Martini Chat: Time to Go Bowling in College Football

Guests Barry Lieberman and Bert Osborne join the chat in Las Vegas to look at upcoming games' early lines.
Author:
Publish date:

The following is an excerpt from this week's Martini Chat, an hourlong, online program on market and current events at 5 p.m. EST every Thursday, hosted by TheStreet.com columnist Chris Edmonds and reporter Eric Gillin. To participate, visit TheStreet.com just before the show begins, and click on the invitation. To read the entire Martini Chat transcript, click here.

Chris Edmonds:

We're going to talk a little gambling here. We have two great guests, one you've heard from today already. Barry Lieberman, the general counsel of Coast Casinos, and also with us is Bert Osborne, the corporate sports book director for Coast Casinos, which owns the Orleans, which owns the Gold Coast and the Barbary Coast, three of my favorite places to come in Vegas.

Plus Ted Bridges, of Bridges Investment Counsel in Omaha, Neb., joins the discussion.

Let me ask you first about college football and the BCS. Everyone thought as we add more pieces to the BCS puzzle or formula that it would become clear. And then in the last three weeks, all heck has broken loose. Upset after upset, and we don't even know who is going to the Rose Bowl. Does the BCS serve a purpose?

Barry Lieberman:

It serves a purpose, but not one best suited for the fans. The true fans want to see a playoff. This is a bunch of baloney to enrich the pockets of the big conferences.

Chris Edmonds:

Bert, you are shaking your head.

Bert Osborne:

I agree. The NCAA are dinosaurs in a sense. The fans definitely want something like this. They want a bowl championship game.

Chris Edmonds:

Ted, as a Lincoln, Nebraska, person, you've got to have an opinion on this.

Ted Bridges:

This year, the shoe is on the other foot forNE. If NE makes it to the Rose Bowl, that's the worst nightmare. Clearly it points out the need of a playoff system.I don't think it would be too much of a hardship to go to a 16-team playoff.

Eric Gillin:

Joey Harrington, the Nike-sponsored potentialHeisman-winning quarterback from Oregon, told

ESPN

that he thinks the BCS system doesn't work. His point was that Oregon should be ranked third, ahead of Colorado, because the Ducks have only lost once, to No. 9 Stanford. Colorado has lost twice. What does the gambling world think of the BCS? Would Casinos prefer, say, an eight-team playoff?

Bert Osborne:

It makes it nice for the bowl season. We don't have all the games on New Year's Day now the way they stretch it out. From a betting standpoint, we're putting two teams up on the board and they're going to bet them.

Eric Gillin:

So it doesn't matter if it's a playoff or if it's a BCS regular standard bowl?

Bert Osborne:

No, in a situation where they highlight two teams like that, it rivals a first-round wild card game in the NFL -- if you want to equate it to some kind of money bet.

Chris Edmonds:

Let's focus on some of the bowl matchups we know now. Let's start with one of the January 1st bowls -- the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. Virginia Tech and Florida State -- Barry what do you say?

Barry Lieberman:

The numbers have not come out yet, but I think VA Tech over Florida State, a 6 1/2 favorite over VA Tech.

Bert Osborne:

I have no opinion. You can't get caught up too early. You can make projections, you can do these things, but what happens? I bet this game lasts 6 1/2. You don't want to get too involved in this stuff too early. For me, I got to get through the NFL this weekend. That's where I'm pointing my interest to.

Eric Gillin:

The BCS bowl pairings will be announced this coming Saturday and by all rights, it looks like Miami will face Tennessee for the national championship, that is, unless the Vols don't loose this weekend against No. 20 LSU. You think Miami will win it all this year? They didn't look so hot against Boston College a while back. They kind of got murdered.

Barry Lieberman:

Miami is probably the best team and they're going to be a favorite if they match up with Tennessee and over Nebraska.

Chris Edmonds:

Bert, let me ask you about the inter-meeting game that can change a lot of things, and that's the FCC championship in my home town of Atlanta this weekend. LSU vs. Tennessee. What gives there?

Bert Osborne:

Tennessee coming in put out a lot of effort last week. They beat them once in nine years? These are young kids. It's a tough thing. LSU played well.I believe this was a real live dog here. They're going to win outright.

Chris Edmonds:

If they win that game outright, what happens to the Rose Bowl?

Bert Osborne:

Cornhuskers will be playing for the national championship.

Chris Edmonds:

Ted, do you think Nebraska deserves to be in the Rose Bowl?

Ted Bridges:

I go back to saying if it's not a playoff at the end of the season, you have to look at how everyone played for the season. I like the concept of LSU as the dog because it's very hard at the top of the B1 level to beat a team twice in one season.

Barry Lieberman:

I'm going to disagree with both of them. I agree with Bert that this is a tough spot for Tennessee. They've come in off an emotionally incredibly high game. They played their best game of the season when they beat Florida. But one thing I like about the Tennessee team is that they are getting healthy just at the right time, at the end of the year. They've been banged up all year. LSU has severe problems in their secondary effort. They allow a lot of completions. I'll be on Tennessee this week. The lines about 6 1/2 right now, I'll wait for it to go down to 6. The popular opinion is Bert's so I should be able to by the end of the week.

Eric Gillin:

Have you looked at any of the non-January 1st bowls? Do any of those matchups intrigue you at all?

Ted Bridges:

One of the bowls that's interesting is here in Vegas. In the Las Vegas Bowl, Utah is playing USC and that's a competitive game. I suspect we'll get some people from Los Angeles to watch it. Usually it's the January 1 games that are the ones you really like.

