Ex-UNR QB Kaepernick’s march to Super Bowl probably surprise of NFL season

A relatively unknown backup quarterback two months ago, Colin Kaepernick is now the star attraction of the Super Bowl as the leader of the favored San Francisco 49ers.

Kaepernick’s rise is probably the surprise story of the NFL season. The underdog Baltimore Ravens are another, but their tale will be playing second fiddle.

A majority of Las Vegas sports books opened San Francisco as the 4½-point favorite over Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 in New Orleans. The total is 49.

Superstars such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be missing, but the betting action and party atmosphere surrounding the biggest game of the year are unlikely to suffer.

"I’m not going to downplay it and say it’s going to be a Super Bowl that’s not going to attract enough attention," said Jimmy Vaccaro, director of public relations for William Hill sports books. "The game lives on its own merit. We’ll write around $90 million no matter who’s playing."

A total of $93.9 million, the second-largest handle in history, was wagered at Nevada sports books on last year’s Super Bowl, in which the New York Giants upset Brady and the New England Patriots, 21-17.

A San Francisco-Baltimore matchup was not the best-case scenario in terms of a potential record handle in the state, but the show will go on, and it will play especially well with West Coast fans of the 49ers.

"I don’t foresee any records being broken. I think the handle is going to fall somewhere between $85 million to $90 million," MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood said. "But it should be a good, solid game, and people are going to come out and enjoy it."

Kaepernick, a former UNR star who routinely shredded UNLV defenses during his college days, was promoted to be the 49ers’ starter in November, midway through his second NFL season. There has been no stopping him.

Facing a 17-0 first-half deficit Sunday, Kaepernick directed a comeback to help San Francisco defeat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 for the NFC title. The 49ers, who pushed against the spread as 4-point favorites, held the Falcons scoreless in the second half.

Baltimore also overcame considerable odds – as high as 30-1 at one point this season to reach the Super Bowl . The Ravens, 7½ -point underdogs in their 28-13 upset of the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, followed the inspirational lead of linebacker Ray Lewis.

In the past two weeks, Baltimore knocked out two of the league’s elite quarterbacks, New England’s Brady and the Denver Broncos’ Manning.

"The 49ers have been one of the better teams in the league and a sexy pick to win the Super Bowl all season," LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay said. "The Ravens were not really in that group until now.

"Right now, I think the hot ticket is on the Ravens. We know there’s going to be support for the 49ers, and I don’t think we’re going to see it until Super Bowl week."

Proposition betting is always the circus sidebar when it comes to Super Bowl wagering, and Kornegay said the LVH plans to unveil hundreds of props by Thursday afternoon.

Kaepernick was a hot ticket Sunday, according to Vaccaro, who expects brisk business from San Francisco fans at William Hill’s Reno-area books.

"You can’t even imagine what we wrote on Kaepernick props," Vaccaro said. "I don’t think it’s a bad matchup whatsoever, especially with our Northern Nevada influence."

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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