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Savannah State A Record 70 1/2-Point Underdog vs. Florida State

Savannah State, the small black college on Georgia’s southeastern shore, has made the NCAA record books, albeit dubiously.

The betting line in Las Vegas has Savannah State a 70 ½-point underdog for Saturday game against No. 6 Florida State. No one can recall seeing a number like that.

“Without a doubt,” said Mike Colbert, vice president of risk management for Las Vegas-based Cantor Gaming, “this is the biggest line I’ve put up in 10 years doing this.”

No surprise there. In fact, all indications, this is largest point spread ever for a Division I game.

Think you’d take those odds? Well, you might want to think again.

The Tigers were nearly as big an underdog last week — in the 65½-point range — and they didn’t come close to covering. No. 18 Oklahoma State romped to an 84-0 rout, handing Savannah State its eighth straight defeat going back to last season.

“We had to make an even bigger line for Florida State,” Colbert said, “because we think Florida State is better than Oklahoma State.”

For Savannah State, this is called taking a whipping for the money. The school is collecting paychecks totaling $860,000, which will go a long way toward helping the financially strapped athletic program meet its total budget of $5.1 million.

“You preach the same message. We’re going to get on the bus to Tallahassee with the thought of winning the game,” Tigers coach Steve Davenport told the Savannah Morning News without a smile. “The reality is the reality and we’ll see how we pan out. The charge is to play as hard as you can for 60 minutes, no different than it was for Oklahoma State.”

Colbert said most of the early money from Vegas betters was on the underdog.

“I think people just saw the big number and instantly put their bets on Savannah State,” he said. “I don’t think they put much thought into it.”

Of course, the bookies are more careful with their money. Colbert had several factors to consider before setting the historic spread in favor of Florida State (1-0).

“It was an interesting line to make,” he said. “If Florida State wanted to play its top guys the entire game, they could probably win by a hundred. But some guesswork comes in with a number like this. It’s not purely about statistics and numbers. How long will they play their top guys? Will they run the score up? Quite frankly, I expect Florida State to play (the starters) for at least the first half.”

The main goal for the Seminoles, Colbert figured, is to get through the game without injuries to any key players before they open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule the following week. There is absolutely no possibility of losing this game.

“You know they’ll want to be healthy for their conference games,” the oddsmaker pointed out. “That said, Florida State’s backups are better than Savannah State’s starters. I don’t expect them to stop scoring.”

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