Chris Edmonds:

Barry, let me ask about the lovely Silicon Valley classic. We have way too many bowl games with way too many weird names. The Silicon Valley classic played on New Year's Eve in Spartan Stadium in San Jose, that's a burner between Michigan State and Fresno. I've got to tell you, this Fresno team started off red-hot then lost to Idaho, then someone else and someone else. Can they play with Michigan State?

Barry Lieberman:

They'll be the favorite over Michigan State in that game.David Carr, I thought it was a crime that he was not nominated for the Heisman because this kid is going to be the highest Quarter Back drafted by the NFL this year. He's got a lot of tools and will shred the Michigan State defense. They've got a bunch of fourth-stringers and freshman. Fresno State is not only going to be able to play with Michigan State, but they are going to beat them.

Eric Gillin:

What about Syracuse? They are playing a bowl game, what do you think of them?

Bert Osborne:

They are playing Kansas State and Tucson. It's on natural grass, their preferred surface. They've been good at home and not on the road and this is on the road, so don't be so optimistic.

Eric Gillin:

What do you think of Dwight Feeney the linebacker?

Bert Osborne:

Great player, but if you put two guys on a defensive player, you can slow them down and stop them. Kansas State will do what they have to do to keep them away from their quarterback.

Eric Gillin:

Do you think he's an NFL guy?

Bert Osborne:

Yes, I think so. Definitely, he's got the quickness to be in the NFL.

Eric Gillin:

Speaking of the NFL, I think Chris has got some NFL questions.

Chris Edmonds:

Let's talk about the NFL. There is a lot of charity this year in the NFC. Who do you like?

Bert Osborne:

They used to say, the road to the Super Bowl leads through Pittsburgh, now the road leads through St. Louis. The San Francisco team is going to be a live dog. This team is back. This kid Jeff Garcia is phenomenal. Looking at the AFC you have Oakland, and of course Pittsburgh. They are back in the hunt. Of course, you have Kordell Stewart. They've pared down their playbook. That's off the top.

Chris Edmonds:

Barry, any thoughts?

Barry Lieberman:

I'm with Bert. St. Louis is going to emerge. Oakland hasn't looked good, but they have the talent to get there.

Chris Edmonds:

What about long shots? Is there anyone that can be a spoiler here?

Bert Osborne:

I thought Green Bay would be the team this year. Withthis kid as quarterback, they're capable of anything. It's a tough road when you get to December/January. Home field advantage means so much in the playoffs, especially when a cold weather team hosts a warm weather one.

Eric Gillin:

How bad was Minnesota?

Bert Osborne:

They played Carolina the first game. This team can't win ontheir own. They gave up 48 points to both teams.

Barry Lieberman:

I wish I could get a $75 million contract and only play onMonday night football!

Chris Edmonds:

Let's talk about college hoops for a minute, guys. Is Ball State for real?

Barry Lieberman:

There's no question Ball State is for real. They hungwith Duke. They're capable and will be very dangerous come March.

Bert Osborne:

I look at it like the NBA. The Lakers. The Blue Devils.There's no chance. The type of players they bring in -- these kids don't seem to leave school. This Duke program, it just seems that they build that camaraderie there and it keeps going.

Eric Gillin:

Is Arizona for real?

Barry Lieberman:

Arizona: The book's still open. The team has melded together and my opinion of the coach has gone up considerably. He took some new players and melded this team nicely. I agree with Bert. Duke stands head and shoulders and is going to be at least a 5-6-7 point over the other teams.

Chris Edmonds:

Who else do you like in the Final Four?

Bert Osborne:

Look at this Illinois team. This team's not bad. He'll have them ready when it's tournament time.

Chris Edmonds:

Ted, all you need to know is three words -- rock, chalk,Jayhawk.

Ted Bridges:

I like the Jayhawks, though their post-season performance has been dismal the last 5-10 years.

Barry Lieberman:

They're OK this year, but I don' t think they will be a favoritefor that Final Four.

Eric Gillin:

I know you guys have trashed my Syracuse alma mater's football team, but their basketball team is doing pretty good. What do you think of that team?

Barry Lieberman:

They've shown early that they're to be reckoned with. They'recompetitive and play an aggressive defense.

Bert Osborne:

One of you mentioned the programs like at Duke where they don't lose the kids early to the draft. Does that make your tops harder?

Barry Lieberman:

We're given a line that might work with the consensus that day.Early games: they can move 3-4 points at a time. It's like watching the stock market. You're just chasing numbers across the board.

Bert Osborne:

You have to keep the spread pretty wide to cover your self for the risk.

Barry Lieberman:

Here we don't have the luxury of keeping the spread wide. Early in the season the players have an advantage, especially those with specific knowledge. Most of the line moves early in the season seem to be sharp moves. The first week, we had the games up, that was a surprise. I thought college basketball would be tough this year, but we'veturned it around.

Ted Bridges:

I always consider if I can get through to January, I'm in decentshape and am going to have a decent basketball season.

Chris Edmonds:

Your four Final Four teams?

Barry Lieberman:

Duke. Illinois. Syracuse. Kansas.

Eric Gillin:

Lastly, and this is something I've never understood, Las Vegas lines are created by offsetting risk, right? So that means odds adjust as people wager. For instance, in the Rahman vs. Lewis fight, Rahman's odds to win got better as the fight got closer. Can someonetake advantage and use the hysteria and hype to their advantage?

Barry Lieberman:

It's like the stock market. The intelligence money is sometimes right and sometimes wrong. The public has opinions. The big betters are on favorites and the small ones throw it in on the underdog. The big money was coming in on Rahman and that was wrong.

Eric Gillin:

One last question -- Mike Tyson?

Bert Osborne:

How can we turn this down? It's turned into a circus! You haveto love it! You want Tyson! It's amazing, the public loves this guy!

Chris Edmonds:

This is amazing. We are going to move our show to Vegas! No one has anything like this.