This is going to be titled the College Football Opening Line Report for Week 1, but let’s be honest, that article would have had to be written all the way back in May. These Week 1 lines have been up for a long time, but now that game week is here, these lines are going to move thanks to increased limits and bettors with deep pockets looking to fire away.
Sharp bettors spent the summer taking some positions as they got a feel for these teams, which allowed all of us to see what some of their thoughts are based on the line movement we’ve already seen. But, now we’re really going to see the board light up like the Griswold house in Christmas Vacation. Those are always my favorite days. It’s like when I first to Vegas as a kid and was awestruck by all the neon. These days, I’m awestruck at how the odds board moves. It’s like the Bellagio fountain show. It never gets old.
The purpose of the Opening Line Report, which we will do every week this season, is to examine the numbers that are out there and evaluate the early-week lines that get whacked like a piñata by wiseguys when they are looking to take positions on Sunday night or Monday morning. BetOnline and Bookmaker typically fight it out to see who posts first on Sundays with the lines for the next week’s games. We’ll see books adjust to mirror the market and we’ll see books take some lumps. It’s certainly fun to watch. We’re robbed of that element with these Week 1 games and the early lines, but it will give us a lot to talk about during the season. We’ll also do this for the NFL every Monday.
A reminder, sort your odds screen by rotation number because that’s how we’ll cover games here, in our Power Ratings article, and on BangTheBook Radio.
With that, here is the Opening Line Report for Week 1:
133 UCF (-23, 73) at 134 UConn – We typically won’t have CFB totals for this article because they don’t come out early enough, but we’ve got them for Week 1. A well-known syndicate popped the over on this game late last week to drive it up from 70 to 73. The UCFast tempo under Scott Frost was quick, but new head coach Josh Heupel wants to play even faster. Lots of plays and some defensive losses for UCF seem to mean points. BetOnline hung a terrible summer opener of -17.5 that was promptly corrected. Bookmaker opened 21 and we’ve seen as high as 24.5 thus far.
137 New Mexico State at 138 Minnesota (-20, 45.5) – Freshman quarterback Zach Annexstad is a walk-on that is apparently expected to walkthrough the Aggies. The Aggies looked putrid in a national TV spot against Wyoming and the market bumped this one up to 20. Take note of the fact that this number stopped before it hit or surpassed 21, at least for now.
139 Wake Forest (-6.5, 56) at 140 Tulane – Wake Forest lost quarterback John Wolford and then Kendall Hinton got suspended for the first three games of the season. As a result, Wake is a little thin at QB and will be starting a freshman this week. We’re seeing enough Tulane investment that this number is below a touchdown at several shops, with the public books the only ones holding onto 7 with varying juice. The total opened 61 for this game, but is now at 56, which is the move that I most agree with.
141 Utah State at 142 Michigan State (-23, 51) – Utah State is kind of a hot team coming into the season because of the returning production that head coach Matt Wells has at his disposal. This could also be a case where we’ve got a line that is nearly 50 percent of the total, so the expectation is for a lower-scoring game in which Utah State won’t have to do a ton to cover. A line of 23 and a total of 51 implies a 37-14 game. I can’t imagine most bettors are looking for Sparty to hang 37.
147 Colorado State vs. 148 Colorado (-7.5, 61.5) – The annual duel in Denver has seen some activity. Colorado State lost outright as a 17-point favorite in Week 1. Colorado has blown right through the key number of 7 up to 7.5 and several books are pointing towards 8 at this point. The Rams opened a 6-point dog at Bookmaker over the summer and this line hadn’t moved much, but Colorado State’s first impression was a bad one.
155 Oregon State at 156 Ohio State (-37, 64.5) – With Urban Meyer unable to be on the sidelines for Weeks 1, 2, or 3, the Buckeyes will have to face Oregon State, Rutgers, and TCU without their leader. There was some uncertainty about this line as the investigation was ongoing, but as the betting market shifted more and more towards Meyer not getting the boot, bettors got more comfortable with the Ohio State situation. This line never really moved, as the Buckeyes are likely to crush this bad Pac-12 opponent.
171 Northern Illinois at 172 Iowa (-9.5, 48.5) – One of the biggest movers of the summer was this game between the Huskies and the Hawkeyes. NIU seemed to find some quarterback play last season and Iowa is a team that bettors seem to be down on. Furthermore, Iowa is dealing with several injuries and suspensions, including some offensive and defensive linemen. The Huskies are generally strong in the trenches, so bettors are looking for a tighter game here.
