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Opening Line Report - Week 12
OLR - NFL Week 11

Wisconsin, still fighting for respect despite its 10-0 record, opened Sunday at the Wynn as a sizable nine-point home favorite against Michigan in next Saturday’s Big Ten clash in Madison (FOX, 12:00 p.m. ET), a number that drew immediate wiseguy interest on the underdog.  Less than 10 minutes after opening college football lines were hung, Jim Harbaugh’s men had been bet down to +8.5, the number decreasing to +7.5 by Monday afternoon.

Michigan has become a forgotten-about club. But the Wolverines are 8-2, their two losses coming at home vs. Michigan State and at Penn State, and they’ve scored 35, 33 and 35 in their three recent consecutive wins.

Still, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons, whose shop opened Wisconsin -7.5 on Monday, said Sunday night that the opening line at the Wynn didn’t surprise him.

“Wisconsin’s been so bad throwing the ball this year. The quarterback (Alex Hornibrook) is making so many mistakes, but Michigan’s going to struggle to score against Wisconsin,” Salmons said.

Salmons encouraged handicappers to compare Iowa’s offensive performance in its 38-14 loss at Wisconsin this past Sunday to its 55-24 win vs. Ohio State the previous week.  The Hawkeyes racked up 487 yards against the Buckeyes; the Badgers held them to 66 yards and five first downs, and Iowa’s two touchdowns came by way of interception returns.

For the early bettors taking the points to cash this Saturday, Michigan will have to be nearly flawless on the road, Salmons believes.

“Any mistakes Michigan makes like they did against Michigan State, they just can’t overcome it,” Salmons said. “Michigan has to play a clean game to cover that spread.”

While CG Technology opened the game Wisconsin -8, vice president of risk Jason Simbal’s personal number was -9.5.

Simbal said of the dog, “This will be their ‘let’s crush this team and kill their dream’ type of game, but I don’t see it.  This is a good spot for Wisconsin.”

UCLA at USC (-15.5) - (ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET)

USC’s been bet up from the Wynn’s opener of -14.5 to -15.5, while multiple shops, including the Westgate, went higher at -16.

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“USC’s going to score a lot of points against that defense,” Salmons said.

With a hint of exaggeration, he added, “USC should be good for 50, but with the way UCLA can score, they may backdoor and lose, 52-45.”

While the early sharp money has been on USC, the point-spread may be too large for public bettors to resist.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if people backed UCLA,” Simbal said.

Salmons continued, “That total is going to be enormous.  It’s hard to believe that Jim Mora can be the coach there that long and have a defense that just gets worse every year. I mean, this defense is an absolute joke.”

Sure enough, offshore books are dealing 71 for the total.

Worst schedule ever?

After a Week 11 replete with playoff-influencing matchups, the Week 12 slate is less than compelling.

Other than Michigan-Wisconsin, here are games involving teams in the playoff mix:

-- Alabama hosts Mercer, a game that’s unlined so far.

-- There’s also no point spread yet for Clemson’s home game against The Citadel.

-- Oklahoma is a 35-point home favorite at one-win Kansas,  not exactly a game with much betting appeal. “Nobody will touch that game, the number is going to be too crazy,” Simbal said.

-- Miami’s been bet at the Wynn from -17  to -19.5 at home vs. Virginia. “I think everyone will be happy to lay that,” Simbal said.

-- Auburn is laying 36.5 or 37 at home vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

-- Early action at the Wynn showed on Kentucky +22 at Georgia, moving the line to as low as 21 before a northward nudge to 21.5.

-- Sharps also took Navy +17.5 at Notre Dame, which has revenge in mind after losing at home to the Midshipmen last season. Navy, in fact, has covered the spread in three of last four years against its more heralded foe.

-- Ohio State opened -38.5 at the Wynn vs. Illinois, but is being dealt as high as -40.5 around Las Vegas.

In other words, if you’ve been invited to a wedding this fall, we hope the nuptials are this week!

“This could be the worst schedule I’ve ever seen,” Salmons said. “There’s nothing, absolutely nothing. It almost looks like an NFL schedule.”

Marcus DiNitto is a writer in Charlotte, N.C., who covers sports betting and all kinds of other stuff. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusDiNitto.



  
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