How will Dana Holgorsen's first West Virginia University football team fare this fall?
We have our first clue thanks to the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which traditionally posts the earliest betting lines on about 100 college football games for the upcoming season.
Four of West Virginia's 12 games made the Golden Nugget's Games of the Year list.
After opening the season at home against Marshall and Norfolk State -do you get the feeling the Mountaineers will start out 2-0? -West Virginia will make its first road trip on Saturday, Sept. 17, when WVU travels to Maryland.
West Virginia has been installed as a 3-point favorite over the Terrapins, a team some of the preseason magazines are saying could finish as high as second in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Obviously, with the point spread just 3, this is no gimme.
Maryland, by the way, opens the season on Monday night, Sept. 5, when Miami of Florida visits College Park for an early ACC showdown. The Hurricanes are favored by 3- points. That will be Maryland's only game before playing WVU.
A week after playing the Terps, on Sept. 24, comes what truly qualifies as WVU's Game of the Year. That's when LSU - a team being mentioned as a possible national champion -comes to Morgantown. Last year, on Sept. 25, WVU visited LSU and suffered a 20-14 loss. This year, the Tigers have been installed as a 4-point favorite over the Mountaineers.
After opening the season with its five non-conference foes, WVU will play its first Big East game on Oct. 8, when Connecticut comes to Morgantown. WVU is a 13- point choice over the Huskies.
The only other West Virginia game that made the Golden Nugget's list is the annual Backyard Brawl with arch-rival Pittsburgh, set for Friday, Nov. 25, in Morgantown. West Virginia is a 6-point favorite in a game that may well determine the Big East Conference championship and the Bowl Championship Series berth that goes with it.
Naturally, given the tumultuous situation at Ohio State, the Golden Nugget didn't post any lines on Buckeye games, not even the season finale with Michigan.
Although most of the lines haven't moved since they were first posted, it's interesting to note that every Michigan game on the board has moved several points, with bettors going against the Wolverines in every instance.
Although you can buy dozens of preseason magazines and acquire information on every college team through the Internet, I've always maintained the best way to determine the preseason strength of a team is to go to the betting lines.
Why? Because Phil Steele can be wrong and it doesn't cost him a dime.
But let the Golden Nugget or some other Nevada establishment put up a bad line and it can effect its bottom line.
In a week where newspaper sources have been much discussed, let's take the advice of Deep Throat - follow the money!
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org