183 Middle Tennessee State at 184 Vanderbilt (-3.5, 57) – It seems like the Blue Raiders are given a great chance to beat Vanderbilt every season. The two teams have played three straight seasons with lines between 2.5 and 3.5 and Vanderbilt has won every game. This was the season opener last year in Murfreesboro and Vanderbilt won 28-6 in a game where the Blue Raiders only managed 14 first downs. Maybe the fourth time is a charm? This number has come down from 6, which my numbers agree with, as I’ve likely fallen into the trap again.
185 BYU at 186 Arizona (-11.5, 60.5) – This is a fascinating game all around. BYU had a terrible season last year and jettisoned offensive coordinator Ty Detmer. The Cougars are supposed to be getting back to what works for them. This is a program with a reputation for being solid and it appears that bettors are taking a position on them getting back to that this season. Arizona has the best player in this game and possibly the best player in the Pac-12 in Khalil Tate. The Wildcats also have a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin, who comes with a little bit of fanfare and certainly some name recognition. And, yet, this number has come down from 15 since it opened. We haven’t seen any movement recently, but we haven’t seen much Arizona resistance.
193 Washington vs. 194 Auburn (-2.5, 48.5) – This “neutral”-site game in Atlanta does favor Auburn slightly from a home field advantage standpoint, but it looks as though the market likes the number for this game. It is a premier matchup, but it has not moved a whole lot of over the summer. The total is inching down from 50 to 48.5, which isn’t a big surprise given that Chris Petersen has had all summer to study film on Auburn and the Tigers defense is much better than people realize.
197 Ole Miss at 198 Texas Tech (-2, 67) – This game won’t get a lot of run, but it is rather fascinating. Texas Tech has been awful defensively for a long time and they’re facing a rather explosive Ole Miss offense in Lubbock. The Rebels opened a small 1-point favorite over the summer. This isn’t a significant line move by any means, as we haven’t even crossed a key number, but I’m guessing this will be a game that the public isolated and backs Ole Miss. To see an early sharp position, albeit minor, on the Red Raiders suggests to me that this will be a sharp/public split.
201 West Virginia (-9.5, 61) vs. 202 Tennessee – This neutral-site game in Charlotte will be a good test for both teams. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of Volunteer supporters out there for Jeremy Pruitt’s first game, but I think this becomes a sharp vs. public game as the week goes along. We’ve seen the market gradually bump this one from 8 to 9.5 as the summer has gone along, but I don’t know if that’s a true sharp position. The hype train on West Virginia is humming loudly behind Heisman candidate Will Grier, but sharp bettors traditionally don’t like to lay big numbers with bad defenses. I think this one closes closer to a touchdown, but the opening line movement has been on WVU.
203 North Carolina at 204 Cal (-7, 61) – Cal was already something of a sharp darling under Justin Wilcox, but the glut of suspensions handed out by the Tar Heels for selling shoes for profit caused a chain reaction on this game. Some were already betting Cal, but the suspension news led to a correction from the oddsmakers. It’s actually a wonder this game hasn’t gone higher.
207 Bowling Green vs. 208 Oregon (-31.5, 73.5) – Support for Bowling Green is hard to find, though I did have the Falcons in my ATS Teams to Buy article over the summer. Nobody is buying them here. A healthy Justin Herbert-led Ducks offense pummeled bad teams last season. When Herbert broke his collarbone, it all fell apart for Oregon. Bowling Green remains a bad team. The market is looking for a blowout.
211 Michigan at 212 Notre Dame (-1, 47.5) – There aren’t a ton of marquee Week 1 games, but this one qualifies. There hasn’t been a ton of movement here, just hemming and hawing back and forth between groups of sharp bettors that genuinely seem split. The public’s position here will be interesting. After all, in our “What you have done for me lately?” society, neither one of these teams has a good answer.
219 Virginia Tech at 220 Florida State (-7.5, 57) – It was a bad offeseason for Bud Foster’s defense. Not only did he lose The Brothers Edmunds in Tremaine and Terrell to the NFL, but Mook Reynolds and Adonis Alexander were both sent away from the program. Florida State didn’t exactly finish last season on much of a high note, but Deondre Francois is back, Willie Taggart is in, and the Hokies have a lot of holes on defense to figure out in short order.