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The man responsible for the first weekly college football lines on the planet is tired. Let’s get him.
For the second straight year, the Las Vegas Wynn is the first on the market, posting spreads on an average of 80-plus college games at 3 p.m. Las Vegas time every Sunday.
Executive director Johnny Avello, a 25-year veteran oddsmaker, is the man behind the true opening numbers.
“It’s a lot of work,” Avello told Covers.com in a phone interview from his Vegas office. “Saturdays and Sundays are grueling days.”
Executive director Johnny Avello, a 25-year veteran oddsmaker, is the man behind the true opening numbers
After working all day Saturday, Avello arrives back at the sportsbook around 8:30 a.m., Sunday. He helps book the early NFL action, before retiring to his office for a four-hour cram session. During that time, he compares his own power ratings to a couple odds consultants’ numbers. He dissects stats and key injuries from the weekend’s games then hits the button.
The timing is perfect. The opening lines hit the board right as the late NFL games are heading into the fourth quarter, when the book is full.
The early action on the college lines is predominantly from eager wise guys, “who have done their homework,” Avello said.
“But you also get the folks who may be leaving town and want to get a couple more bets down on the following week’s games before they go,” he added.
The initial wise-guy attack on the numbers can get a little hectic, forcing Avello to be aggressive when moving the lines. It happened in the Mississippi State-Auburn game last week.
Avello opened up the Bulldogs as 1-point road favorites over the defending national champions, who looked nothing of the sorts in a miracle win over Utah State in Week 1.
“My theory in opening up at Mississippi State -1,” said Avello, “was that the Bulldogs were probably the better team, but I don’t really know a lot about Auburn yet. They’re at home in a place where they’ve had huge success. Right now, Auburn’s home field is worth about three points, so the line indicated Mississippi State is about a 4-point better team.”
Sharps went nuts over the short number, pounding Mississippi State and quickly pushing the line to -4. Avello took four limit plays on the Bulldogs that Sunday and ended up with a closing number of Mississippi State -6 later in the week.
Auburn, of course, won 41-34.
“Yeah, we did good on that game, real good,” said Avello.
Even though, he came out ahead on that game, he prefers to avoid similar situations when the line runs.
“I don’t like those kind of spots, to be honest with you,” he said. “If I open a game at -1 and it runs to -6 or -7, I hate being in that position. If I have all one-sided action, then at least I have a chance to win it. But for the most part, you’re going to get some take-back at that higher number and that’s risky. A lot of times the bigger money is going to come on the take-back. Anyone laid one with Mississippi State, likely bought back Auburn at +6.”
In addition to the initial flurry of action at the Wynn, Vegas pro and Covers Expert Ted Sevransky says there’s another big rush when the first college football lines appear offshore. BetCris.com is the first offshore book to post, also going up on Sunday.
“That’s when the real frenzy starts for professional bettors, when you get that second set of numbers to look at,” said Sevransky, who added that the Wynn deserves a lot of credit for being first to post. “Put it this way: If you don’t have some sort of action both offshore and in Vegas by Sunday night/Monday morning, then you’re not a real professional gambler or at least not one doing it at the highest of levels.”
THE STORY: Boise State wouldn’t figure to have a lot of trouble with Toledo but Ohio State certainly didn’t expect to either.
The No. 4 Broncos insist they won’t be taking the Rockets lightly after Toledo nearly upset the Buckeyes before falling 27-22 last Saturday. Boise State is the highest-ranked team to ever visit Toledo’s Glass Bowl. The Broncos haven’t played in 13 days since defeating Georgia in their nationally-televised opening contest. Boise State routed Toledo 57-14 last season in the only previous meeting between the two schools.
LINE MOVES: This spread opened with BSU at -17 and money on the Broncos has driven the spread as high as -20. The total has also moved, going from its opening post of 58.5 points to 59.5 as of Thursday afternoon.
ABOUT TOLEDO (1-1): The Rockets enter the contest with a lot of confidence after slugging it out with powerful Ohio State. Receiver Eric Page caught 12 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State and has 17 receptions in two games. The Rockets use a two-quarterback system with Austin Dantin (316 yards, four touchdowns) and Terrance Owens (259 yards, three touchdowns) both faring well.
Toledo also was impressive defensively, holding the Buckeyes to 301 yards. Standout linebacker Dan Molls (leg) will likely miss his second straight game and fellow linebacker Robert Bell (ribs) is also ailing.
The previous highest-ranked team to visit Toledo was No. 9 Pittsburgh in 2003. The Rockets upset the Panthers 35-31.
