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Week 1 belongs to favorites

Sep 2, 2003 9:48 AM

If you bet favorites and under, dinner is on you this week.

Every night.

Favorites are 19-6 against the spread through Sunday’s action, then went to 20 on Monday when Cincinnati clubbed East Carolina as an easy 8-point favorite. The 40-3 cruise was one of the easier covers during a week that saw only five underdogs come up with an outright win.

Of the five, the most noteworthy was last Thursday when Northern Illinois opened its new 28,000 seat facility on national television with a 20-13 overtime win over nationally-ranked Maryland as an 8-point underdog.

Maryland’s defeat was tough to take, but nothing compared to the licking the Western Athletic Conference received. The WAC was whacked by nonconference opponents, going 0-7 against the number.

As for the run of ”˜unders,’ the height of success came early Saturday when 10 of the first 12 totals on the rotation finished below the posted total. The ”˜over’ began a small comeback later in the day and closed the gap somewhat over the weekend.

Another stat we pay attention to as the season wears on is the home conference underdog. Vanderbilt and North Carolina were the only teams in that situation last weekend and the category was a 1-1 split. Vanderbilt covered, UNC didn’t. Usually this stat doesn’t become relevant until Week 4 when most of the intersectional matchups have ceased.

One of those interesting West vs East matchups occurred in Starkville, Miss., where Oregon made a rare journey to the Delta to face Mississippi State. The Ducks jumped out to a 28-0 lead and held on to cover as a 3-point road favorite, 42-34. One thing we did learn from that game ”” Oregon wears the worst uniforms in the nation.

As for Week 2, here are some early opinions regarding the opening lines.

The strongest betting reaction dealt with the Colorado State-California contest, which opened with the visiting Rams as a 1-point favorite. The line quickly turned to the host Golden Bears as a 1-point choice, then jumped to 2½ by Monday morning.

Another game that caught our eye involved Southern Miss traveling to Alabama-Birmingham in a Thursday night special. USM is off a 34-2 licking at Cal and may be ripe for a UAB team that should be fired up for a rare televised home night game. Looks similar to what happened last week at Northern Illinois.

Then there are teams that have to fight second week "letdowns" after big opening game buildups. Auburn has to quickly regroup from its shutout loss to USC, visiting Georgia Tech. The Tigers are a 7-point favorite in Atlanta and can’t afford another loss if they have any shot at playing for a national championship.

On the other side, Georgia comes off an emotional 33-0 win at Clemson as a 3-point favorite. The Bulldogs will entertain lowly Middle Tennessee State in Athens this weekend, having to cover 33 points. And, that could go up by the end of the week.

UNLV was made a 10½ point favorite at Kansas after a nice opening game victory over Toledo. Being a double-digit favorite is not what the Rebels are accustomed to and they could be in for some trouble in Lawrence.

Another "set-up" trap may loom in Columbia, S.C., where the Gamecocks muddled through a lackluster 14-7 win over Louisiana-Lafayette last week. At home again this week, South Carolina plays Virginia. The Cavaliers are high on many experts list of "teams to watch" this year, but lost their No. 1 QB and may find scoring a problem against the chickens.

Some of the better marquee matchups involve Florida at Miami, Maryland at Florida State and Oklahoma visiting Alabama.

The Crimson Tide is going nowhere (probation) so they may look at OU as their "bowl game." The visiting Sooners opened as a 7½-point favorite.

Finally, there is the juicy matchup at the Orange Bowl where Miami is a whopping 14½-point choice over the Gators, which scored 65 points in their opener against San Jose State.

Florida is rarely a double-digit dog and should be an inviting take for many bettors, but it will take a lot of guts to go against Miami at home anytime.

Maybe, the underdogs and "over" will rule this week.