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September 6, 2012

The man behind the spread: FSU a 70.5 point favorite on Saturday

Las Vegas has made it official: Florida State will be hosting one of the biggest mismatches in college football history on Saturday.

Cantor Gaming, which sets lines for sportsbooks at seven Las Vegas casinos, was the first to post a line on FSU's game with lowly Savannah State, pegging the Seminoles as 70.5 point favorites, the largest college football spread ever.

"In 10 years it's the highest number I've ever put up," said Mike Colbert, vice president of risk management at Cantor Gaming. Cantor sets sportsbook lines for The Venetian, The Cosmopolitan, The Palms, The M, The Palazzo, Tropicana and the Hard Rock in Las Vegas.

Colbert said that if the point spread was based strictly on talent between the two teams, it would be significantly higher. To start the 2012 season, Savannah State lost 84-0 at No. 19 Oklahoma State. OSU also pulled its starters well before halftime.

"To be honest, we actually would make the game closer to 80, but obviously when you're dealing with a number this big, you're not just dealing with the teams on the field," he said. "We know if Florida State wants to play their guys, they could probably win their game by 100."

Colbert said that with two conference games on deck, Wake Forest and Clemson, he expects FSU to pull its starters even earlier than Oklahoma State. But Cantor Gaming also has FSU ranked higher than OSU in its power ratings.

"Oklahoma State beat them 84-0, and our power ratings make Florida State stronger than Oklahoma State," Colbert said. "Normally, you'd think the number may be higher, but when you're dealing with a number so big, it can only go so high."

Savannah State, an FCS (Division I-AA) program that went 1-10 last season, is receiving $475,000 for playing the Seminoles. Savannah State is a replacement opponent for West Virginia, which canceled its trip to Tallahassee in February. With seven months to spare, FSU Senior Associate Director of Athletics Monk Bonasorte called 74 different schools looking for a game before agreeing to terms with Savannah State. West Virginia paid FSU $500,000 as a settlement for the breached contract.

A blatant mismatch such as FSU-Savannah State doesn't make setting a spread any easier. Colbert said that when he and two of his sportstbook staff members gave their initial numbers on this game earlier in the week, the three spreads ranged from 63.5 to 79.5.

"When you're dealing with a number this big, there's definitely guesswork involved," Colbert said. "It's rare that when all three of us make numbers that we are 16 points off. So we settled on 70.5."

Colbert said the points have been attractive to bettors early on. The first two significant bets Cantor took came in on Savannah State on Thursday morning. He said he expects the betting public to want the 70.5 points and given the size of the spread, he will adjust this line "twice as aggressively" as a standard game between to Division I-A opponents. Cantor is taking bets up to $10,000 on the game.

"I guess it's just hard to lay 70.5," he said. "If we were going to base it purely off the numbers and how good we think the teams are, this game would be right around 78 or 79. But we think the public will bet Savannah State."

As for Colbert's pick: "I think FSU wins by more than 10 touchdowns and slightly covers this one," he said.



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