ABOUT BOISE STATE (1-0): The Broncos forced six three-and-outs in their victory over Georgia. Quarterback Kellen Moore threw three touchdown passes and has thrown multiple touchdowns in 34 of 41 career games. Moore is 39-2 as a starter and is six wins away from matching the career victories record held by former Texas star Colt McCoy.
Defensive end Shea McClellin scored on a 36-yard interception against Toledo last season. Starting safety Cedric Febis was expected to miss his second straight game as one of three Dutch players in Boise State’s program having their eligibility investigated by the NCAA.But Febis was re-instated by the NCAA on Thursday.
1. The Broncos were officially placed on NCAA probation Tuesday. The penalties included the loss of nine scholarships over a three-year span.
2. Toledo’s Page had 11 receptions for 120 yards in last year’s contest against Boise State.
Covers Experts Ted Sevransky takes a look inside the SEC and gives you the best betting notes heading into Week 3 of the college football season.
Wiseguy bettors burned
I was at the Golden Nugget this past summer when the very first college football lines came up for the coming season. There was an absolute feeding frenzy of money pouring in against Auburn on that day.
The wiseguys continued to fade Auburn throughout the offseason, betting the under in the Tigers’ season win total as well as betting against them in all of their Games of the Year on the futures board. That included numerous big bets against the Tigers in their matchup against Mississippi State last weekend.
Those wiseguy bettors aren’t necessarily ruing their win-total bets just yet, but they’re certainly not happy after the Tigers stole back-to-back victories in the past two weeks. A recovered onside kick allowed them to sneak past Utah State in the closing seconds in Week 1. Last week, it was a bad play call from Mississippi State that allowed Auburn to make a goal-line stand as the clock ran out.
“We’d prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there’s something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn’t look good and still win the game,” head coach Gene Chizik told the media.
Last year, Chizik’s squad stole a 27-24 overtime win against Clemson, rallying back from a 17-0 deficit at home. Dabo Swinney’s squad gets their chance for revenge in Death Valley Saturday. Clemson is currently a 3-point favorite with the total set at 61.
Volunteering for duty
There’s a lot of debate in the handicapping community about how good Tennessee actually is as it prepares for the annual showdown against Florida. Tennessee has won its last six regular season games dating back to last year, including last week’s blowout against Cincinnati, and the Vols have covered the spread in all six of those wins.
Tennessee hasn’t exactly been beating up on juggernauts during this run. Last year’s final four wins came against Memphis, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky – a bottom feeder and the three worst teams in the SEC. This year, they’ve beaten FCS Montana and a Cincy squad that went 4-8 last year. The Vols haven’t left the state of Tennessee since last October’s game at South Carolina - a two-touchdown loss. And with a whopping 31 underclassmen in head coach Derek Dooley’s two-deep, Saturday’s trip to Gainesville is the first real step-up game in a hostile environment for these youngsters.
“I’ve said it all along, you can’t be held hostage to the past … The bulk of our team, this is the first time they’re starting against Florida….. We took care of two opponents we should have taken care of, and we did them the way Tennessee should take care of them. And I told them, ‘That’s good. That’s a good start. Now, what’s next?’ That’s what matters,” Dooley told the media.
The Vols have had a tough time simulating Florida’s overall team speed in practice this week, particularly on the defensive side of the football against the likes of Gators track stars Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.
“Yeah, you talk about it, you emphasize it and you put the best guys you can to give you a service look and it's just, there's nothing like that game speed. That's hard to do,” defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said this week.
Going Hog wild
Every year in the SEC, there are quality teams that get overlooked because there are so many other teams worthy of national attention early in the season. Look no further than last year’s Auburn squad for a prime example – the eventual national champs didn’t even crack the Top 10 until October. This year’s under-the-radar juggernaut just might be Arkansas.
In a pair of tuneup games to open the season, the Razorbacks have outscored their foes 103-10, gained nearly 1,100 yards of total offense and scored three times on special teams. They’ve won SU and ATS in both contests, despite failing to win the turnover battle either time.
Head coach Bobby Petrino still found a way to criticize and motivate his first-year starter at quarterback, junior Tyler Wilson, whose headlong dive into the end zone against New Mexico last week earned his coach’s ire and his respect at the exact same time.
“You have to be smart enough to get the first down and keep yourself healthy….. That’s the competitive spirit that allows your teammates to see you as a leader, and it’s hard not to have somebody compete like that. That’s just his competitive spirit,” said Petrino.
