As we pass the remaining few weeks until the start of fall camp, it’s always fun to take a look at the recently-released point spreads for some notable games during the 2012 season.
With Notre Dame one of the teams that generates the most traffic in Las Vegas, 10 of the 12 Irish games are already on the board. Only the Sept. 8 game against Purdue and the Nov. 17 home finale against Wake Forest are not currently on the board.
For each game, I’ve provided the current line (if available) at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, the line I would set for the game, and an early lean on which side to take for each game. My lines are not necessarily my prediction for the game, but how I would attempt to get an even split from bettors (which is what oddsmakers do).
Las Vegas Line: Notre Dame -13.5
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -15
Pick: Despite the game being the season opener and being played in a foreign country, this is the best bet on the board of any of Notre Dame's games. Last year's 56-14 Irish rout was indicative of how the rivalry is beginning to shift back in Notre Dame's favor after three wins in four years by the Midshipmen. Notre Dame didn't have the athletes on both sides of the ball at the same time to control Navy until last year.
The Mids will be breaking in a new quarterback, new fullback and entirely new defensive line. Notre Dame now has the personnel to dominate the trenches and the big-play ability to hit home runs against an overmatched secondary. Take the Irish here to avoid starting the season in the red.
Las Vegas Line: N/A
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -12
Pick: Purdue returned to a bowl last year for the first time since 2007, but were completely overmatched in a 38-10 loss to Notre Dame in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers closed the season by winning three of four and should be even stronger this season with a healthy Ralph Bolden at running back and a strong defense.
Danny Hope's team is catching Notre Dame the week after a game overseas and has a nice tune-up against FCS member Eastern Kentucky a week prior to the trip to South Bend. This should be a win for the Irish, but Purdue's strong defense will keep the game close for four quarters. Take the points and the Boilers to cover what should be a 10-14 point spread.
Las Vegas Line: Michigan State -3
Smith's Line: Michigan State -5
Pick: This rivalry has had a number of close games since it really became a rivalry again in the late '90s, including the Spartans' overtime victory in 2005 in which it planted its flag at midfield of Notre Dame Stadium, followed a year later by the Irish staging a furious rally from 37-21 down in the fourth quarter to win in East Lansing.
Michigan State must replace quarterback Kirk Cousins and its entire receiving corps, but possesses one of the best defenses in the nation. The game will be a prime-time affair in East Lansing and could be the first road start for either Everett Golson or Andrew Hendrix. Installing MSU as three-point home favorites means the teams are relatively even. Right now, they're not even. Take Sparty and give the points.
Las Vegas Line: Notre Dame -1
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -3
Pick: There is no more important game on the Notre Dame schedule than Michigan. Period. Facing a team at home in prime-time that has grasped victory from the jaws of defeat against the Irish each of the past three seasons makes this game a must-win.
Notre Dame should be able to run the football against a young Wolverines defensive line. Denard Robinson was unstoppable in the 2010 meeting, but the Irish shut him down for three quarters last season. Facing him for a third time, the results should continue to improve. This game means more to the Irish this season. Take the more desperate team to cover a narrow number.
Las Vegas Line: Notre Dame -9.5
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -8
Pick: This matchup will not have the same intrigue as it did in their two prior meetings in the Midwest when both teams were ranked in the top 10 of the polls. However, it's still Notre Dame and Miami, two programs who hope they have found their right leader after each making a pair of curious coaching hires.
This game will be played in Soldier Field after Notre Dame's lone bye week of the season. Somewhere between seven and 10 point seems about right for this game. Notre Dame is more experienced, but the talent is comparable. Notre Dame's best game in 2010 came against Utah after a bye week, and expect a similar result here. Take the Irish to win relatively comfortably.
Las Vegas Line: Notre Dame -5
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -4
Pick: Stanford has defeated the Irish in each of the past three seasons, with only one of those games having been competitive. The Cardinal bid farewell to Andrew Luck, but welcome back running back Stepfan Taylor and a strong front seven.
