent games as well as quick slants and picks at the bottom.

No. 7 Georgia -2.5 at Missouri; over/under 54.5

4:45 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2

Perhaps the first marquee contest of the Southeastern Conference regular season comes live from … Columbia, Mo?

United States Map has confirmed to the Las Vegas Sun that the home of the Tigers, the fifth largest city in the Show Me State, is in fact not located in the southeastern region of the country. Geographical nonsense is as common as the spread offense in the new age of college football.

Anyway, Faurot Field hasn’t proven to be much of a home field advantage in recent years as far as gamblers are concerned. Missouri is 7-11 against the spread in front of its home fans in the last three years.

Georgia, on the other hand, has gone 5-2 as a road favorite in the same time span. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt will have to wait to break his streak of three straight against the spread losses as an away underdog, because this line doesn’t project to fall much more before kickoff.

It’s already traveled far and wide. The Golden Nugget opened Georgia as three-point favorites this summer, but early money pushed the spread to four.

The market seemingly changed its mind at some point, as Wynn opened Georgia as a five-point favorite last week and saw the number plummet two-and-a-half points.

Bettors likely weren’t impressed with a 45-23 victory over Buffalo that saw Georgia fail to come close at covering the 38-point spread. They could also be buying into — literally — the hype of Missouri quarterback James Franklin.

Franklin and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are arguably two of the three best signal callers in the SEC. Both defenses have uncertainties, Missouri’s because of youth and Georgia’s because of suspensions.

No. 24 Florida pick’em at Texas A&M; over/under 50.5

12:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN

There are plenty of options for the other best game of the weekend, but let’s stick with the same theme.

It’s New SEC hosting Old SEC as a small underdog in another battle. The comparisons don’t stop there. Gamblers have also chased this number around the board dating back to this summer.

The Golden Nugget opened the Aggies as one-point favorites, but initial money came in on the Gators. A handful of sharp bettors liked Florida’s 10 returning starters on defense before the season began.

Unenthusiastic about Florida’s 27-14 win over Bowling when giving 28 points, however, oddsmakers made Texas A&M as high as a 2.5-point favorite. That didn’t last as Florida crashed back to a 1-point favorite or pick’em all around town.

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Florida's Mike Gillislee runs with the ball for a 38-yard touchdown against Bowling Green during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in Gainesville, Fla.

If the Gators defense — led by linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Jonathan Bostic — is as strong as some believed, it should torture Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Texas A&M was actually far worse defensively than Bowling Green last year, ranking 109th in the nation against the pass.

But Florida can’t expect to inspire much confidence among the degenerates considering it has now failed to cover the spread in nine straight regular season games.

The days of old coach Urban Meyer’s spread dominance — during one two-year stretch in Gainsville, Fla., he went 20-5 versus the number — are long gone as Will Muschamp has covered in only 35 percent of his games.

Quick slants

• Speaking of Meyer’s kindness to gamblers, he’s now 32-6 all-time against the spread in non-conference games after Ohio State thrashed Miami (Ohio) 56-10 as 25-point favorites last week. The Buckeyes host the UCF Knights as 18-point favorites Saturday morning. Bettors have pushed the number upwards four points, almost as if Meyer reminded everyone of his blowout persona. UCF is no walkover, though. The Knights were among the better teams in the country to bet on in 2009 and 2010, going 19-8 against the spread, before oddsmakers caught up to them and they went 5-7 a season ago. They beat Akron 49-0 as 24.5-point favorites to open this season.

• Maryland went a mortgage-defaulting 2-9 against the spread last season, including a 38-7 blowout loss against Temple as eight-point favorites. A year later and the line has flipped an astounding 18.5 points, as the Owls find themselves as 10.5-point favorites over the Terrapins at home. Temple also only returns eight starters. Maryland returns 14, but injuries have already struck and it took a late score to eke out a 7-6 win over William & Mary last week.

• Michigan’s 41-14 setback against Alabama last week ended a three-year unbeaten non-conference streak for the Wolverines that included a 9-1 mark against the spread. They could easily get back on track this week giving 21.5 points to Air Force at home. The Falcons option offense can catch opponents off guard, but Michigan coach Brady Hoke won’t be fooled. He played Air Force twice in the last three years when coaching at San Diego State, going 1-1 in the matchups but covering in both.

• Anyone catch Alabama coach Nick Saban’s egotistical rant about the media underestimating opponents and predicting big wins? If Saban ever met local oddsmakers, he might come out swinging haymakers. Las Vegas sees Alabama’s game with Western Kentucky as the most lopsided of the weekend. The Crimson Tide are rewarded for their status as the newly minted top-ranked team in the land with a 40-point spread over the Hilltoppers.

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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota passes the ball downfield in the first half of a game against Arkansas State. Oregon went on to 57-34.

• Sports book directors rejoiced when none of the top five teams outside of Alabama covered last week. USC, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma were favored by an average of 39 points, but none of the publicly backed squads cashed any tickets. The Ducks are the only team favored at a similar clip this week, as they lay 35 points against Fresno State. Oregon was covering its 38-point spread against Arkansas State at halftime in week one, leading 50-10, but backed off from there for a 57-34 win.

• Someone in the LSU Athletics Department loves scheduling games against Pac-10 opponents. The Tigers play their seventh game against a Pac-10 foe in the last 10 years when they host the Washington Huskies as 23.5-point favorites Saturday. LSU has won six in a row against the west coast’s premier conference, covering in four of them and going over the total — which is 53 this time around — in all but one.

• UTEP put a scare into Oklahoma last week, trailing 10-7 in the fourth quarter before giving up two touchdowns. Ole Miss, UTEP’s opponent this week, hasn’t scared anyone in the last two years, going 7-17 against the spread. But coach Hugh Freeze arrives from Arkansas State in 2012 off of a 10-2 against the spread year in his first college head-coaching job. UTEP, a 7.5-point underdog, is yet to beat or cover against an SEC team in five tries.

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A file photo of Dennis Franchione, who was a finalist for the UNLV head coaching job three years ago.

• Reports of bettors winning hundreds of thousands came out when Texas State defeated Houston as 34.5-point underdogs last week. The Bobcats were as high as 120-to-1 on the moneyline. The 30-13 win meant coach Dennis Franchione’s squad was the first underdog that large to ever win by more than a touchdown. The potential payout is slashed in half this week, as oddsmakers favor Texas Tech over Texas State by 18 points.

• Expect more resistance for UCLA and Nebraska this week, as both teams went on offensive sprees to cover and post overs in their openers. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez threw for 354 yards and five touchdowns against Southern Miss. UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin rushed 15 times for 214 yards and three touchdowns against Rice. The over/under in Los Angeles Saturday is 62 with UCLA receiving five points at home on the betting line. In five previous years, the two teams have posted more unders than overs in every season except one.

• The two biggest schools in Arizona, who both play at home Saturday, are receiving full support in Nevada sports books this week. Arizona State opened as a one-point favorite over Illinois, but has gotten pushed up to four. Oklahoma State is a 10-point favorite over Arizona, down four points from the initial number. Illinois quarterback Nate Scheelhaase hurt his ankle, so that explains the money on one of the two sides.

Six pack of picks: Florida pick’em, Nebraska vs. UCLA under 62, Maryland +10.5, UCF +18.5, Ole Miss -7.5, LSU vs. Washington over 53

Year to date record: 6-5 (one game postponed)

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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