Nobody feels sorry for the oddsmakers, considering that they are sort of our sworn enemies, but setting lines for Week 4 of the college football season was a tough task. Some teams will be stepping up in class for the first time after playing some cupcakes. Some teams are coming off of uncharacteristically bad performances. Others are coming off of the opposite. Some teams might just be bad and some teams might just be good, despite our preseason notions.
We’ve seen a good amount of line movement already this week and there will be a lot more to come. The markets are very active now that every team has at least two data points and most of them have three. Early-week bettors that mold the market tend to be sharp in nature and they are out there taking a lot of positions. Sunday night was active and the odds screen has been lighting up most of Monday morning.
As we progress through Monday, it becomes less about us versus the books and more about us versus the other bettors that are out there. Risk managers have been aggressive already. Some well-respected groups and syndicates will be releasing their selections. Totals will pop up this afternoon. A lot of things happen on that first day of the work week that shape what we see as kickoff approaches and you want to be aware of what’s going on and what could happen as the we tear the days off of the desktop calendar and get closer to the weekend.
To do that, we must know where the lines opened and where they went shortly after that. The function of this Opening Line Report article is to show you exactly that. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the OLR for Week 4:
Tulsa at Temple (-7) – We’ve seen a little bit of Temple investment, but nothing crazy for Thursday’s standalone game. Temple lost to Villanova and Buffalo to open the season, but rolled Maryland last week. Tulsa was bet into a gameday favorite against Arkansas State and came up short. My guess here is that 7 is a good number for the books until Thursday night. Then we’ll see if we get 6.5 or 7.5.
FAU at UCF (-13.5) – Most books made the push to 14.5 on Monday, but then came back down. Bettors that have been burned by Lane Kiffin may be poking their Joey Freshwater voodoo dolls already, but this game crossing through 14 makes me wonder. UCF is likely power-rated in the 80s, but is Florida Atlantic really in the low 70s? Have people already adjusted them down 5-7 points? Maybe this is a true position, but the Owls north of two touchdowns seems like a fair amount of line value to pass up.
Washington State at USC (-3.5) – We’ve seen some back-and-forth on this number. USC opened -4 at some shops and quickly moved up to -4.5. Now, we’re seeing 3.5 market-wide. BetOnline’s opening number was -5 and that was driven down rather quickly. This will be a popular game and USC has not looked good so far this season, so we could see a trendy public dog with #Pac12AfterDark action on Friday night. Those are always scary.
Michigan State (-4.5) at Indiana – Michigan State’s Big Ten schedule opens up with an Indiana team that has looked pretty good thus far. The Spartans have looked anything but with a close win over Utah State and a loss out in the desert against Arizona State. Sparty had a bye to iron out some wrinkles last week and bettors seem to like a bounce back from Mark Dantonio’s team. The number is up from 3.5 and Bookmaker is the first to move to 5. Keep in mind that it doesn’t take much to go up to 5 after crossing 4, so if this number keeps climbing up to 6, it doesn’t mean as much as you think.
Northern Illinois at Florida State (-10) – Florida State looked absolutely horrible at the Carrier Dome this past weekend and that has been enough to bump this number down from 11.5 to 10.5. The Huskies really haven’t looked good themselves, getting dominated by Iowa and Utah before barely beating Central Michigan. These are probably both fade teams, but you can understand why laying doubles with the Seminoles is unattractive. This one moved to 9.5 at some shops as of Monday afternoon.
Ohio at Cincinnati (-8) – It is a short trip from Athens to Nippert Stadium, but these two teams appear to be miles apart in terms of perception. Entering Week 1, my personal power ratings had Ohio -8.5 on the road at Cincinnati. Maybe I was too high on the Bobcats. I was clearly too low on the Bearcats. This week’s cat fight represents the adjustments that have had to be made between both teams. My number here is -5, but the market is still climbing higher after opening -8.5 at Bookmaker and 9.5 at Pinnacle. Pinnacle actually touched 10.5 briefly before that came back down.
Notre Dame (-8) at Wake Forest – Expect to see this number take a tumble as the week goes along. Early-week action bumped Notre Dame from -7 to -8, but the Fighting Irish have single-digit wins at home against Ball State and Vanderbilt. Now they’re laying over a touchdown away from South Bend? This one smells like a setup and should close -6 or lower.
Louisville at Virginia (-5.5) – Here’s something you don’t see every day. In four games against Louisville since the Cardinals joined the ACC, UVA has been +5.5, +13.5, +33.5, and +12. How far have the Cardinals fallen? They opened a 3.5-point dog here and the line has grown to 5.5.
