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Grammer: Holtz takes shot at Lobos chances at Notre Dame

Thomas Viera, a fifth-year UNM football senior from Albuquerque, uses his phone to record the moment as the Lobos walk through Notre Dame Stadium on Friday. (Rafa Amaya/UNM Athletics)

The UNM Lobo football team landed at 1:55 p.m. local time in South Bend, Ind., on Friday aboard their chartered Allegiant Air flight.

They made a trip over to Notre Dame Stadium where, donning their businesslike travel suits and ties, they were allowed to walk around the field of the historic stadium to soak in the nostalgia, take selfies and, hopefully, shake off whatever wide-eyed awe they might have knowing that Saturday they play the No. 7 team in the country on NBC.

They do, after all, have a game to play, not that it’s one oddsmakers feel the Lobos have much of a chance in. UNM (1-0) is a 34.5-point underdog against the Fighting Irish (1-0).

“My contact at Notre Dame tells me they’re putting a third digit on the scoreboard because of the anticipation of this roster game,” said former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz on the online game preview site, before predicting a 41-6 Notre Dame victory.

“I call it a roster game,” Holtz added. “That means everybody on your team is going to get in the football game because you’re going to win it so decisively.”

Considering his former defensive coordinator, Bob Davie, is the man who is now coaching the Lobos, you might expect Holtz to be a little more generous.

Then again, Davie, who took over as head coach at Notre Dame after Holtz in 1997 and didn’t travel with the Lobos this week due to a health issue, didn’t exactly offer much of a Knute Rockne dose of optimism himself Tuesday when discussing the game with media.

“Obviously, we know what these games are about,” Davie said. “These games, first and foremost, are about the money. You know, it’s about the $1.1 million that we will receive from playing this game. That’s the reality.”

But all hope is not lost. Remember, this is the same Lobos program that in 2015 won outright as a 20.5-point underdog against Utah State and the following week, as a 31-point underdog, beat Boise State outright.

And last year as 35.5-point dogs in a money-game played at Wisconsin, UNM lost by just 31 points (45-14), covering the spread and handing their hat on the old betting saying that good teams win, but great teams cover.

LOCAL SCENE: New Mexico is now up to four sportsbooks open and accepting wagers, and a fifth at Route 66 Casino Hotel planning to open its sportsbook in the coming week (Thursday).

As for business at the only metro-area sportsbook that takes bets on the state’s two Division I athletics programs – UNM and NMSU – Isleta Resort & Casino CEO Harold Baugus said he’s been pleased with the popularity of its temporary facility. (A permanent 5,000-square foot sportsbook will open later this fall).

“A lot of our patrons have been really excited about the (sports betting),” Baugus said, adding that action on UNM and NMSU games have been a little higher than the average college football games. The big boom came last week, though, when the NFL season began.

Isleta will likely see another big push Sept. 21 when NMSU fans driving north up I-25,stop by Isleta to place bets on their way the annual Aggies-Lobos game.

FRIDAY THE 13TH: Speaking of Friday the 13th, sports bettors try not to be superstitious, apparently.

Asked if foot traffic in sportsbooks dropped on that unluckiest of days on the calendar, several in the business told the Journal no such luck.

“No noticeable downturn,” said Albuquerque native Jay Rood, the former director of race and sports at MGM Resorts International and current Chief Risk Officer at Bet.Works. “Sports betting is in full swing. Bettors fear the ‘bad beat’ more than Jason today!”

A well-placed Jason Voorhees reference aside, talk of Friday the 13th, be it the movie or the superstitious date, doesn’t seem to come up much on the casino, or sportsbook, floor. Well, at least not initially.

“We don’t have any of that,” Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Sports Operations at the Westgate in Las Vegas told the Journal. “Jokingly some have brought it up as they ripped tickets up.”

MAYOR’S BET: Even the mayors of Albuquerque and South Bend got in on the betting action this week.

Well, sort of.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a Notre Dame graduate who plans to be at Saturday’s game, took to social media to post a video in which he bet South Bend mayor, and Democratic candidate for President Pete Buttigieg, an “Albuquerque in a Box” assortment of area staples (salsa, Piñon coffee, chile, etc.) that “the Lobos are going to do great this Saturday.”

He didn’t specifically say the Lobos would win, but did don a Lobos had and said, “I’ve got to go with New Mexico on this one. … The Lobos are going to bring the fight to South Bend this weekend.”

Buttigieg took the bet and countered with some South Bend items as well, including in the wager some chocolates and some local coffee.

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