Look for Blowouts in Week 1 That Could Cause Low Totals
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 08/27/2008
The College Football season opens Thursday and with it, the return of totals reaching into the 60s and 70s. The general consensus among people who watch the game closely is that the defense starts out ahead and the offense usually catches up to speed by the third or fourth week of the season.
Oddsmakers are giving the offense plenty of credit with the opening totals in the first week of the season. The official college football opening game at 7:00 Thursday, UTEP at Buffalo has a total of 59. Kicking off shortly after that is Troy and Middle Tennessee State with a posted total of 53.5. With mid-major conferences high totals are generally the norm with spread and run-and-shoot offenses usually involved but a BCS conference matchup, also on Thursday, between the Wake Forest of the ACC and Baylor has a total of 51. Looking back at the last two season's opening week bettors should pay attention when Vegas is listing what may seem like exuberant totals in the first week.
Last year on the opening Thursday night the under went 6-1 with four games posting a total of at least 50 but the trend didn't last long. Blowouts are more likely to occur in Week 1 and that's a large reason why games fail to go over. Last season Rutgers ran away from Buffalo, 38-3, but fell short of the total, 50. LSU, ranked No. 2 at the time, shutout Mississippi State 45-0, and Oregon State held Utah to only seven points in a 24-7 win.
The trend continued throughout the opening weekend with games going under 29 out of 47 times with teams in the midst of a blowout killing the clock in the second half being the biggest culprit for the low total scores. Texas Tech, 49-9, over SMU (total 60.5); Arizona State, 45-3, over San Jose State (total 52); USC, 38-10, over Idaho (total 50); Georgia, 35-14, over Oklahoma State (total 56.5); and Georgia Tech, 33-3, over Notre Dame (total 44) to name a few.
However, when the bookmakers posted a high total last year, the offenses usually delivered, going over 12 out of 19 games when the total was 50 or more, and usually exceeding it greatly. In the 2006 opening week the over won out, going 24-19 with once again the over hitting 11 out of 17 times when the posted total was 50 or more.
This year's opening week the sportsbooks are showing high totals throughout, with 26 out of 41 games having an over/under of 50 or more, the most in recent history. A few games have even reached 70 including a Friday night ESPN game between SMU and Rice (total 71.5). Hawaii and Florida on Saturday are also at 71 and North Texas and Kansas State with a total of 70.5. Florida and Kansas State are both heavily favored in their games while Rice is only giving three points. In the first week of 2006 when a point spread was over 20 points, the total covered seven out of the 11 games. Last season the totals split at eight games over and eight games under when the point spread was over 20 points.
Defenses have ruled in the past few seasons in the opening week with the under winning out more times than not but high powered offenses creating totals in the fifties and sixties have continued to score regardless of the week.