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LVSC releases Week 1 lines

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At last, Las Vegas Sports Consultants released opening lines for Week 1 of the college football season on Friday afternoon. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the highlights.

The 2008 campaign will start on Thursday Aug. 28 with a six-pack of games. Of course, there’s a big card Saturday, but there’s also a doubleheader of games on Friday, Sunday and Monday.

Once again, South Carolina will take the national stage for its Thursday opener against North Carolina State at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks have been installed as 13-point home favorites. ESPN will have the telecast at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

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"The Gamecocks have a decided advantage over the Wolfpack in the experience department,” VI handicapper Christian Alexander said. “Playing on the road in a very hostile environment and facing a South Carolina defense with 10 returning starters, I imagine points will be hard to come by for an N.C. State offense that was less than impressive in 2007."

Baylor will play host to Wake Forest to initiate the Art Briles’ era in Waco. LVSC opened the Demon Deacons as 10 ½-point road ‘chalk.’ That’s also a Thursday game that’ll start at 8:00 p.m. ET. on FSN.

An hour later, ESPN2 will have television coverage of Oregon St. at Stanford. LVSC opened the Beavers as five-point road favorites.

On Friday, Rice will take on SMU in the first game of June Jones’ tenure with the Mustangs. The Owls opened as 4 ½-point home ‘chalk’ for this 8:00 p.m. ET. kick-off on ESPN.

Saturday’s action starts at noon and Michigan better be on upset alert – again. Remember, Appalachian St. went into the Big House and pulled a Week 1 shocker last year, and gamblers shouldn’t be surprised if Utah does the exact same thing.

LVSC opened Rich Rodriguez’s squad as a seven-point favorite, but the Wolverines are in transition and have major questions about the quarterback position. Meanwhile, the Utes return 14 total starters from last season’s 9-4 team.

I’ve been saying that I thought Clemson would be a three-point favorite for its opener against Alabama at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 30. However, LVSC sent the Tigers out at five.

The game is similar to Georgia-Florida in the sense that tickets will be split 50-50 between the two schools. Both teams return veteran QBs – Clemson’s Cullen Harper and ‘Bama’s John Parker Wilson – and have high expectations. The Tigers finished last season in the Georgia Dome, losing 23-20 to Auburn in overtime of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

The Tigers and Tide will tangle in the eight o’clock prime-time slot. In addition, we have a few other big-time matchups under the lights, including Missouri-Illinois, USC-UVA, Florida-Hawaii and Virginia Tech-East Carolina.

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And that’s another upset alert for you – East Carolina to possibly knock off Va. Tech as an 11 1/2-point 'dog in Charlotte. The Pirates, who return 16 starters from last year’s 8-5 team which beat Boise St. in the Hawaii Bowl, gave the Hokies fits in Blacksburg in 2007. Frank Beamer’s team eventually won a 17-7 decision, but Skip Holtz’s bunch easily took the money as a 28-point underdog.

Missouri and Illinois will collide in St. Louis at 7:45 p.m. ET. on ESPN. The Tigers opened as 7 ½-point favorites. They jumped out to a huge lead against the Illini last season before holding on for a 40-34 win as six-point ‘chalk.’

"I imagine mistake-prone passer Juice Williams (13 TDs, 12 INTs in '07) will sorely miss RB Rashard Mendenhall this season,” Alexander said. “Without him, the Illini offense, which prefers to keep things on the ground, will be without a huge part of their success from last season. It’s no secret that Mizzou can make things happen early, often and quickly. My question is this: can Juice keep up?"

The Gators are 27-point favorites against the Warriors, who return just eight total starters (four on each side of the ball) from last year’s 12-1 squad. They covered the spread in their 2006 season opener at Alabama, dropping a 25-17 decision as 15-point underdogs.

UF has won 18 straight season openers, winning the last 10 by an average of 36 points per game. I know it’s a monster ‘chalk’ situation, but I felt the number should’ve been 33. I think Florida scores at least 60 and takes the cash.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Best Week 1 Games:
1-Clemson vs. Alabama
2-Illinois vs. Missouri
3-Tennessee at UCLA
4-Fresno St. at Rutgers
5-(tie) Utah at Michigan
5-(tie) Virginia Tech at East Carolina (Charlotte)

--My Pre-Season Top 10:
1-Florida
2-USC
3-Missouri
4-Georgia
5-Oklahoma
6-West Virginia
7-Clemson
8-Ohio State
9-Auburn
10-Texas

--In 2006 and 2007, Illinois went 7-2 ATS in nine games as an underdog.

--Ole Miss is a 10-point favorite for Houston Nutt’s debut as head coach of the Rebels against Memphis. Like I recently mentioned, Texas transfer Jevan Snead looked extremely impressive in the Rebels’ spring game, as did versatile playmaker Dexter McCluster, who is a poor man’s version of UF’s Percy Harvin and/or Mizzou’s Jeremy Maclin.

--Tennessee will start its season on the West coast for a second straight season, taking on UCLA. The Vols lost 45-31 at Cal last year. This Monday game is off the board for now due to the Bruins’ injuries at the QB position.

--Rutgers is a five-point favorite versus Fresno St. in the other Monday matchup, a 4:00 p.m. ET. kick-off on ESPN.

--More Numbers:
USC -18 at Virginia
Cal -7 vs. Michigan St.
Louisville -3 vs. Kentucky (Sunday at 3:30 on ESPN)
Colorado -12 vs. Colorado St. (Sunday in Denver on FSN)
Auburn -27.5 vs. ULM

--Remember, ULM won outright at Alabama last year.

Brian Edwards can be reached at
briane@vegasinsider.com.

  
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