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Analyzing Golden Nugget Openers
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The Golden Nugget released its spreads for 166 college football Games of the Year this past Friday. The Nugget is annually the first betting shop in Las Vegas to posts these lines, limiting gamblers to six plays with a maximum bet of 'a dime' ($1,000 in gambling vernacular) before requiring them to go to the back of the line.

I found it interesting that Alabama clearly isn't getting the respect it has been given by oddsmakers over the last few years. My personal numbers for the Crimson Tide are much richer than those sent out by The Nugget for several games. For instance, I made Nick Saban's team a 13-point home favorite vs. Ole Miss, but TGN opened the Tide as a 9.5-point home 'chalk' to the Rebels.

I also feel like Auburn isn't getting the respect it deserves coming into 2015. Nick Marshall is gone, but Jeremy Johnson might end up being an upgrade. Johnson, a true junior who has a 9/2 career touchdown-to-interception ratio, will undoubtedly bring improvement to the Tigers' aerial attack. Although he doesn't possess the running skills of Marshall, he has incredible size and will be tough for would-be sackers to bring down.

I'll even go a step further with Johnson. This is certainly a strong statement and perhaps a bit of a reach, but I believe he's capable of having a 2010 Cam Newton type of season. Johnson has one of the country's best play-callers in Gus Malzahn and perhaps the SEC's premier down-the-field threat in wide receiver Duke Williams.

I feel like Arkansas and Mississippi State are being given too much respect, especially the Bulldogs. Dan Mullen's team returns only seven total starters. Granted, one of those is Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott, but he won't have the benefit of a veteran offensive line or the services of dynamic running back Josh Robinson, who bolted for the NFL a year early after enjoying a monster 2014 campaign.

If Dan Mullen can keep Mississippi St. out of the SEC West cellar (not exactly the most shameful place to reside, by the way), he will have done an excellent coaching job in 2015. Of the 166 games posted, my top play is Auburn as an eight-point home favorite to the Bulldogs. This is a huge revenge game for AU after getting blasted in Starkville last year. I made the Tigers 15-point favorites in that spot and will be completely stunned if they aren't double-digit 'chalk' vs. MSU.

Let's go back to Arkansas, which had one of the best 7-6 campaigns you'll ever witness in 2014. Bret Beliema's squad improved by four games after Year 1 netted an abysmal 3-9 mark. However, those seven wins don't do justice to how much the Razorbacks improved. They easily could've won 10 games, losing once in overtime (vs. Texas A&M) and by one (to Alabama due to a missed PAT). Beliema's bunch also allowed second-half leads to get away at Mississippi St. and at Missouri.

Arkansas somehow opened as a 6.5-point home favorite vs. Auburn. This turned out to be one of three games TGN ended up moving by five points. Before Friday's betting action was completed, the Razorbacks were favored by just 1.5 points.

Arkansas will have two weeks to prepare for Auburn, but I feel like that advantage is negated to some extent because AU plays at Kentucky the previous Thursday. Although the Tigers won't have two full weeks to prep for the Hogs, they will have two extra days of rest themselves. My line for AU-Arky is pick 'em.

Arkansas was also involved in another game moved five points by TGN, which opened the Razorbacks as 6.5-point favorites for their annual showdown against Texas A&M at Jerry World in Arlington. The Aggies rallied from a 28-14 second-half deficit to force overtime and beat the Hogs last year. I made Arkansas a 3.5-point fave in this matchup and after lots of action on Kevin Sumlin's squad, TGN eventually moved the number down to 1.5.

The other game featuring a five-point move was for Boise State at BYU. The Broncos opened as six-point road favorites, but they are now one-point 'chalk.'

Sticking with BSU, the enormous -270 favorite to win the Mountain West Conference at, it opened as a 13-point home favorite for its opener against Washington and former coach Chris Petersen. But the action came fast on the Huskies, who are down to 8.5-point road underdogs for their trip to the smurf turf.

In its first year under Bryan Harsin, Boise State compiled a 12-2 straight-up record and an 8-6 against-the-spread ledger. The Broncos beat BYU by a 55-30 count at home and ended the season on a nine-game winning streak, including a 38-30 triumph over Arizona as three-point underdogs in the Fiesta Bowl.

BSU now has three Fiesta Bowl wins on its school history's resume. Don't be shocked if it is in another New Year's Day Bowl in 2015, assuming it doesn't work its way into the College Football Playoff. Harsin's team returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense, and that doesn't count senior DE Tyler Horn, who was a returning starter in 2014 but tore his ACL in a season-opening loss to Ole Miss.

In Week 4, BSU ventures to the East Coast for a Friday Night showdown at Virginia. TGN opened the Broncos as nine-point favorites against the Cavaliers. They are also favored at Colorado St. (opened -12, now -10.5), at Utah St. (opened -9.5, now -6) and at UNLV (-28.5). If form holds for the Week 2 showdown in Provo against the Cougars, BSU will almost certainly be favored in every game this year.

Ohio State and TCU join Boise State as the only teams (beyond those that have just one lined game) that are favored in every contest. The Buckeyes are actually double-digit 'chalk' in each game, favored by 12.5 or more every time. They are -16 at Va. Tech, -19 vs. Penn St., -12.5 vs. Michigan St. and -13 at Michigan. The number for the game against the Spartans is too rich. In fact, 5Dimes has Urban Meyer's squad favored by only seven.

TCU returns 15 total starters (10 offense, 5 defense) from a 12-1 team that suffered its lone loss by a 61-58 score at Baylor. The Horned Frogs blew a 21-point four-quarter lead in Waco, but they responded by winning their last eight games, including three blowouts of ranked teams like the 42-3 shellacking of Ole Miss administered at the Ga. Dome.

TGN opened Gary Patterson's squad as a double-digit favorite in six of its eight games. TCU is favored by five at Oklahoma and by six vs. Baylor.

Let's go back to Alabama, which has been favored in 68 consecutive games. That streak is in jeopardy for an Oct. 3 game at Georgia where TGN has it as a pick 'em. The Tide was a single-digit fave in six games last season, limping to a 2-4 spread record with a pair of outright defeats. In its nine listed games this year, 'Bama opened a double-digit favorite only twice. The Tide started -10 for both its opener vs. Wisconsin and its home game against Tennessee. The seven other opening numbers were single digits.

That's a huge adjustment from previous Alabama teams. I get the uncertainty with so many key offensive parts like Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon gone, but I will give Saban the benefit of the doubt until I see reasons to think the Tide is doomed for a significant drop-off in 2015.

Only three starters on offense and seven on defense are back. The quarterback position is a question mark, as is the offensive line for the first time in a long time. Alabama might go with redshirt freshman David Cornwell over Jacob Coker in the QB competition. These are all legit concerns

But hasn't Saban proven time and again that he'll have his team ready to perform at an elite level? Derrick Henry is going to have a monster season. The defense will be nasty yet again. Saban will get things figured out on the o-line. The only way I can see Alabama winning nine games or fewer is if the QB situation becomes an unmitigated disaster. Otherwise, this will again be a team that goes into the Iron Bowl with a shot at getting to the CFP.

Speaking of the Auburn-Alabama battle, that number opened at -3.5 in favor of the Tide. However, the line is now -2.5.

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