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Lack of star power tempers excitement

One year after his big-game reputation was ruined, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is back for another try.

But will his Buckeyes just get embarrassed again?

Louisiana State is a 4-point favorite over Ohio State in today’s Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game in New Orleans. A game without stars and featuring two teams with scars is not creating much excitement with bettors in Las Vegas.

The Tigers opened as 6-point favorites when the line was posted about a month ago. But Las Vegas Hilton sports book director Jay Kornegay said wagering interest has been “lukewarm,” and he expects half of the action on the game to show up today.

“Some of the biggest bets have been on Ohio State, but if you look at the ticket count, there are a lot more tickets on LSU,” Kornegay said.

The total opened at 491/2 and is down to 471/2.

The lack of enthusiasm for the so-called title game is understandable, with both teams losing on their home field in November.

The Buckeyes, 11-1 straight up and 7-4 against the spread, were beaten by Illinois, a team that was crushed by 32 points by Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

The Tigers, 11-2 straight up and 4-8 against the spread, were beaten most recently by Arkansas, a team that was routed by 31 points by Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

“The game hasn’t been getting too much attention. A lot of people don’t feel it’s a true national championship game,” Kornegay said. “If you were to ask 100 people in our book right now who the best team is in college football, I think 70 percent would say a team other than LSU or Ohio State.

“I also think being on a Monday does hurt the handle on this game. It’s going to be heavily bet for a college game, but I really think it would surpass some NFL playoff games if it was held on a Saturday night.”

The motivational edge seems to be with Ohio State, which wants to make amends for last year’s fiasco in the BCS title game. The Buckeyes were 7-point favorites but were whipped 41-14 by Florida.

Tressel has something to prove. He has had no problems winning big games against Big Ten opponents, but the Buckeyes have had no luck against the Southeastern Conference.

“The intangibles definitely favor Ohio State,” Kornegay said. “The Big Ten and Ohio State took a big blow by getting blown out last year.”

Kornegay encountered his own problems when posting proposition wagers.

“There are no superstars on either one of these teams. A lot of people have never heard of these guys,” he said. “These are two no-name teams.”

The game’s marquee player — on offense, at least — is Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells. He is the

5-1 favorite to score the first touchdown, and the total for his rushing attempts is posted at 221/2.

The Hilton has posted 20 props, with three each on Buckeyes quarterback Todd Boeckman and Tigers quarterback Matt Flynn.

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

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