Oddsmaker: USC, Oklahoma should square off for title

Not that the Rose Bowl is a booby prize, but Southern California coach Pete Carroll has a team that deserves better this holiday season, according to oddsmakers.

At the end of an imperfect college football season, the scam known as the Bowl Championship Series has set up a title game matching Ohio State and Louisiana State, teams that are a combined 2-2 in their past four games.

The Tigers are 51/2-point favorites over the Buckeyes -- the No. 1 team in the BCS standings -- on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.

"It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen this year," MGM Mirage sports book director Robert Walker said. "We won't know who the best team in the country is, and we certainly won't know after Ohio State and LSU play.

"If (the Tigers) beat Ohio State, there's no way you can say they're the best team in the country, not with a straight face."

If Las Vegas Sports Consultants oddsmaker Ken White was a matchmaker for the BCS, he said USC would be playing Oklahoma for the title. The Trojans and Sooners were tied atop LVSC's final regular-season poll.

"I think the third- and fourth-best teams in the country are playing for the title," White said. "We have to make USC a slight favorite over anybody except Oklahoma."

White said because of "public perception," the Trojans would be about 11/2-point favorites over the Sooners.

Walker said USC would be about a 7-point favorite over Ohio State.

"I still think USC would be favored over any team on a neutral field," Walker said. "This would be a phenomenal year to have a tournament."

Of course, there is no tournament, and the Trojans are 131/2-point favorites over Illinois, a team with three losses, on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl.

The argument for USC (10-2) is flawed because it lost a home game to Stanford in early October. But Ohio State played a weak nonconference schedule (Youngstown State, Akron, Washington and Kent State), and Oklahoma lost to two unranked teams (Colorado and Texas Tech).

White said three of four LVSC oddsmakers ranked the Trojans and Sooners as the top two teams.

Oklahoma is a 7-point favorite over West Virginia on Jan. 2 in the Fiesta Bowl.

With 32 bowl games on the schedule, Walker said betting has been slow since opening lines were posted and the LSU-Ohio State matchup is generating little excitement.

"It has been very quiet," said Walker, who has seen few significant line moves and only a minor amount of wagering.

One noticeable line move is on the Las Vegas Bowl. Brigham Young is a 6-point favorite over UCLA -- LVSC's opening line was 31/2 -- in the Dec. 22 game at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2907.