Western Michigan (-7.5) at Georgia State – MAC vs. Sun Belt action this week as the Broncos head down to face the Panthers. Georgia State has some quarterback injuries, but it is a little bit surprising to see WMU getting love to push through the key number of 7 on the road in Atlanta.
Buffalo (-6) at Rutgers – How far have the Buffalo Bulls risen? They’re a road favorite against a Power Five Conference team and a growing one at that. This number opened Buffalo -3 and it has shot up to -6. Buffalo was a three-point home favorite against Eastern Michigan last week. They’re now laying six on the road. This is maybe something of an overreaction, but nobody wants to bet Rutgers with their worst enemy’s money. Losing 55-14 to Kansas will do that.
Stanford (-2) at Oregon – A flipped favorite spot here in this Pac-12 North contest to see who has the best shot at challenging Washington for the division crown. Stanford opened +2 and is now -2 for the trek to Eugene. The Ducks struggled last week with San Jose State, which may be factoring into the move, but Stanford didn’t exactly hang one on UC Davis. This will be a fun line to watch, as 3 in either direction will get crushed.
Kansas State at West Virginia (-16) – The point spread elevator is going up with no signs of stopping for the Mountaineers this week. This line opened 13.5 and has gone up to 16. Kansas State hasn’t played well, so the lone 16.5 at Bookmaker makes some sense, but perception and reality have a disconnect for the Mountaineers it seems like. Bettors may not get burned this week, but they will sometime soon. Remember that last week WVU went from one-point favorite to a four-point favorite at NC State.
Arkansas at Auburn (-28.5) – It turns out that losing to North Texas by 27 points at home doesn’t gain you any favor in the betting market. The Razorbacks were +24.5 at one point, but that isn’t the case anymore. Auburn lost to LSU, so this is a bounce back spot of sorts. This is probably a point of resistance to stop the line, at least for now.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (-13) – We haven’t crossed anything key at this point in time, but the line is trending towards -14 with Oklahoma State getting a lot of love off of that Boise win. Texas Tech hung 63 against Houston, but that isn’t getting any measure of respect in the markets for this week.
Coastal Carolina at Louisiana (-4) – If I had to pick a line that was a setup, it would be this one between Coastal Carolina and Louisiana. This line went from 2.5 up to -5 and peaked there before it met resistance and some buy back. Perhaps we just have two competing sharp groups on this game, but my personal belief is that Coastal should be favored. With a lot of numbers moving towards mine, I’m thinking this one comes down and I’m thinking we see bigger investment as limits rise. Keep in mind, limits aren’t exactly favorable early in the week on Sun Belt Conference action.
TCU (-3) at Texas – TCU showed a lot in the loss to Ohio State last week. Texas showed a lot beating USC. The Horned Frogs are in Austin as favorites against the Longhorns this week in a key Big 12 clash. TCU opened -2.5 and has been bumped to -3, so just a modest increase, but still a noteworthy one in a battle of teams that are power-rated pretty closely.
Kansas at Baylor (-7.5) – Break up the Jayhawks! They’ve won two in a row for the first time since Mark Mangino was waddling the sideline (maybe not true, but still). This line is down from 9.5 to 7.5, so we haven’t crossed anything resembling a key number, but there aren’t a lot of Baylor fans out there.
Air Force at Utah State (-10.5) – The Utah State Aggies have some helium in the power ratings world. They’ve gone up from an 8.5 to a 10.5-point favorite in this spot and this number probably isn’t done moving. The Aggies offense has been much better than expected and they’re going to be a popular bet for a while.
Texas State at UTSA (-7.5) – Texas State is getting love again this week. They got a little love last week against South Alabama and covered for those that got a good number. UTSA has been quite terrible this season and this line fell from 11 to 7.5. We’ve hit 7 at a couple of places, but I wouldn’t expect it to go any lower than that. At least not right now.
Texas A&M at Alabama (-27) – Reluctantly, I’ll be somebody with Texas A&M in pocket this week. This is like 2016 when Alabama got steamed every week and power ratings couldn’t get high enough. The Crimson Tide, as the most scrutinized team in the country from a betting standpoint, is 3-0 covering numbers of 23.5, 36, and 21 by scoring 51, 57, and 62 points per game. The books are going to be hyper-aggressive because if you want to bet against Alabama, good luck to you.