‘SuperContest Weekend’ signals start of football season

If mediocrity is a sin, the Dallas Cowboys are due to pay for it. Their defense is a disaster area, and the player who needs to carry the team on his back, quarterback Tony Romo, is returning from back surgery.

The Cowboys finished 8-8 in each of the past three seasons, and this is not their year, either.

But it is the time of year for bold predictions, and several will be made today, when “SuperContest Weekend” kicks off at the LVH with a seminar featuring some of the top football handicappers in their field.

This is the buildup to the SuperContest, the nation’s most prestigious NFL handicapping event with a prize pool that is approaching $2 million.

“It gets bigger and bigger every year,” LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay said.

At the tail end of a long summer, it’s finally football season. The sports books are springing to life again, and it starts with the LVH’s third annual handicapping seminar, which is valuable for informational purposes, networking and socializing.

This is not a sales pitch, because it’s free and open to the public, and six SuperContest entries worth $1,500 each will be handed out in the next two days.

The Super Seminar begins at 6 p.m. today and is hosted by local radio personality Brian Blessing. And when Blessing starts babbling about the Buffalo Bills being playoff contenders, ignore him.

But listen to these guys scheduled to speak on the three panels:

College football: moderator Mitch Moss (ESPN Radio), handicappers Dave Cokin (SmokinCokin.com), Brian Edwards (VegasInsider.com), Bruce Marshall (Goldsheet.com) and Kenny White (DonBest.com).

AFC: moderator John Tournour (radio host J.T. the Brick), handicappers Todd Fuhrman (Fox Sports 1), Erin Rynning (Sportsmemo.com) and David Frohardt-Lane, last year’s SuperContest champion.

NFC: moderator Scott Spreitzer (Pregame.com), handicappers Steve Fezzik (Pregame.com), Marc Lawrence (Playbook.com) and Dave Tuley (ViewfromVegas.com).

As a prelude to the panel discussions, I’ll throw out five bold predictions.

▶ Louisville is a legitimate threat to beat Florida State. It’s highly unlikely the top-ranked Seminoles will lose before the four-team College Football Playoff. The Cardinals are 17-point underdogs on Oct. 30, but Thursday night home ’dogs are always dangerous. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino inherited a talented team, including 6-foot-5-inch sophomore quarterback Will Gardner.

▶ Navy, believe it or not, is for real this year. The Midshipmen return 15 starters from a nine-win team. Keenan Reynolds, who accounted for 39 touchdowns as a sophomore, is one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks. Don’t be surprised if Navy upsets Ohio State on Aug. 30 or Notre Dame on Nov. 1.

▶ UNLV will top its regular-season win total of 4. The price to bet the Rebels “over” is minus-150, but the ticket should cash. With a bowl ban lifted, motivation is not a problem. The offense features Devante Davis, the best receiver in the Mountain West. UNLV should win four of its six home games (Northern Colorado, Northern Illinois, Fresno State, New Mexico, Air Force, UNR) and San Jose State and Hawaii are beatable on the road.

▶ A Pac-12 Conference quarterback will win the Heisman Trophy. Florida State’s Jameis Winston is the favorite, but don’t bet on a repeat. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley will put up huge numbers in a high-scoring league.

▶ Green Bay is my pick to win the NFC. The Packers were decimated by injuries last season, and not just to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The defense is stronger, and Rodgers appears ready for a big year.

Kornegay offered his own bold prediction for the SuperContest, saying the field could hit 1,200 entries this year and 3,000 in the near future.

The SuperContest, which requires contestants to select five NFL games against the spread each week, was formed on a small scale in 1989. The field drew 517 entries in 2011, 745 in 2012 and 1,034 last year. The prize pool tops $1 million with 667 entries. The lure of big payouts, plus increased exposure from mainstream and social media outlets, is feeding a monster.

The LVH book will change names to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook in September, and Kornegay said marketing efforts for the contest will improve thanks to the hotel-casino’s new owners.

“When we promote it a little better, I think that will take it to another level,” Kornegay said. “I still feel like the SuperContest is in its infancy stages. I do think we’ll look back someday and say, ‘Wow, there were only 1,000 entries in it at one time.’ ”

The best football handicapping contest in Las Vegas gets bigger every year, unlike the Cowboys’ win total, which is about to sink from mediocre to six.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.


A rundown of the major contests offered by Las Vegas sports books:


Contest: Airin’ It Out Football Contest

Entry Fee: $25; limit three with fourth free

Details: Select NFL games with no point spreads; prize pool of $100,000.


Contest: Pick the Pros

Entry Fee: Free; club members earn multiple entries each week

Details: Rules are similar to last year: Select NFL games with no point spreads; $10,000 in weekly prizes with total prize pool of $500,000.

Properties: California, Fremont, Gold Coast, Sam’s Town, Suncoast, The Orleans


Contest: Friday Football Showdown

Entry Fee: $3,000

Details: Sixteen contestants are invited to compete in a 15-week bracket contest, presented by the Review-Journal and ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). The radio show will air at 2 p.m. Fridays. Contestants make seven plays, college and NFL sides and totals. The winner takes $30,000 of the $50,000 pot.


Contest: SuperContest

Entry Fee: $1,500, limit two per person

Details: Select five NFL games against the spread each week; winner gets 40 percent of all entry fees; top 30 finishers paid from an estimated prize pool of more than $1 million.


Contest: Pro Football Jackpot Parlay Card

Entry Fee: $5, no limit on number of cards played

Details: Select straight-up winners of NFL games on Sunday and Monday; person with the most correct selections wins jackpot, with $25,000 guaranteed.

Properties: Cannery locations, Rampart, Riverside, South Point


Contest: Great Giveaway Football Contest

Entry Fee: $25; limit two with third free

Details: Select NFL games with no point spreads; several weekly and season prizes awarded totaling $2 million.

Contest: Last Man Standing (Pro)

Entry Fee: $25; limit four with fifth free

Details: Select one NFL game against the spread each week, one loss means elimination; winner takes prize pool with $75,000 minimum guaranteed.

Contest: Last Man Standing (College)

Entry Fee: $25; limit four with fifth free

Details: Select one college game against the spread each week, one loss means elimination; winner takes prize pool with $40,000 minimum guaranteed. Also, there is a $135,000 bonus if a contestant wins both the college and pro Last Man Standing contests.

Properties: All Station Casinos, the Fiestas, Wildfire locations and El Cortez.


Contest: Pro Pick’em

Entry Fee: $25; limit 25 per person

Details: Select Sunday and Monday NFL games with no point spreads; $250,000 guaranteed prize pool; $13,000 in cash awarded each week; $20,000 grand prize for season.

Properties: All William Hill locations in Nevada, including Binion’s, Ellis Island, Hooters, Plaza, Riviera, Silver Sevens, Tuscany.

— Official rules available at all sports books.