College Football Week 1 Betting Odds and Expert Predictions
You know you are getting closer to the start of the college football season when the first lines for the opening week of action start to appear. Several Nevada books released lines this week, and it has been interesting to see what the opinions are and which lines have moved. It's way too early to bet on these games in most cases, but it is very worthwhile to look at where the lines are set, and if there appears to be any nice value to be had at this point. This is far before the general public pays any attention to these numbers, so it's the closest to a pure number we are likely to see. Here are six lines that stood out as interesting:
Oklahoma (-21) vs. Florida Atlantic: Oklahoma is coming off a very strong season that ended in very disappointing fashion. After taking over a fully-formed team late in the process last year, Lincoln Riley is now fully in charge of the team, and he has to shape it as his own. And he has to find a way to replace a Heisman winning, all-World quarterback who went first overall in the NFL Draft, too. He'll be fine because he obviously can coach, but there could be some bumps along the way. Lane Kiffin, meanwhile, is in his second year with his FAU program he has absolutely nothing to lose, and by taking guys other teams might not he has built a roster better than you might expect for the Owls. He is outmatched here in terms of skill, but he can take risks, and he can make things interesting. Oklahoma should win at home, but this line feels overly generous.
Texas (-10.5) vs. Maryland: The first year of the Tom Herman era at Texas was mostly fine, but it wasn't perfect by any means. We should see a step forward this year, but there is still a lot of work to be done there. Maryland is a tough team that is very well coached. While it hasn't led to a lot of success yet, they are also going to be moving forward. This game is on a neutral field, and the line feels like bettors are wearing a bit too much orange and wishing and dreaming instead of evaluating where their Longhorns are right now.
UCLA (-17) vs. Cincinnati: I was expecting to be able to find value betting against UCLA in their opener almost no matter what, and I wasn't disappointed. The Chip Kelly era has arrived with great fanfare and massive, almost impossible expectations. He will do good work there, but this team has been an absolute mess, so patience is crucial. And he has to replace his starting quarterback as well. There is far too much optimism here for UCLA, so Cincinnati offers value.
Michigan (-1) at Notre Dame: This is the line that initially caught my interest when the numbers were released because it was, in my mind, insanely wrong. It turns out I was far from alone. The renewal of this rivalry after a few misguided years off opened with Michigan as a seven-point underdog. With their potent defense, Shea Patterson at quarterback, and depth all around the field, that was insane. Whether you like Jim Harbaugh or not, the fact is that Michigan is the better team in this game. The line moved swiftly and significantly. I would argue that it hasn't yet gone far enough, so there is still some value in Michigan at this price.
Virginia Tech (+5.5) at Florida State: Florida State was a mess last year. Confused on the field and troubled off of it. And then Jimbo Fisher left them in pretty gross fashion to take the cash at Texas A&M. Willie Taggart is an interesting coach, but he showed at Oregon that he can't work instant miracles, and he has a lot to figure out here. Virginia Tech returns a solid quarterback and some nice talent, and they are extremely well coached. There is a good chance that they will be the more prepared team for this game, and that could make all the difference. This line gives the Seminoles too much credit.
Arizona (-14) vs. BYU: There is a clear trend here - I am skeptical that the high-profile head coaches will be as ready in their first games as the betting public seems to think that they will be. Kevin Sumlin was a good hire and a bit of a coup for a program like Arizona to get. He has some decent pieces to work with in spots, but there is not nearly the depth of talent that he is used to, and it will take him some time to build what he wants to build. BYU was a major disappointment last year, but they got things together a little better late, and they return a veteran QB and some other decent options. They could be ready to, at the very least, keep this one close.
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