Last Updated: 2017-08-30
During the fall, Monday and Tuesday mornings are always about routine. Everyone has their own. You compartmentalize and process everything that’s happened in the weekend in football, put it behind you, and ramp up your preparation for the next slate of games. This week’s a little different though. The season has started… but not really. There were only a handful of games. Most of the futures market is still wide open to take your dollars, and relatively unaffected by what’s already transpired. So it’s Monday, and Tuesday, and we are all sort of sitting here wondering what adjustments, if any, to make to how we think about this season. It’s a little different. There are, however, a few timely concepts and questions to consider as we head quickly towards the true Week 1:
Is Stanford really that good?
While Floyd Mayweather was busy intentionally winning the under (and causing me to tear up my over tickets), Stanford was intentionally abusing Rice, basically succeeding at whatever they wanted, and winning 62-7. This information doesn’t help you a great deal yet, but Stanford’s next game vs USC is looming. What if USC sleep-walks through their contest and Darnold never really gets going? That effort, combined with what the world saw from Stanford, might cause a falsely deflated number. This type of thinking is much less math and much more discussion, but when you’re scratching your head at the Trojans this weekend, keep this philosophy in the back of your head before jamming your account on the Cardinal.
Is BYU really that bad?
Well that game didn’t look right at all, did it? BYU could never really put away Portland State, eventually winning 20-6 in a lackluster effort. On a normal week of 100 games, this type of performance would probably stay off the radar of most fans and gamblers. Because of the odd scheduling circumstances, though, it was on national TV, on ESPN, during a time period when not a lot else was going on. A lot more people think BYU stinks now, and they have changed their opinions after a very small sample. BYU has a high-profile game against LSU next, and the line (which opened LSU -12.5) is now 14 and even 14.5 in some places. Here’s why putting too much stock in that Portland State result might be a bad idea: although the coaches can never admit it, it’s possible the game-plan was kept as simple as possible, so as to not reveal the team’s true capability to the Tigers. BYU was also playing without their defensive captain and one of their best defensive players, starting middle linebacker Butch Pau’u. Meanwhile, in a move that was not widely publicized, LSU announced they will be without their best defensive player, Arden Key, for the BYU game. Key was viewed as such a potentially vital component for the Tigers this season that he appeared on the Heisman odds for 5Dimes. There is uncertainty about where the game will be played (originally scheduled to be in Houston), but to me, taking all of this information in and processing it, there seems like clear value on BYU, especially if the line moves past 14 everywhere.
Quinton Flowers is awesome, but can he win the Heisman?
Of all the players people ask me about when I do my Heisman futures preparation, Flowers was probably the one I was asked about the most. He opened 40/1 in some places, and closed at much lower odds (believe he was something like 18/1 at several shops). He performed pretty well in Game 1, throwing for 212, running for 70, and scoring 3 total TD’s. It was probably not the type of performance he needed against a team that’s projected to be as poor defensively as San Jose State, but it doesn’t rule him out altogether. What I said before the season, which I’ll say again now, is that even he improves week after week and South Florida goes undefeated, the likelihood he wins remains very small. Since 2007 (so, the last 10 years) there have only been 2 Heisman finalists from non-Power 5 conferences: Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois) and Kellen Moore (Boise State). Neither won the award. Flowers has a big uphill battle ahead of him, with very few high-profile games on the schedule as a result of his conference.
Ohio State and Oklahoma State open their seasons Thursday night. What else should I be watching that day?
Those are the 2 highest-profile teams to keep an eye on, no doubt. Ohio State is somewhere around even money to win the Big 10 right now, and the Cowboys are the consensus 2nd choice in the Big 12 (+355 on Heritage right now). In addition, you can learn a lot about the perceived recruiting edge Ohio State has on so many other teams around the country, with so many new starters projected on both sides of the ball.
While much of the sports fan’s attention will be directed at those games (and the close of NFL preseason I guess), there are other more subtle things to keep an eye on.
P.J. Fleck and Minnesota open their season at a time when there is some uncertainty about that side of the conference. Wisconsin has now lost 2 starting linebackers for the season in the last 3 weeks, and there are many (including myself) who have long talked up Northwestern as a viable contender. Minnesota is currently +635 to win the Big 10 East, and +3300 to win the conference (5Dimes).
Meanwhile, Utah opens their season against North Dakota, and the Utes made an interesting choice to start sophomore Tyler Huntley at quarterback over returning starter Troy Williams. Huntley was a former Florida High School Player of the Year, and coaches have long raved about his athleticism, so there is a very high ceiling if you listen to the reports. Utah also has a new offensive coordinator, Troy Taylor from Eastern Washington, who intends to re-define the tempo on that side of the ball for a team that has typically been very methodical. If Huntley’s understanding of what it means to run a college offense have now caught up to his athletic ability, that’s the type of marriage that elevated Lamar Jackson all the way to the Heisman last season. With so much uncertainty, the Utes lack of experience and their tough schedule have many pundits down on their prospects this season. Utah is currently +1450 to win the Pac-12 south, and +4400 to win the conference (5Dimes.) Their win total sits at 6.5 (-105 on the over; 5Dimes).
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