The Times West Virginian

June 8, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Take these spreads for entertainment

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — It was June, but fall was the air.

Fall, you see, begins with F which stands for football.

And what better day to start thinking of football, which is just 84 days away, than the day when the first point spreads of the year come out.

I know, gambling’s illegal … or so they try to tell you, but somehow they are going to have a tough time convincing Gloria McKenzie of that, she being the Florida lady who won the $598 million Powerball picked last week.

Friday, which also begins with an F, was the day that the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas put out its annual early line … one that covered 250 games to be played next season.

To be honest, this one of those good news, bad news sort of stories, though.

The good news is that football is drawing nearer.

The bad news?

Well, if you believe the point spreads, WVU may be in for a long, long season.

According to the Golden Nugget’s Wizard of Odds, WVU is favored in only one Big 12 contest that they rated, that being the home game against Iowa State, in which the Mountaineers are 7.5-point picks.

Now one can expect when the complete lines come out, WVU will be favored over Kansas, but neither that game nor the Texas Tech game was included in the early lines.

Neither were two of the three non-conference games, those against William & Mary and Georgia State, but rest assured the Mountaineers will be sizeable picks against both. In fact, Danny Sheridan, a rather famous oddsmaker himself, offered odds on Georgia State’s trip to Alabama and the Crimson Tide is a rather healthy 54-point pick to win that game.

The third non-conference game, being played on the road, shows WVU to be a narrow 2-point selection over Maryland, a point spread that offers little confidence in the Mountaineers.

In truth, judging by the point spreads, one would expect WVU to be scuffling just to qualify for a bowl game, even with Georgia State and William & Mary on the schedule, unless the powers that be give Dana Holgorsen’s team a break and allow them to count William & Mary as two games … one against William and the other against Mary.

The six Big 12 games in which the Mountaineers are underdogs shows them to be no less than a touchdown ’dog:

• Oklahoma -16 vs. WVU

• Oklahoma State -11 at WVU

• Baylor -7 vs. WVU

• Kansas State -9 vs. WVU

• TCU -10 vs. WVU

• Texas -12 at WVU

This, of course, is nothing surprising, being a reaction to losing Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey from a year ago when, despite having those superstar players WVU found a way to drop six games.

Let us offer a warning, at this point, that seldom would be offered, the warning being to not take these lines too seriously just yet.

See no one, not Holgorsen and not even the bookmakers themselves have any idea what West Virginia is going to look like this season.

One of the key factors entering into point spreads is the team’s quarterback, yet WVU is a team without one, which makes it rather difficult to say whether Oklahoma, a team that itself is trying to replace a franchise QB in Landry Jones, is 6 points, 16 points or 26 points better than West Virginia.

WVU, in fact, may not even have completed its roster. A running back from Houston, Charles Sims, has told the Cougars he will not be back. Sims has his degree, so he’s eligible immediately after a season in which he rushed for 851 yards and 11 TDs and caught 37 passes for 373 yards.

West Virginia is one of the schools he’s considering, although the lure of the NFL supplemental draft is there, too, and there are many who believe he can be a functional back in an NFL offense.

So, have fun with the point spreads. Look ’em up and see what you think about Notre Dame vs. Michigan or USC vs. UCLA, but don’t be jumping to any conclusions. Not yet; this is strictly for entertainment value only.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.