Early line favors Clemson over Tide in rematch

LAS VEGAS -- Point spreads on some of the biggest college football games of the upcoming season began popping up at sportsbooks this week -- including an early line on a potential national championship game rematch between Clemson and Alabama.

The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas has Clemson listed as a 2-point favorite over Alabama in what would be the third meeting in a national title game in the last four years between the Tigers and Crimson Tide. Clemson beat Alabama 44-16 to win last season's title.

The Tigers and Tide are the clear-cut national title favorites again this year. Both return Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback: Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. Based on the early point spreads on their biggest games, they'll be heavy favorites every week.

Aaron Kessler, senior oddsmaker at Golden Nugget, told ESPN that he'd have Alabama and Clemson favored by at least seven points against any other team in the nation. Georgia is third in Kessler's power ratings.

"They're definitely the best two teams out there," Kessler said of Alabama and Clemson. "It's just tough trying to figure out how much better they are than the rest of the field."

The Golden Nugget opened Clemson as a 17.5-point home favorite against Texas A&M on Sept. 7. The Tigers opened as 18-point road favorites against Syracuse on Sept. 24 and are 20-point-plus favorites in games against North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina State and South Carolina.

Alabama opened as a 16-point favorite against LSU on Nov. 9 and as a 13-point road favorite at Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30.

The Golden Nugget posted point spreads on 100 college football games at noon ET Thursday and attracted a line of a dozen bettors, who were allowed to make three wagers before being forced to return to the back of the line. Betting limits were $1,000.

The Golden Nugget has offered early college football point spreads since 2007.

"We've only had one really bad year," Golden Nugget sportsbook director Tony Miller said. "Otherwise, we usually win a little or lose a little."

Professional sports bettor Joe Fortuna made the trip to Las Vegas from New Jersey to bet the Golden Nugget's openers. Fortuna said he found very few point spreads that differed greatly from his projections, but managed to spread out $9,000 over a few plays.

"Their numbers were pretty sharp," Fortuna said.

Some point spreads did move significantly, though. For example, Army opened as a 13-point favorite over Navy but was bet down to -8 as of late Thursday.

Other notable opening point spreads from the Golden Nugget:

• Auburn (-3) vs. Oregon, Aug. 31 (at Arlington, Texas)

• LSU (-2) at Texas, Sept. 7

• Notre Dame at Georgia (-9.5), Sept. 21

• Oklahoma (-6.5) vs. Texas

• Notre Dame at Michigan (-6)

• Georgia (-3.5) vs. Florida (at Jacksonville, Florida)

• Ohio State at Michigan (-3.5)

• Florida State at Florida (-14)

• Army (-13) vs. Navy (at Philadelphia)