Extending a run of negative events for Notre Dame, quarterback Everett Golson recently was suspended for an academic issue. Set to emerge as a star, Golson instead is gone for the season.
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly was forced to adjust on the fly. And so was Tony Miller.
“We had the games all set with power numbers, and everything looked good, and all of the sudden Golson was out,” said Miller, the Golden Nugget sports book director. “It made a difference.”
Miller revised the lines he had made on all 12 of Notre Dame’s games. The subtraction of Golson meant an adjustment of about 3½ points per game against the Irish.
Kelly named Tommy Rees, a senior with 18 career starts, as Notre Dame’s new starter Wednesday. Rees lacks Golson’s running ability, so it’s a trade-off in the wrong direction for Kelly’s offense.
The Irish, 12-0 going into the Bowl Championship Series title game, were humiliated by Alabama, and then a ridiculously bizarre story unfolded when it was revealed the dead girlfriend of linebacker Manti Te’o never existed. Golson’s suspension was Notre Dame’s third embarrassment in five months.
Moving on to next season, Miller is posting opening lines on 250 college football games today at the Golden Nugget. The windows will open for wagering at 1 p.m.
Miller, book supervisor Aaron Kessler and handicapper Bruce Marshall of The Gold Sheet spent weeks hammering out the numbers. In minutes, sharp bettors will attack what they perceive to be the weakest spots.
This has become an annual summer event, more than two months before the college season kicks off. It’s the seventh year the Golden Nugget has opened the first college lines, and as with everything else related to sports betting, it gets more popular.
“We started real small. It gets bigger and bigger,” said Miller, who posted around 50 games the first year and 150 last year. “We sat down and threw 100 more games in to give people more choices.
“It gives guys more opportunities to pick us apart. The sharp local guys will fire a lot of money. We’re expecting big things this year. Leading up to it, I’m getting a lot more interaction nationally, and there’s a lot more talk about it.”
Miller said the Golden Nugget has won on its college openers five of six years. Two years ago, he said his book took around $250,000 in wagers on the first day. Last year, for whatever reason, the handle dipped to $160,000 on opening day.
Miller is shooting for a record handle today, saying, “The goal is $300,000 to $400,000.”
Four or five betting windows will be open instead of two, as in the past. Also, in past years, bettors were allowed to fire $1,000 per play before returning to the back of the line after three bets. Now, there will be no restriction on the number of bets, and Miller said he is considering boosting betting limits to $2,000.
He released 10 games to the public early this week to stir interest, including Alabama minus-6 at Texas A&M on Sept. 14, a revenge game for the Crimson Tide after Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel shredded their dominant defense last year.
Alabama is an 11½-point home favorite over Louisiana State on Nov. 9, and Ohio State, off an unbeaten season under coach Urban Meyer, is a 6-point favorite at Michigan on Nov. 30.
Notre Dame was last season’s biggest surprise team, and this season it could be Louisville. Miller has the Cardinals, who return junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, favored in every game.
“There’s a good possibility Louisville could go undefeated,” said Miller, who is not quite as optimistic about UNLV.
The Rebels appear on the Golden Nugget board three times, as 13-point underdogs at Minnesota on Aug. 29, 17-point home underdogs to Arizona on Sept. 7 and 4-point home favorites over Central Michigan on Sept. 14.
Hey, at least UNLV is favored over a Division I opponent. Is there a chance the Rebels are about to shock everyone and make a bowl run? As Lloyd Christmas said in “Dumb and Dumber,” even a one-in-a-million chance means there’s a chance.
Miller, who’s much wiser, said, “I just don’t see it happening.”
■ BOTTOM LINES — LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay will be announcing a few changes in the SuperContest payout structure. The NFL handicapping contest, which drew a record 745 entrants last year at $1,500 each, will pay the top 30 finishers instead of the top 20. The “SuperContest Weekend,” featuring a handicapping seminar, golf outing and reception, will be Aug. 23 and 24.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.