Biggest early CFB Games of the Year line moves

The Las Vegas skyline is a beautiful sight for handicappers and the public alike. Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- Friday brought a glimpse of old-time Vegas as the Golden Nugget released its 2015-16 College Football Games of the Year.

Back in the day, Las Vegas was known for posting the opening numbers and having wiseguys line up to take their first crack at the lines. Nowadays, offshore books are often first, and even the times when Vegas posts the first numbers, a lot of bettors wait for other books to post their numbers so they can comparison shop.

But the Golden Nugget's annual release of the first NCAA lines -- this is the ninth straight year they've been the first Vegas book to open -- harkens back to that time when bettors would put their opinion against the bookie's openers and try to find the soft lines. Tony Miller and his right-hand man Aaron Kessler put together their list of 166 games (note: it was widely publicized that they were going to post 165 games, but Miller said they added the Cal-Stanford game on Nov. 21 at the last minute) and let the assembled bettors take their shots.

Bettors lined up at the three designated betting windows at 1:30 p.m. PT Friday and were allowed to bet up to $1,100 (to win $1,000) on five games before having to move to the back of the line. The lines were consistently four- to five-deep for the first half hour of wagering as about 15-20 bettors got in and out of line while checking the odds board and seeing what lines were moving.

It was apparent right away that BYU was one team getting a lot of support as several of the Cougars' lines moved toward them. Professional handicapper Paul Stone was among the sharp bettors jumping all over BYU.

"I was second in line and got BYU plus-6 against Boise State in my first set of bets," said Stone, who has a service called Paul Stone Sports and won the Golden Nugget's football contest during the 2013-14 season. "By the time I got back to the front of the line, it was already down to 1. I like the quarterback, Taysom Hill, but he's had a history with injuries so I was looking for spots to play BYU in the first half of the schedule when he should still be playing."

In addition to that five-point move toward BYU from plus-6 to plus-1, other BYU games to steam were the Cougars' Sept. 5 opener at Nebraska as the line was bet from BYU plus-6 to plus-4; Sept. 19, BYU plus-14 to plus-12.5 at UCLA; Sept. 26, BYU plus-7 to plus-6 at Michigan; Nov. 14, BYU plus-12 to plus-7.5 versus Missouri (game in Kansas City, Mo.); Nov. 28, BYU pick-'em to minus-4 at Utah State.

Auburn was another team that bettors felt the Nugget had underrated. The Tigers opened as 6.5-point road dogs at Arkansas in their Oct. 24 meeting and that was bet all the way down to 1.5. Auburn also went from a 4-point home fave over Mississippi to minus-6 in its Oct. 31 game; from minus-1.5 to minus-2 at Texas A&M on Nov. 7; from pick-'em to minus-2.5 over Georgia on Nov. 14; and from a 3.5-point home dog in the Iron Bowl against Alabama on Nov. 28 to plus-2.5.

As for teams that the early bettors were fading -- Boise State and Arkansas were bet against consistently in their games and Stone said he also was fading TCU and Baylor.

"Both those teams are overrated coming off last season," Stone said. "I took Oklahoma plus-5 and again at plus-4.5 against TCU [on Nov. 21]. Oklahoma hasn't been a home underdog since Bob Stoops' first season in 1999, and that's a tough spot for TCU as it's a week before their game with Baylor."

Most of the action at the Golden Nugget occurred in the first 30 minutes of wagering and then the crowd started to thin out.

Here are the biggest moves (four points or more) from the first hour, including several that have already been mentioned:

Sept. 4: Washington plus-13 to plus-8.5 at Boise State
Sept. 12: BYU plus-6 to plus-1 versus Boise State
Sept. 19: Colorado minus-1 to minus-5 at Colorado State
Sept. 26: Texas A&M plus-6.5 to plus-1.5 versus Arkansas (Arlington, Texas)
Oct. 10: Florida plus-10 to plus-5.5 at Missouri
Oct. 24: Auburn plus-6.5 to plus-1.5 at Arkansas
Nov. 14: LSU minus-1.5 to minus-5 versus Arkansas
Nov. 14: BYU plus-12 to plus-7.5 versus Missouri (Kansas City, Mo.)
Nov. 28: North Carolina plus-6 to plus-1.5 at NC State

Miller said he's not discouraged to see the bettors having such strong opinions against his openers.

"We put in a lot of time on these line and we stand by our numbers," he said. "We're 6-2 in doing this (six winning years out of eight) so we'll take our chances and see how it turns out."