Kickoff and punt return TD’s from Joe Adams and Marquel Wade go a long way towards pointspread success. Petrino has been thrilled with the performance of the freshman, Wade, in his first two collegiate games.
“He gives us a lift on No. 1, his speed and No. 2, his toughness,” Petrino told reporters. “He’s a very, very physical, tough player. When he covers kickoffs, he’s physical and fast. When he runs the football, he’s fearless. He’s a good football player…I think you’re going to see him as the year goes on get better and better.”
The Hogs have another pre-SEC tuneup this week against Sun Belt foe Troy State. Arkansas is currently a 23-point home favorite, with the total set at 63.5.
Boise State Broncos at Toledo Rockets (+19.5, 58.5)
Why Boise State will cover: Boise State already went into the heart of Georgia and beat the Bulldogs. The Broncos beat the Rockets by 43 last year and have most of their starters back from 2010.
Why Toledo will cover: The Rockets hung at Ohio State until the very end, falling 27-22. It’s as marquee a home game as Toledo is going to get, and the MAC favorites won’t hold anything back.
Points: Boise State scored at least 42 points nine times in 2010. Toledo has the tools to keep up, at least for a while.
Oklahoma Sooners at Florida State Seminoles (+3, 54.5)
Why Oklahoma will cover: The Sooners hammered the Seminoles 47-17 last year. While FSU is improved, OU’s depth is still superior. Eventually, the Seminoles will wear down.
Why Florida State will cover: This year’s Seminoles are more talented than last year’s. Oklahoma’s defense showed flaws in its opener, allowing 400 yards to Tulsa.
Points: Two of the nation’s best offenses under perfect weather conditions could make for an entertaining game.
North Texas Mean Green at Alabama Crimson Tide (-45.5, 53)
Why North Texas will cover: That’s a huge pointspread.
Why Alabama will cover: The Mean Green stands little chance of slowing down the Crimson Tide. And judging by the way Alabama’s defense dominated Penn, this game could get ugly in a hurry.
Points: Alabama may have to reach the over by itself, but North Texas has already been blown out by worse teams.
Stanford Cardinal at Arizona Wildcats (+9.5, 53.5)
Why Stanford will cover: The Cardinal have already covered spreads of 20 and 30 points. The goal is a national title, and a slip up in a Pac-12 opener seems unlikely. Stanford, which beat Arizona 42-17 last year, doesn’t let up.
Why Arizona will cover: The Wildcats are never out of a game with the passing attack they bring. Being at home, at night, doesn’t hurt.
Points: Arizona can score, but its defense was exposed in a 37-14 loss to Oklahoma State. Andrew Luck and Co. will be licking their chops.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Tulsa Golden Hurricane (+13.5, 68.5)
Why Oklahoma State will cover: The Cowboys look like the real deal after blowing out Arizona. A young defense should continue to improve.
Why Tulsa will cover: Tulsa showed offensive promise in a loss to mighty Oklahoma, so the Hurricane could stay close enough until the end.
Points: Both teams can score in bunches, especially OSU.
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (+16.5, 63.5)
Why Wisconsin will cover: Wisconsin is averaging 223 yards passing and 224 yards rushing per game. It doesn’t get more balanced than that. But the strength is still on the ground, and Northern Illinois is 117th against the run so far. Wisconsin is 8-0-1 ATS in its last nine games.
Why Northern Illinois will cover: The Huskies are averaging 47 points per game, against Kansas and Army. Even if NIU only puts up 35, that forces Wisconsin to score more than 50.
Points: Both teams have shown the ability to light up the scoreboard. Can NIU keep it up against a tougher opponent?
Idaho Vandals at Texas A&M Aggies (-35.5, 56.5)
Why Idaho will cover: Maybe Texas A&M comes out a little rusty after a week off and Idaho catches it by surprise. All it takes is a little competitiveness to cover a spread of that size.
Why Texas A&M will cover: The Aggies shut down the run-and-shoot style of SMU in a 46-14 win. What’s Idaho going to do? Meanwhile, with nine starters back on offense, Texas A&M should pour it on all day.
Points: Idaho’s offense has struggled this season, and that’s not likely to change here.
Washington Huskies at Nebraska Cornhuskers (-17, 54)
Why Washington will cover: Washington has scored 40 and 30 points in games so far. The Huskers haven’t been as impressive as expected, 0-2 ATS, and their defense allowed 29 points to a decimated Fresno State squad.
