College football season really gets underway Thursday and it is the beginning of a long and exciting season. Here we’ll examine all the lines for the games and help guide you when making a bet against the spread.
So what is the spread?
The spread is a certain amount of points given a team that is the betting favorite to balance out the betting odds, not necessarily how much they’re expected to win by, but a number given to balance the betting. Sometimes a certain team gets irrationally or disproportionally bet on driving the line in a favorable direction and we’ll try to identify those here.
That means if Team A is -7 against Team B, Team A is the favorite to win and must do so by seven points in order for a bet on Team A to be a winner.
Now betting early in the season is always tricky because we really have no idea what the teams are going to be like at first. This weekend is the first that we’ll see them in action.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina (6:00 PM ET)
In this match up South Carolina is favored to win, and by a considerably large margin considering it is a matchup between to SEC teams ranked in the Top 25. That might be because the bettors aren’t confident in Texas A&M to continue their success after Johnny Manziel has departed. What we do know is that Texas A&M is 1-4 against the spread in their last five road games, and 1-4 against the spread in their last five games period. My gut says go with Texas A&M to cover a somewhat large spread, but my brain tells me to go with South Carolina.
Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss (8:00 PM ET)
Boise State comes into SEC country unranked and taking on Ole Miss. The spread here is -10 in favor of Ole Miss, which is somewhat surprising given the -11 spread we saw between to ranked SEC teams. Boise State is 2-5 against the spread in their last seven games, they also have a new head coach heading into this season. I’d cautiously take Ole Miss to cover.
No. 5 Ohio State at Navy (12:00 PM ET)
Ohio State goes on the road and opened with a -17 spread in their favor. A rather large spread for a traveling team that just lost their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback. They are playing the not traditionally power house Navy team, but Ohio State is also 0-5 against the spread in their last five games. I think you take Navy to cover, not necessarily win here.
The line has since dropped to about -16 in most books showing us that bettors are tending to side with Navy to cover, causing the line to drop.
No. 7 UCLA at Virginia (12:00 PM ET)
No. 7 UCLA takes an even more ridiculously large -22.5 point spread on the road to Virginia, an ACC team. I’m not so sure UCLA should be getting a large spread over Virginia than Ohio State got over Navy, but the spreads are designed to make picking a team tough. Virginia is 2-16-2 against the spread in their last 25 games, they’re 3-12-3 against the spread in their last 18 games at home as well. I don’t see them getting blown out at home in their opener though, I’d take Virginia to cover, not necessarily win here.
Like the Ohio State game, this one has seen the line drop by about 1.5 points, and bettors seem to be picking Virginia to cover.
West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama (3:30 PM ET)
Alabama is hosting West Virginia in the season opener and is favored by 26.5 points. West Virginia isn’t a small school and not necessarily one that could be trampled on, and their offense can put up points if needed and we’ve seen them in some barn burners. That being said, this is Alabama and their vaunted defense. West Virginia is also 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games. I prefer to stay away from large spreads, but if you had to pick a team to cover a large spread, Alabama would be them.
Rice at No. 17 Notre Dame (3:30 PM ET)
No. 17 Notre Dame hosts Rice in their season opener as -21 favorites. It is a three touchdown spread and that means you’re counting on a team that averaged 27.2 points a game last season to win by three touchdowns, and probably needing to hold Rice to six points to do so. Neither team is sporting a strong track record against the spread, Rice going 2-4 in their last six and Notre Dame going 4-8-1 in their last 13 games at home. Rice to cover.
Notre Dame was initially favored by -24 points, but a three point drop in the spread shows a lack of faith in bettors that Notre Dame will cover.
Florida Atlantic at No. 22 Nebraska (3:30 PM ET)
Nebraska comes into the season ranked barely inside the top 25 and with a 24 point spread in their favor against Florida Atlantic. Nebraska is 2-4 against the spread in their last six home games, but this is the kind of game you’d expect a ranked Big Ten team to win and win big. If I had to pick a team, I’d chose Nebraska to cover, but large spreads always make betting a game less appealing.
The line has dropped to about -22 in most books showing us that bettors are tending to side with Florida Atlantic to cover, causing the line to drop.
Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn (4:00 PM ET)
Another SEC match up and another large spread, this time the home team is favored by -19 in most lines, the opening of which was 21.5. That tells us that more teams are betting on Arkansas to cover the initial spread causing it to drop. It looks like there isn’t a lot of faith in the bettors that Auburn will cover and I’d have to side with them. A 21 point loss in an SEC match up, a conference once defined by tight match ups and stellar defenses. Auburn is also 2-6 against the spread when playing at home against Arkansas. Take Arkansas to cover.
No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia (5:30 PM ET)
No. 16 Clemson open the game as a 8.5 point underdog to the No. 12 ranked Georgia Bulldogs. One of the smallest spreads, and one that has gotten smaller as bettors picked Clemson to upset, it sits at a 7.5 spread in most books now. I think you pick Clemson to cover here. Georgia is 2-7-2 against the spread in it’s last 11 games and 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six home games.
Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma (7:00 PM ET)
Oklahoma comes into this one as 38 point favorites. That line has held surprisingly. I hate big spreads, because you could bet on Oklahoma and they still blow them out by 35 points but you lose. If I had to pick, I’d pick Louisiana Tech to cover the spread here, just because a team winning by nearly 40 points is so hard to do. This is one of those games when it could happen though.
Fresno State at No. 15 USC (7:30 PM ET)
USC opens the season as 22 point favorites against Fresno State. Not a fan of big spreads, especially not knowing what kind of USC team we are going to see here under a new head coach. That being said, I think I might pick USC to cover here.
No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (8:00 PM ET)
Defending national champions Florida State open the season in the Advocare Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium in the Dallas area against Oklahoma State. This isn’t necessarily a home game for OkState, but it is Big 12 territory. Florida State opened with a 17.5 spread against OkState, and that number has risen to -19 in most books, making the Seminoles 19 point favorites to beat the Cowboys. Not a fan of big spreads again, but I think you can pick Florida State to cover as long as that number stays under 20.
No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU (9:00 PM ET)
Arguably the most intriguing match up of the opening kick off weekend. How does the SEC and Big Ten match up. The Tigers, who host the game, opened as 4.5 point favorites and that number has hovered their for the most part, dipping to five in some cases. LSU is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games, but I think you can expect them to cover at home.
No. 25 Washington at Hawaii (10:30 PM ET)
Washington is a 17 point favorite heading on the road to open the season against Hawaii. It is an interesting situation because Washington has a new head coach, former Boise State coach Chris Petersen. I think you could expect Petersen to be successful at Washington like he was at Boise and continue his winning ways. 17 points after that trip makes it a bit worrisome to bet on them, but I think you can go with Washington to cover here.
Spreads and data courtesy of Sporting News Linesmakers
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