Before we get to the full list and all the line moves, the Golden Nugget also used Friday's events to open its $2,000 buy-in "Friday Football Showdown" contest. In years past, the Nugget co-sponsored the contest with The Las Vegas Sportsline radio show (ESPN radio AM-1100, 2 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday) with an invited field of 16 professional handicappers/touts/media members, but this year it's opening the event to the public.

During the first eight weeks of the season, starting with Week 1 of the NFL, all contestants pick seven games a week, but unlike the Westgate SuperContest which only has NFL sides, this contest allows plays on NFL and NCAA sides, as well as totals. After the eight weeks, the players with the eight best records will win $2,000 and go to the bracket round for head-to-head matchups to determine the champion, who will win 75 percent of the remaining prize pool. Full details are here.

This is the full list of the 166 games posted at the Golden Nugget at 1:30 p.m. PT Friday. The first number is the opener and the number in parentheses is where it was bet to after an hour:

Golden Nugget 2015-16 Games of the Year

Thursday, Sept. 3
Michigan at Utah -4 (-5)
TCU -18 (-16.5) at Minnesota

Friday, Sept. 4
Washington at Boise State -13 (-8.5)

Saturday, Sept. 5
Wisconsin vs. Alabama -10 (-9) (Arlington, Texas)
Louisville vs. Auburn -11.5 (Atlanta, Ga.)
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M -3 (Houston)
Texas at Notre Dame -7.5
Virginia at UCLA -17
BYU at Nebraska -6 (-4)

Monday, Sept. 7
Ohio State -16 at Virginia Tech

Saturday, Sept. 12
LSU -3 at Mississippi State
UCLA -32 at UNLV
Oklahoma at Tennessee -3 (-1)
Notre Dame -9 at Virginia
Oregon State at Michigan -14 (-15.5)
Iowa -4.5 (-4) at Iowa State
Marshall -3.5 (-4) at Ohio University
Boise State -6 (-1) at BYU
Oregon at Michigan State -1

Thursday, Sept. 17
Clemson -3 at Louisville

Saturday, Sept. 19
Auburn at LSU -4 (-3)
UNLV at Michigan -33
Ole Miss at Alabama -9.5
South Carolina at Georgia -11 (-13)
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame -2 (-5.5)
Nebraska at Miami, Fla. PK
Stanford at USC -4
BYU at UCLA -14 (-12.5)
Colorado -1.5 (-5.5) vs. Colorado State (Denver)

Thursday, Sept. 24
Cincinnati at Memphis -2

Friday, Sept. 25
Boise State -9 at Virginia

Saturday, Sept. 26
LSU -20 at Syracuse
UCLA PK (-1) at Arizona
USC -1 at Arizona State
Utah at Oregon -14
Oklahoma State at Texas -2.5
BYU at Michigan -7 (-6)
Texas A&M vs. Arkansas -6.5 (-1.5) (Arlington, Texas)
Mississippi State at Auburn -8
Tennessee -2.5 at Florida (-3)

Thursday, Oct. 1
Miami, Fla. at Cincinnati -2.5

Saturday, Oct. 3
UNLV at Nevada -14 (-15.5)
Ole Miss -6 at Florida
Alabama at Georgia PK
South Carolina at Missouri -11 (-9)
Arkansas at Tennessee -1
Mississippi State at Texas A&M -6.5
Pittsburgh at Virginia Tech -9
Arizona at Stanford -7.5 (-8)
Arizona State at UCLA -6
Oregon -16 (-14.5) at Colorado
Army at Penn State -28
West Virginia at Oklahoma -10
Kansas State at Oklahoma State -4
Texas at TCU -21 (-19.5)
Notre Dame at Clemson -3.5 (-2.5)

Thursday, Oct. 8
Washington at Southern Cal -19

Saturday, Oct. 10
LSU -8 at South Carolina
Georgia Tech at Clemson -3
Arkansas at Alabama -7.5 (-6.5)
Florida at Missouri -10 (-5.5)
Georgia at Tennessee PK
Miami (FL) at Florida State -14.5 (-13)
Virginia at Pittsburgh -6
Boise State -12 (-10.5) at Colorado State
TCU -11 (-10) at Kansas State
Oklahoma -6.5 (-7.5) vs. Texas (Dallas, Texas)
Oklahoma State at West Virginia -5 (-4.5)
Wisconsin -1 at Nebraska
Navy at Notre Dame -14

