It has been said countless times and for the next 10 days will be repeated like a handicapping Pledge of Allegiance: With a month to prepare, Alabama coach Nick Saban is tough to beat.
It’s said so often because it’s true. Saban’s attention to detail is second to none, or second only to Bill Belichick.
With a month to prepare, it’s also true that Las Vegas sports book directors, such as Tony Miller at the Golden Nugget, are doing everything possible to ensure No. 2 Alabama’s showdown with No. 1 Notre Dame for the Bowl Championship Series championship on Jan. 7 is the biggest-bet college football game in history.
“Every year, everyone does a bunch of props on the Super Bowl,” Miller said, “so why can’t we do at least half of that on the BCS championship?”
Similar to a “Jeopardy!” contestant, his question was the answer. It can be done. Miller is posting about 150 proposition wagers today on the Crimson Tide and Fighting Irish. His six-page prop book is a mini version of what we carry around before the Super Bowl.
Nothing compares to the NFL’s widespread appeal, and props on college games are nowhere near as popular.
Some fans might not even know the names of the starting quarterbacks – AJ McCarron for Alabama and Everett Golson for Notre Dame. McCarron and Golson are not exactly Tom Brady and Eli Manning.
When the Manning-led New York Giants upset Brady, Belichick and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in February, the LVH sports book posted more than 300 props on the game.
Several of the props the Golden Nugget is putting up for Alabama-Notre Dame are the same. You can wager on the team to win the coin toss and the team to score first. Will the game be decided by exactly three points? A “Yes” wager pays plus-350.
But no crazy props involve LeBron James, golfers or English soccer teams.
Eight props are on McCarron, including his yards passing (186½), longest completion (44½ yards) and length of his first touchdown pass (22½ yards), assuming he passes for one.
If the game is decided by three points, Crimson Tide bettors will be disappointed. Alabama is a 9½-point favorite everywhere but at MGM Resorts books, where the line is 10.
I’m of the opinion the Irish will put up a great fight. Golson, a redshirt freshman, showed dramatic improvement as a passer late in the season, and the Notre Dame offense has the speed to run with a Southeastern Conference defense.
Brian Kelly is no coaching chump, even in comparison to Saban, and will use the month to get his team well prepared – unlike Louisiana State’s Les Miles, who used the month to vacation and got embarrassed by Saban in last season’s BCS title game.
The Notre Dame defense is strong against the run and can put heat on McCarron. And while it’s true the Irish needed luck to beat Purdue, Michigan, Stanford, Brigham Young and Pittsburgh, those were all home games.
Kelly’s team turned in its best performance on the road, where Notre Dame dominated Oklahoma 30-13 as a 12-point underdog on Oct. 27.
But arguments can be made for both sides, and Brian Edwards, arguably the hottest college football handicapper on record this season, is leaning to the other side.
“Alabama is just not playing the way it played early in the season and has not looked as dominant as it did throughout September and October. I feel like they peaked too early,” Edwards said. “When we’ve seen Notre Dame go against the heavyweight teams, they have really responded.”
But Edwards, of BrianEdwardsSports.com and VegasInsider.com, sees Tide running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon taking a wrecking ball to the Irish title hopes.
“In most matchups, you look at Alabama and give them a big edge in coaching. I don’t think you have that huge advantage this time around. I like Kelly a lot,” Edwards said. “But I’m pretty sure I’m going to go with Alabama.
“I think Notre Dame is going to hang around for a while, but eventually Alabama will wear them down in the second half and probably pull away late and win by 14 points or so.”
I’m ice cold in the bowls, losing with underdog Duke on Thursday in what almost certainly will go down as worst beat of the 35-game bowl season. It’s too painful to go into the details.
So for the bettors pledging their allegiance to Alabama, who am I to argue?
One thing could distract Saban, however. Rumors are spreading that he’s preparing to bolt to the Cleveland Browns after the biggest-bet game in college football history, so maybe someone should put a prop on that.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.