Why Nebraska will cover: The Huskers have a potent offense led by dynamic dual-threat QB Tyler Martinez. Washington has struggled to slow down the likes of Eastern Washington and Hawaii so far. The Huskies could be in for a rude awakening.
Points: Both offenses have looked good in the young season, while both defenses have been suspect.
Navy Midshipmen at South Carolina Gamecocks (-17.5, 55.5)
Why Navy will cover: Those not ready for the Midshipmen’s style can get sunk in a hurry. Often, it takes squads used to getting by on superior talent to settle down. By then, it may be too late to cover.
Why South Carolina will cover: The Gamecocks have figured out how to get it done in wins over East Carolina and Georgia. Navy’s defense simply doesn’t have the personnel to stay with the ultra-athleticism of the Gamecocks.
Points: USC averages 55.1 points per game, Navy averages 40.0, albeit against pedestrian competition.
Troy Trojans at Arkansas Razorbacks (-22.5, 62)
Why Troy will cover: Troy’s wide-open offense could give initial troubles to an Arkansas team that’s played subpar competition. Its defensive backfield is considered one of its strengths, which is good against the high-powered Razorbacks.
Why Arkansas will cover: Despite being favored by 41.5 and 37.5 in its games so far, Arkansas has covered just fine. Troy steps up the level of competition for the Hogs, but not enough to think the Trojans can hang.
Points: The over is 9-0 in Troy’s last nine games against the SEC. Arkansas will hold up its bargain to make it 10-0.
Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-4.5, 50.5)
Why Michigan State will cover: The Spartans will be Notre Dame’s toughest competition to date. Since the Irish are 0-2, MSU could definitely win outright.
Why Notre Dame will cover: Notre Dame is better on paper than its record. The Irish has faced South Florida and Michigan, while the Spartans have faced Youngstown State (didn’t cover) and Florida Atlantic (won 44-0). They’ll be ready for this high-level competition, will the Spartans?
Points: Expect more defense than offense, because that’s what it will likely take for the host Irish to get the job done.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Miami Hurricanes (-3, 47.5)
Why Ohio State will cover: It’s still tough to put points on OSU’s defense, and the offense is its usual mundane, successful self. It also gets back two players from suspension, starting tailback Jordan Hall and corner Travis Howard.
Why Miami will cover: The Hurricanes get nine players back from suspension, including star QB Jacory Harris for their home opener, which should make a world of difference. The Buckeyes struggled against Toledo, hanging on for a 27-22 win.
Points: The under is 8-2-1 in OSU’s last 11 road games, and is 6-2-1 in Miami’s last nine games anywhere. Don’t be surprised if a defensive slugfest breaks out.
Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators (-9.5, 50)
Why Tennessee will cover: The passing game has been surprisingly solid, averaging 358 yards through the air. If the Vols get behind, it won’t take long to get back in it. Plus, some experts are still waiting for a Florida slide. Tennessee’s easily the best opponent the Gators will have faced.
Why Florida will cover: The Gators were supposedly in for a transition year, but so far they’re 2-0 ATS, outscoring the opposition 80-3. UF can be overwhelming in The Swamp.
Points: The over is 0-2 in Florida games so far, and 2-0 in UT games. When undecided, follow the trend of the home team.
Arizona State Sun Devils at Illinois Fighting Illini (-1.5, 59)
Why Arizona State will cover: The Sun Devils are riding the momentum after finding a way to beat Missouri last week.
Why Illinois will cover: The Illini will go as sophomore QB Nathan Scheelhaase goes, and ASU’s passing defense ranked 101st last year and is 76th so far this year.
Points: The over is 7-1 in Illinois’ last eight games as a home favorite, and if Illinois is going to win this one, it’s likely going to take a lot of points.
Auburn Tigers at Clemson Tigers (-3, 59)
Why Auburn will cover: The Tigers haven’t looked great, 0-2 ATS, but they’ve found ways to win both games. With a manageable spread this time, the defending national champs find a way again and will likely cover, too.
Why Clemson will cover: Auburn’s defense has allowed 38 and 34 points to Utah State and Mississippi State, respectively. The Tigers’ offense, with eight returning starters, has been clicking, and there’s no indication that will change Saturday.
Points: The under is 8-0-1 in Auburn’s last nine games vs. ACC opponents, and it’s 7-2 in Clemson’s last nine vs. the SEC. That said, so far this season both teams have been piling on the points without stopping the foe with regularity.