Thursday, Oct. 15
UCLA at Stanford -4.5
Auburn -9 at Kentucky

Friday, Oct. 16
UNLV at Fresno State -12
Boise State -9.5 (-6) at Utah State

Saturday, Oct. 17
Florida at LSU -14
Arizona State at Utah -2
USC at Notre Dame PK
Oregon -15 at Washington
Louisville at Florida State -12
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech -14
Virginia Tech at Miami, Fla. -6 (-4)
Missouri at Georgia -8.5
Alabama -7 (-6) at Texas A&M
West Virginia at Baylor -17
TCU -29 at Iowa State
Oklahoma -3 at Kansas State
Michigan State -4.5 (-5.5) at Michigan
Penn State at Ohio State -19 (-18)

Saturday, Oct. 24
Utah at USC -7
Kansas State at Texas -2
Tennessee at Alabama -10 (-9)
Auburn at Arkansas -6.5 (-1.5)
Texas A&M at Ole Miss -4 (-5)
Clemson -4.5 (-3.5) at Miami, Fla.
Florida State at Georgia Tech PK

Thursday, Oct. 29
Oregon -5 (-3.5) at Arizona State
West Virginia at TCU -20

Saturday, Oct. 31
Boise State -28.5 at UNLV
Central Florida at Cincinnati -6 (-7)
Georgia Tech -10 at Virginia
Ole Miss at Auburn -4 (-6)
Florida vs. Georgia -12 (Jacksonville, Fla.)
South Carolina at Texas A&M -10 (-11)
Oregon State at Utah -16

Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015
Northern Illinois at Toledo -3

Thursday, Nov. 5
Mississippi State at Missouri, -6 (-5)
Baylor -12 (-10.5) at Kansas State

Saturday, Nov. 7
LSU at Alabama -9
Arkansas at Ole Miss -1
Auburn -1.5 (-2) at Texas A&M
TCU -11 (-9.5) at Oklahoma State
Michigan State -6 at Nebraska
Florida State at Clemson -2
Virginia at Miami, Fla. -6.5 (-7.5)
Notre Dame -3 (-3.5) at Pittsburgh
Arizona at USC -7.5

Thursday, Nov. 12
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech -9.5 (-7.5)

Friday, Nov. 13
USC -12 at Colorado

Saturday, Nov. 14
Arkansas at LSU -1.5 (-5)
Utah at Arizona -3
Oregon at Stanford PK
Georgia at Auburn PK (-2.5)
Alabama -9 (-8) at Mississippi State
Florida at South Carolina -2.5
Oklahoma at Baylor -13 (-11.5)
BYU at Missouri -12 (-7.5)

Saturday, Nov. 21
San Diego State -16 at UNLV
LSU at Ole Miss PK (-3)
Fresno State at BYU -18
TCU -5 (-3.5) at Oklahoma
Baylor -10 (-8) at Oklahoma State
Michigan State at Ohio State -14 (-12.5)
Michigan at Penn State -3.5
Mississippi State at Arkansas -10 (-11)
Tennessee at Missouri -2.5
Georgia Tech -6 (-5) at Miami, Fla.
Arizona at Arizona State -3 (-4)
USC at Oregon -6.5
UCLA -1 at Utah
California at Stanford -13

Friday, Nov. 27
Baylor at TCU -6
Oregon State at Oregon -22.5
Washington State at Washington -4.5
Iowa at Nebraska -7 (-8)

Saturday, Nov. 28
Texas A&M at LSU -7.5
Kansas State -24 at Kansas
Oklahoma -3 at Oklahoma State
BYU PK (-4) at Utah State
Ohio State -16 (-13) at Michigan
Penn State at Michigan State -12
UCLA at USC -3 (-3.5)
Colorado at Utah -13.5
Notre Dame at Stanford -3 (-4)
North Carolina at NC State -6 (-1.5)
Virginia Tech -4 at Virginia
Missouri at Arkansas -7
Alabama -3.5 (-2.5) at Auburn
Florida State -4 (-4.5) at Florida
Georgia -1 at Georgia Tech
Louisville -2.5 at Kentucky
Ole Miss -2 (-1) at Mississippi
Clemson -3 at South Carolina
Vanderbilt at Tennessee -17 (-20)

Saturday, Dec. 5
Texas at Baylor -18 (-16)
West Virginia at Kansas State -5

Saturday, Dec. 12
Navy -13 vs. Army (Philadelphia, Pa.)