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college cram session: alabama bettors fear no team in week 1
by joe fortenbaugh

on saturday evening at at&t stadium, the third-ranked alabama crimson tide will commence their football season with an opening-week matchup against a power five opponent for the sixth time in the last eight years.

alabama’s approach to early-season scheduling is as refreshing as it is aggressive in that the crimson tide provide college football fans with exactly what they so desperately want to see following eight months away from the sport: marquee showdowns against upper-class competition as opposed to glorified scrimmages against fcs opponents.

of course, this approach is not without its potentially lethal pitfalls, as a week 1 loss can wreak havoc on a contender’s chances of qualifying for college football’s four-team playoff. still, you would be hard-pressed to find a fan of the sport willing to go on the record with a preference of 40-point spreads over top-25 showdowns.

saturday night’s headliner between nick saban’s crimson tide and wisconsin first-year boss paul chryst opened with alabama assuming the role of a 10-point favorite before a slew of action forced an adjustment to as high as alabama -12 at the wynn race & sports book in las vegas.

perhaps even more important is the fact that the total for this matchup was hit even harder, with sharp action steaming an opening total of 55.5 points all the way down to as low as 48.5 at the mgm mirage race & sports book approximately one mile south of the wynn.

neither line move should come as a surprise, as the crimson tide have made it a habit of breaking from the gate in aggressive fashion.

alabama crimson tide vs. power five opponents in week 1 since 2008

*all games played at a neutral site location.

2014: 33-23 win over west virginia (failed to cover as 22-point favorites)

2013: 35-10 win over virginia tech (covered as 21.5-point favorites)

2012: 41-14 win over michigan (covered as 13-point favorites)

2009: 34-24 win over virginia tech (covered as 6-point favorites)

2008: 34-10 win over clemson (covered as 4-point underdogs)

in opening-week tilts against power five opponents since 2008, the tide boast a perfect 5-0 record straight-up and profitable 4-1 mark against the pointspread. granted, college football rosters change nearly as frequently as america’s house of representatives, but if there’s one important element to take away from the above information it is this: nick saban, who took over in tuscaloosa in 2007, always has his team ready to play in week 1 no matter the opponent.

the 63-year-old four-time national champion head coach begins his ninth season in alabama once again feeling the love from sharp bettors around the globe.

sharp vs. public: behind the counter

each and every week this column will converse with a las vegas insider in an effort to provide you, our loyal and dedicated readers, with all the inside information possible to make more educated and informed wagers. this week we speak with jeff sherman, who serves as assistant manager of the westgate las vegas superbook.

*pointspreads current as of thursday evening.

sharp sides:

georgia state (-7.5 vs. charlotte)

western michigan (+18 vs. michigan state)

boise state (-13 vs. washington)

northern illinois (-22 vs. unlv)

tennessee (-21 vs. bowling green)

texas (+10 at notre dame)

arkansas state (+28 at usc).

public sides:

baylor (-37 at smu)

ucla (-19 vs. virginia)

texas a&m (-3 vs. arizona state)

alabama (-11 vs. wisconsin)

ohio state (-13 at virginia tech).

sharp totals:

old dominion/eastern michigan – under (64)

penn state/temple – over (43)

florida atlantic/tulsa – over (67)

byu/nebraska – under (61)

bowling green/tennessee – over (68.5).

public totals:

arizona state/texas a&m – over (69.5)

texas state/florida state – over (63).

biggest westgate las vegas line movements since opening:

georgia state vs. charlotte (side)

tennessee vs. bowling green (total).

game experiencing the most action

alabama vs. wisconsin (arlington, texas)

hot trends: top 25 poll

1. ohio state buckeyes (-13 at virginia tech): 36-15-1 ats over last 52 road games.

2. tcu horned frogs: failed to cover -17 in 23-17 win over minnesota thursday.

3. alabama crimson tide (-12 vs. wisconsin): 9-4 ats over last 13 neutral-site games.

4. baylor bears (-36 at smu): 7-2 ats over last nine non-conference games.

5. michigan state spartans (-17.5 at western michigan): 20-7-1 ats over last 28 road games.

6. auburn tigers (-10.5 vs. louisville): 5-2 ats over last seven neutral-site games.

7. oregon ducks (-34.5 vs. eastern washington): 9-1 ats in last 10 games overall.

8. usc trojans (-27 vs. arkansas state): over 4-0-1 in last five non-conference games.

9. georgia bulldogs (-35 vs. ul monroe): 4-1 ats over last five non-conference games.

10. florida state seminoles (-30 vs. texas state): under 8-0 in last eight home games.

11. notre dame fighting irish (-9.5 vs. texas): over 5-0 in last five non-conference games.

12. clemson tigers (-39.5 vs. wofford): under 6-0 in last six home games.

13. ucla bruins (-19 vs. virginia): 7-3 ats over last 10 played in september.

14. lsu tigers (-36.5 vs. mcneese state): 4-1 ats in last five non-conference games.

15. arizona state sun devils (+3 at texas a&m): over 6-1 in last seven neutral-site games.

16. georgia tech yellow jackets: won 69-6 vs. alcorn state thursday.

17. ole miss rebels (-40.5 vs. tennessee-martin): under 13-3 in last 16 games.

18. arkansas razorbacks (-32.5 vs. utep): 6-1 ats last seven home games.

19. oklahoma sooners (-31.5 vs. akron): 5-0 ats last five games played in september.

20. wisconsin badgers (+12 vs. alabama): over 3-0-1 in last four neutral-site games.

21. stanford cardinal (-12 at northwestern): 14-6 ats over last 20 non-conference games.

22. arizona wildcats: beat utsa 42-32 but failed to cover as 32.5-point favorites.

23. boise state broncos (-13 vs. washington): 19-9 ats over last 28 games played on friday.

24. missouri tigers (-41.5 vs. se missouri state): under 6-1 in last seven home games.

25. tennessee volunteers (-21.5 vs. bowling green): over 4-0 in last four neutral-site games.

tales from the road

i spent three years living in las vegas prior to taking a new job in san francisco last december. at the conclusion of summer in 2012, i flew from mccarran airport in sin city to philadelphia to stand up in the wedding of one of my best friends from grade school. the only problem was that this jibroni decided to get married on the first saturday of the college football season.

the mission was simple: keep the alcohol intake and gambling in check just enough to avoid suspicion from the dozens of family members and friends who gathered at a nearby church that saturday afternoon. after all, i was in a rented tuxedo and needed to exhibit some level of class and sophistication to suit the event.

the problem, however, was that i received one of those few-and-far-between vegas insider tips that suggested i lay a small fortune (by my standards) on troy -6.5 vs. alabama-birmingham a few days prior to flying back east. naturally, i shared this information with the groom and four other individuals who were chosen to stand by his side on that most monumental of occasions.

what we failed to account for was that the game would be entering the latter stages of the fourth quarter as we were required to usher guests to their seats in the church.

long story short, don’t get married on a significant college football saturday unless you want your groomsmen walking grandma to her seat with their left hands while constantly, yet stealthily, hitting “refresh” on their phones with their right hands, as it may send the wrong message to the hundreds of guests in attendance.

sure, a few guests may somewhat understand that you’re tracking a college football score, but most will shake their heads in disgust when they find out that it’s troy vs. alabama-birmingham rather than alabama-auburn.

oh, and not only did troy cover the number, but while i was tying one on the night before the wedding, the groom’s mother overheard me hollering about laying troy -6.5. just 10 minutes before her only son tied the knot, she came up to me and said, “thanks for the tip on troy.”

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