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September 30, 2011

Vegas pros investing in USC



The following is for entertainment purposes only.

The top 25 polls aren't showing 4-0 South Carolina a lot of respect, but Las Vegas professional gamblers are.

You decide which has more meaning.

Sportsbook managers at the Las Vegas Hilton and the MGM Mirage trimmed the Gamecocks' odds to win the national championship significantly this week, moving Steve Spurrier's squad up a rung and into the second tier of favorites to win it all.

The Hilton chopped the Gamecocks' BCS title odds in half, moving them from 40/1 down to 20/1. The MGM has South Carolina all the way down to 12/1.

"We've written a lot of (betting) tickets on them," said MGM director of race and sports Jay Rood of the Gamecocks.

It's not hard to see why Vegas wise guys are investing in South Carolina's long-term potential. The schedule is tailor-made for a run at the SEC East title and a championship showdown with a likely unbeaten LSU or Alabama team. If both teams arrive undefeated, the winner goes to New Orleans for the BCS title game.

Meanwhile, Florida is getting ready to run into Alabama and LSU in back-to-back weeks. South Carolina won't have to face the Tide or Tigers in the regular season.

And, of course, the Gators come to Williams-Brice on Nov. 12, in a game that might not be as decisive in the SEC East as some have predicted, if Florida falls to 'Bama and LSU.

SEC Nuggets to Know

Auburn at South Carolina (-10, 60): The sportsbook at the Golden Nugget included this matchup in its Games of the Year odds way back in early June. The Nugget posted South Carolina as a 7.5-point favorite, but took enough money on the Gamecocks to move the line to -9.5 within the first few hours after the lines were released.

This line opened a little higher at some shops this week, with the Gamecocks giving as many as 11 points to the defending national champs, who beat Spurrier twice last year.

Alabama (-3.5, 45) at Florida: Trends matter little when a new coach is involved, but the Crimson Tide have covered the spread in seven of the last nine games against the Gators with one push.

But that didn't stop early money from coming in on Obi Wan Muschamp's Gators. The Wynn opened Alabama as a 6-point favorite Sunday afternoon and received instant action on Florida from wise guys. By Monday morning, the line had dropped all the way to Alabama -3.5 at some shops.

The MGM, however, held tight at -4 and reports only seeing "Alabama action at -4."

That means, if you fancy the Gators, wait until Saturday to place your bet. Pounce now, if you believe the Tide roll.

Mississippi State at Georgia (-7, 53): This line has flitted around the magic number of 7 all week. Statistically, Georgia's by far the better team. But that seems to have been the norm in Athens the last several years, a stretch in which UGA is just 8-17-1 against the spread against SEC competition.

Texas A&M (-2.5, 61.5) at Arkansas: There's a large contingency out there that believes the wrong team is favored in this showdown between future SEC West division rivals. The Hogs could be without both starting defensive ends and were manhandled by Alabama last week. A&M blew a 20-3 halftime lead in falling to Oklahoma State in College Station.

A&M is 6-10 against the spread after a loss under Mike Sherman. Bobby Petrino's teams at Louisville and Arkansas have had a tendency to exceed oddsmakers' expectations after losses and are 12-8-1 against the spread in a bounce-back situation.

Kentucky at LSU (-30.5, 44): This is only the third time in at least the past five seasons that a team has been favored by 30 or more points in a conference game. Florida was favored by 30 over Tennessee in 2009, and LSU was favored by 33.5 over Mississippi State in 2006.

Notable trend - LSU is 16-31-4 against the spread in SEC play under Les Miles.

Heisman Watch

Marcus Lattimore is moving up the list of favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. Stanford QB Andrew Luck, at +320, remains the favorite at most offshore sportsbooks. But Lattimore is closing. The Gamecocks' star is +550, after starting the season at +700 (7/1). That's currently better odds than Alabama's Trent Richardson (+900).

Trends

Steve Spurrier is 11-5 against the spread when facing Auburn in his career, but just 1-3 ATS as USC head coach.

Auburn is 10-1 against the spread in its last 11 SEC games.

The favorite has covered the spread in four of the last five Auburn-South Carolina games.

The Gamecocks are 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games as a home favorite.

The Gamecocks are 2-8 against the spread in their last 10 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.

Purdum is a columnist for Covers.com, specializing in the Vegas side of college sports. He has covered SEC football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in addition to other media outlets throughout the Southeast and was the Gamecocks football and basketball beat writer for The Sports Xchange for three seasons.

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