The college football season doesn’t begin until Saturday, Aug. 23, when California travels to battle Kansas State.
But rabid football bettors don’t have to wait that long to get in on the action as the Imperial Palace last weekend released its long-awaited 2003 College Football Games of the Year.
"My staff and I worked long hours over the past week to choose what we think are the best games for the 2003 season," said Jay Kornegay, the IP’s race and sports director. "Ed Salmons (sports book manager) deserves a lot of credit for making this such a popular venture."
In the kick-off game, IP favors K-State by a whopping 29 points, but that contest isn’t among the premier match-ups of the season.
Maryland at Florida State and Florida at Miami are considered two of the best early match-ups. The strong home-field edge weighs heavily in both the Seminoles’ and Hurricanes’ lines — each opened as 10-point favorites.
(Complete betting lines for all College Football Games of the Year are on page 21.)
The biggest card is Nov. 22, known as "Rivalry Weekend," with eight stellar games that feature Ohio State (+2Â½) at Michigan, UCLA (+6) at USC and Alabama (+5Â½) visiting Auburn.
Oklahoma-Texas in Dallas highlights a big six-game package on Oct. 11. Texas, a four-point underdog against the Sooners, hosts Kansas State the week before in Austin. The Longhorns are an early 3-point favorite.
The other six-pack of elite contests is on Nov. 1, featuring Georgia vs. Florida at Jacksonville ( Georgai is an early 3-point favorite); and Ohio State (—4Â½) at Penn State, and Notre Dame (+2Â½) at Florida State.
The Mountain West Conference is part of the package, with hometown UNLV on the slate twice. The Rebels are a 17-point underdog at Wisconsin on Sept. 13 and a 3Â½-point underdog to BYU in Las Vegas on Oct. 25.
"UNLV is our team and will always be a part of the list," Kornegay. "Nevada, Reno is not among our top games because we don’t feel the demand is there. Maybe, it would be different if we were up-state."
The season concludes Dec. 6 with Notre Dame a 1-point favorite at Syracuse, and Navy a 4-point choice over Army in Philadelphia.
"Believe it or not, there is a lot of interest in Army-Navy clash from both a betting standpoint and the great tradition," Kornegay said. "It’s a great way to end the regular season, but we can’t wait to see it start."
In addition to the 2003 College Games of the Year, the Imperial Palace crew is working this week on creating OVER/UNDER win totals for what they consider the top 30 college teams. Kornegay gave GamingToday an early exclusive on the top five.
"Oklahoma, Ohio State, Kansas State, USC and Miami, in that order," Kornegay said. "My sleepers are Auburn and Pittsburgh. Auburn has the best linebackers in the country and two great backs. Pittsburgh continues to build a quality program."
Of course the proof is in the pudding and, while the table is set, consumption is just a few weeks away.