West Virginia Mountaineers at Maryland Terrapins (-1, 54.5)
Why West Virginia will cover: The Mountaineers haven’t put a full game together yet for first-year coach Dana Holgorsen, and have manhandled the competition. A complete game will put away the Terps.
Why Maryland will cover: Maryland played with major emotion and took care of Miami in its opener. West Virginia is 0-2 ATS against poor competition, while the Terps are 7-1 ATS in its last eight games.
Points: The over is 6-1-1 in Maryland’s last eight games, and 9-2 in West Virginia’s last 11 as an underdog. We should see some points.
Texas Longhorns at UCLA Bruins (+3.5, 44)
Why Texas will cover: While the Longhorns’ offense has been mediocre, the defense has been tough, shutting down Rice and BYU in wins (1-1 ATS). With a new QB, maybe Texas’ offense breaks out and wins going away.
Why UCLA will cover: Texas is going with a new QB in unproven sophomore Case McCoy, which may help an aggressive defense.
Points: The under is 8-3 in UT’s last 11 games as a favorite, and 15-7 in UCLA’s last 22 as an underdog. And both offenses are still finding their way.
Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks at TCU Horned Frogs (-28.5, 51.5)
Why ULM will cover: ULM gained confidence by beating down Grambling 35-7. TCU’s defense is still questionable, leaving the chance the Warhawks can at least lose by less than four touchdowns.
Why TCU will cover: After scoring 48 in a loss at Baylor, the Horned Frogs found their way and hammered Air Force. ULM is overmatched from one end to the other.
Points: ULM lost to Florida State 35-0 in its opener. A similar score isn’t out of the question.
Arkansas State Red Wolves at Virginia Tech Hokies (-24, 53)
Why Arkansas St. will cover: Arkansas State hung with Illinois for a half and dominated Memphis, going 2-0 ATS. The Red Wolves have the skill players to hang, leading one of the nation’s top pass offenses.
Why Virginia Tech: As usual, it’s tough to score on the Hokies, especially for teams not used to that level of talent and intensity. Virginia Tech will wear down Arkansas State just like Illinois did, and pull away in the second half.
Points: The under is 7-2 in the Hokies’ last nine games and 19-6-1 in the Red Wolves’ last 26 on the road.
NCAAF: Boise State has covered in 20 of its last 27 road games.
MLB: The Atlanta Braves are 8-3 in Derek Lowe’s last 11 home starts.
CFL: The under is 11-4 in Hamilton’s last 15 home games.
WNBA: Minnesota has covered in eight of its last 10 overall.
NCAAF: The under is just 7-19 in Iowa State’s last 26 overall.
MLB: Colorado is 5-11 in its last 16 meetings with San Francisco.
CFL: Edmonton is 3-11 against the spread in its last 14 meetings with Hamilton.
WNBA: Atlanta is 2-5 against the spread in its last seven meetings with Connecticut.
6.38 – The Minnesota Lynx led the WNBA with a +6.38 rebounding margin in the regular season and should have a huge advantage on the glass against the San Antonio Silver Stars. San Antonio finished last in the league with a -5.68 rebounding margin. The Lynx are set as 10-point home favorites Friday.
Injury that shouldn’t be overlooked
Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians – Choo returned to the lineup Thursday after spending three weeks on the DL with an oblique injury, but exited in the first inning after an awkward swing at the plate.
Game of the day
No. 4 Boise State at Toledo (20, 60.5)
“This defense forces you to be on your A game every play. It’s an up front defense and you know what to expect and we will play close to people. We play so close, and as guys get more comfortable and are anticipating passes and trying to get our hands on it. We want to get hands on these balls.” – Connecticut cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The Huskies are set as 4-point home favorites to Iowa State.
Notes and tips
It sounds as though we could see all three Connecticut quarterbacks in action again Friday. Many thought Johnny McEntee would sit following a three-interception performance in last week’s loss to Vanderbilt, but coach Paul Pasqualoni says McEntee, Michael Nebrich, and Scott McCummings should all play against Iowa State. McEntee is expected to start with Nebrich coming on for a bit in the second quarter, while McCummings will run the wildcat as needed.
The Maryland Terrapins have suspended Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler, two of their top three receivers for unspecified violations of team rules. Mcree is second on the team with seven catches with Tyler just behind with six. Maryland is set as a 1-point favorite at home to West Virginia following the club’s bye.
After winning their first five games, the Edmonton Eskimos have dropped four of five heading into Friday’s date with the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton. They’re also riding a 1-5 slump against the number and are set as a 5-point underdog.