Both teams will try to hit each other in the mouth and play a physical brand of football with their lack of a veteran quarterback. Expect the revenge factor and home-field advantage to tip the scales slightly in Notre Dame's favor, but not enough to give more than three points. Stanford is the play here in a game that could come down to a late field goal.
Las Vegas Line: Notre Dame -9
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -7
Pick: Just because BYU was off of the radar for much of last season as an independent playing a soft schedule, don't think Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars will be a pushover when they return to South Bend for the first time since 2005. Fourteen starters return, including quarterback Riley Nelson and star pass-rusher Kyle Van Noy.
It's a bit of a sandwich game for Notre Dame in between clashes with Stanford and Oklahoma. BYU thrives on spotlight games, having nearly upset Texas in Austin last year and winning five of its past six bowl games. If there's a game Notre Dame could stumble as a significant favorite, it's this one. Take the Cougars to cover and potentially pull the outright upset.
Las Vegas Line: Oklahoma -11
Smith's Line: Oklahoma -14
Pick: As if road trips to Michigan State and East Lansing weren't enough, the Irish also must go to Norman, where Oklahoma has dropped just three games in Bob Stoops' 13 seasons. The Sooners return quarterback Landry Jones and bring back former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, but lose the NCAA's all-time receptions leader in Ryan Broyles and pass-rushing specialist Frank Alexander.
The Sooners slumped late last season, dropping three of their final seven games. With a backloaded schedule, they should be 6-0 and could be as high as No. 2 or No. 3 in the polls by the time Oct. 27 rolls around. Expect Notre Dame to seize this opportunity and play its best game of the season. Take the points here and ride the Irish to a possible straight-up victory.
Las Vegas Line: Notre Dame -12.5
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -11
Pick: Another year, another coaching change for the Panthers, as Paul Chryst looks to bring physical, power football back to the Steel City after a failed year in the spread offense under Todd Graham. Chryst will have a senior quarterback in Tino Sunseri, an elite running back in Ray Graham and a solid corps of wide receivers.
The Irish struggled early in a rare noon kickoff last year at Heinz Field, but gutted out a 15-12 win, their second straight over Pittsburgh. This game comes in a letdown situation the week after going to Oklahoma. Seven of the past eight meetings have been one-score games, so history says side with the Panthers to keep it close.
Las Vegas Line: Notre Dame - 12
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -10
Pick: The only two Catholic universities in the FBS return to Boston for their annual clash this season. The Eagles bid farewell to star linebacker Luke Kuechly, but overall, this team should be more competitive than the 4-8 2011 squad.
Notre Dame was unimpressive last year in a 16-14 win over Boston College in South Bend, but did easily handle the Eagles, 31-13, in their last trip to Alumni Stadium. The Irish have played well away from home under Brian Kelly, and expect another strong performance on the road here. Lay the points and take Notre Dame.
Las Vegas Line: N/A
Smith's Line: Notre Dame -14
Pick: The Deacons were extremely impressive for a half in last year's meeting in Winston-Salem, but were held scoreless in the second half in a 24-17 Notre Dame victory. The losses are severe along the offensive line and in the secondary, but quarterback Tanner Price and stalwart nose guard Nikita Whitlock return.
Jim Grobe's teams tend to play to their level of competition, as they did last year in wins over Florida State and N.C. State and narrow losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech. Expect a similar inspired performance in South Bend. If the number slides above two touchdowns, take the Deacons to cover.
Las Vegas Line: USC -13
Smith's Line: USC -17
Pick: Notre Dame laid a massive egg last season in its first home prime-time game in 21 years, falling 31-17 to the Trojans in a game that wasn't even as close as a 14-point margin would indicate. USC has the best quarterback in the nation in Matt Barkley and the best pair of receivers in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
The Irish will have the revenge factor on their side, as well as the timing. With depth a concern for the Trojans, injuries could have taken their toll on USC by Thanksgiving weekend. However, this line appears completely one-sided. California, a team comparable to Notre Dame, is currently a 24-point underdog at USC. With a line currently under two touchdowns, USC is the obvious pick.