Off and running!

Sep 2, 2003 8:46 AM

The college football season kicked off in earnest on Saturday and, coupled with a big Labor Day weekend, produced elbow-to-elbow crowds in Las Vegas sports books.

"We had a great weekend," said Casey Maloni, race and sports manager at the Aladdin. "The crowds were enthusiastic, they bet willingly and everyone seemed to have a favorite to root for."

Maloni said parlay card action was "very good," though it doesn’t reach full speed until the NFL games begin this weekend.

At the Palms, sports bettors were in "mid-season form," according to Jeff Sherman, race and sports book supervisor.

"Saturday was absolutely great," Sherman said. "Overall, it was a tremendous weekend.

"I think the best game for the house was Virginia over Duke," he continued. "For some reason, everyone was betting the underdog Duke Blue Devils."

Out at the Rampart and Cannery casinos (which are both managed by Millennium Management Company), the "public came out in droves to bet the college games," said sports book supervisor Eric St. Clair.

"We had tremendous crowds, who produced a good handle and lots of action," St. Clair said, who added that, among the games that attracted the public’s attention, the best was Kentucky versus Louisville in their annual bloodbath.

"Everybody was betting on Kentucky, a 6-point favorite, so it made our day when Louisville won the game outright," St. Clair said.

Sports books usually do well when underdogs win, because the perception is that the public generally bets the favorites.

But this weekend, the favorites covered the point spread in 27 of 43 games, for a win rate of 62.8 percent.

Nevertheless, most sports books report winning most of the weekend’s games, indicating players might have been betting on the underdogs.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s action, here are some games worth looking at:

Colorado State at California (—2): The Rams are off a tough loss to in-state rival, Colorado, while Cal just demolished a weak Southern Miss squad. It will be a tougher battle, but California has the weapons to win this one with a margin to spare.

Missouri (—14) at Ball State: Missouri had a nice win against Illinois last week. They showed poise in fighting off an Illini rally. Ball State is a lower echelon MAC team and won’t keep up with the Tigers’ team speed.

Marshall at Tennessee (—19): Although Marshall is one of the MAC’s best teams, they’re overmatched here against Tennessee. The Volunteers completely shut down Fresno State last week and should duplicate that feat in a winning effort here.

Florida at Miami (—14½): Don’t let Florida’s 65-point outburst against San Jose State last week fool you. Miami has a stifling defense that should throttle the Gators, and the Hurricanes should easily blow away their in-state rival.

Wyoming at Oklahoma State (—20): Pity anyone who has to play Oklahoma State after their dismal effort against Nebraska. That was a game they should have won. They’ll take it out on the hapless Cowboys.