Handicapping and Expert Predictions for College Football Week 1 Odds
We are in a tough spot right now as a college football fan - close enough to games starting to tease us but not quite close enough to seriously bet the games. So, what we are looking at right now in the first week lines available at Bovada are numbers that are interesting - not necessarily packed with value or lines that will wind up being bettable -- but lines that got me thinking when I looked at them:
Purdue (-3.5) vs. Northwestern: It is rare to see a Big Ten game in the opening weekend, and this one features two interesting teams to watch. It's kind of like it is Northwestern against the team looking to become Northwestern. The Wildcats are always a second-tier threat in the Big Ten and never play a game that is easy on their opponents. They can't measure up to the big boys, but there is still a lot to like. Purdue has been in an extended slump, but they have their best coach and best talent in a very long while, and they have a chance to be dangerous. A win here will be a huge boost for whichever team gets it. I think I like Purdue a lot here, but I have time to fully convince myself of that.
Oklahoma (-21) vs. Florida Atlantic: Lane Kiffin brings his three-ring circus into Norman in what should be a truly fascinating game. He won 11 games last year with his collection of convicts and outcasts. And now he has to show that it was no fluke. He has to break in a new QB, but so does Oklahoma, and the Sooners face a bigger transition. The Sooners are strong favorites to win the Big 12, but there are all sorts of issues that could get in the way. Oklahoma should win this one handily on paper, but little outside of a convincing Florida Atlantic win would be particularly surprising here. This is good early-season theater.
Auburn (-3) vs. Washington: This may be the best year that Chris Peterson has had at Washington, and he has obvious and very legitimate playoff aspirations. But the program is notoriously awful at setting up legitimate nonconference schedules. Not only is the team playing a legitimate foe this year, but it happens in the first game, and they are travelling right into the heart of Auburn country for the not-really-neutral-site game. In my eyes Washington is the better team here by a wide margin, so my first reaction is there is value here - but they do have a lot to overcome.
UCLA (-16.5) vs. Cincinnati: The Bruins were just lousy last year. Embarrassing. They still aren't going to be great, but they should be improved, and Chip Kelly is certainly going to run a tighter ship than the team has had the last couple of years. I feel like this number is giving the team too much credit out of the gate and expecting too much out of Kelly, but then it's not like Cincinnati is a goliath. This will be a very interesting one to watch.
Michigan (-1) at Notre Dame: I won't pretend to be unbiased here - I truly believe that Michigan is going to humiliate Notre Dame in this one. It's a chance for a huge statement for either team to start the season, and it will be a high-profile game being played under the lights. Notre Dame opened as solid favorite, and bettors quickly rejected that. Now we have to see two things - if this line moves again closer to kickoff, and if Jim Harbaugh can fully deliver on what he promised when he arrived in Ann Arbor as the savior.
Arizona (-11.5) vs. BYU: Kevin Sumlin takes over a program in decent enough shape - you don't often get to take over at a place that has a QB as good and as polished as the Wildcats have. BYU is struggling to tread water as an independent, and this is the kind of game that Arizona just needs to dominate to set the tone for this new era. I think they will, but then again a few years ago I thought Sumlin was soon to be a very highly-paid NFL head coach and now he is trying to save himself in his last chance in Tucson, so it's tough to trust him entirely.
Florida State (-6.5) vs. Virginia Tech: The last year of the Jimbo Fisher era was one of the most disgusting debacles I have ever seen. He quit on his program for petty, personal reasons, and cared not even a little bit as the team collapsed around him. Awful. I am not buying Willie Taggart stock long term in Tallahassee yet, but he's much more positive and will be able to correct a lot of the issues that were a problem last year. He has plenty of talent, too. I want to see what he can do to start. And I want to see what Virginia Tech can do, too. The Hokies are taking steps forward post-Beamer, but they have a lot of off-field drama to deal with, and it remains to be seen how well they deal with it. This will be an informative game about two teams that are very tough to judge right now.
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