Covers Expert Steve Merril looks at the odds for the five BCS bowls and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later, and which total to watch as the week plays out.
Spread to bet now
Stanford Cardinal (-4.5) vs. Michigan State Spartans
Early money has already shown on the Rose Bowl with Stanford quickly getting bet up from the 3-point opener. The Pac-12 was the strongest power-rated conference this season, slightly higher than the almighty SEC. The Big Ten was rated fourth and for that reason alone, money is against the Spartans.
Michigan State and Stanford are also two similar teams in that they both play power football combined with stout defense. But bettors trust the Stanford offense more and since they also played the tougher schedule, upward line movement was easily predictable. If you like the Cardinal, you should lock in your number now even though you missed the key stop at three. The professionals will play the dog at post and that may come after some more line manipulation on the favorite.
Spread to wait on
Alabama Crimson Tide (-15) vs. Oklahoma Sooners
The public will be on the name underdog in this game, especially since they are getting over two touchdowns. Alabama will also be a play-against team because “they must be disappointed” after winning the BCS title game in three of the last four seasons. The conventional wisdom will be that a trip to the Sugar Bowl means nothing to the Tide.
Oklahoma has the reputation and everybody remembers the Sooners winning at Oklahoma State as 10-point underdogs in their last game. It also coincides with Alabama losing at Auburn as a 10-point favorite in its last game. We expect this line to come down closer to kickoff. Alabama will be available at a cheaper price come gametime.
Total to watch
Auburn Tigers vs. Florida State Seminoles (67)
It will be interesting to see what the bettors do with this total over the next three weeks.The oddsmakers opened the BCS Championship total around 64.5 or 65 depending on where you looked. Bettors liked the Over as the number now sits around 67 at most sportsbooks with 67.5 also available in some locations.
My personal totals power ratings make the game 67, so I can see why the total was bet up from the opener. But with five weeks off, we often see offenses struggle early in this game. And long scoring droughts can really hamper high totals, especially in big games. Auburn played in just one game with a higher total this season, going Over the 73-point number against Texas A&M. Florida State also played in just one game with a higher Over/Under, going Over the total of 70 (on their own) against Idaho.
Overall, Auburn only played four of its 13 games Over the posted total of 67. Florida State only played three of its 13 games Over 67. Combined, the Tigers and Seminoles would have been 7-19 Over/Under based on the current posted total of 67 points.