College Football Opening Line Report Week 7


Week 7 of the college football season is here. It feels like we were just celebrating barnburners like Wyoming vs. New Mexico State and Hawaii vs. Colorado State as the Week 0 season-opening games. Now, we’ve blinked a couple of times and the regular season is more than halfway over. Conference championship games make up the Week 14 card and then the annual Army/Navy game in Week 15.

As I mentioned in my Power Ratings update this week, it feels like we have greater overreactions this week than we saw earlier on in the season when the market is ripe for overreaction. There are some lines that are just real head-scratchers and some that have had some rather interesting line movement.

We do have five or six data points on just about every team now, so maybe that has something to do with it, but this sure is shaping up to be an interesting week.

Here is the Opening Line Report for Week 7:

Appalachian State (-9) at Arkansas State – It looked like the opener of 7.5 was a little bit excessive, but the line has only gone higher by settling in at 9. We even saw an additional wave of movement Sunday night into Monday that punched this number as high as 10. It has come back down and settled at 9, with various waves of movement to push around juice or half-points. Heritage is the only book still at 9.5. This will be a fascinating Tuesday night contest to say the least.

Air Force at San Diego State (-10) – This couldn’t have been a fun line to set. Air Force is coming off of a win in the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series. They’ll need to beat Army on the road on November 3 to secure that. San Diego State went on the road and upset Boise State on the smurf turf last weekend, so this is a letdown spot for both teams. After opening 9.5, SDSU moved up to 10, where the market now sits.

Louisville at Boston College (-13.5) – It’s not like 14 is all that important of a number, but seeing money hit the board against Louisville is rather interesting because of how bad the Cardinals have looked this season. Boston College is coming back to earth rather quickly and got dominated in the box score by NC State. The Eagles had no business being in that game and we generally see line movements on Mondays as sharp bettors peruse the box scores. This is one of them, as Louisville did put up some yardage over the weekend against Georgia Tech while giving up a ton of points. Boston College was thoroughly outgained and outplayed.

Miami FL (-6) at Virginia – That anti-Hurricanes sentiment is starting to show up again. The defense was exceptional against Florida State in a game that probably shouldn’t have been a 28-27 affair, but the Hurricanes haven’t really impressed too many people this season. While we can point to a lot of concerns with the Hurricanes, let’s not forget that Bronco Mendenhall is doing one hell of a job in Charlottesville and this move is also about that part of the equation. Moves from 7 to 6 mean a lot more than moves from 15 to 13.5, so this is one you’ll want to watch throughout the week.

Louisiana-Monroe at Coastal Carolina (-4) – Monday morning brought about Warhawks money for the trip to Conway to take on Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are off of a bye, so this is a rather interesting move. Louisiana-Monroe has some signs of positive regression, namely in the red zone scoring department, but this is a third straight road game after allowing 116 points in the last two games. Is this a setup or a true position? Time will tell.

Duke at Georgia Tech (-1.5) – The Blue Devils got Daniel Jones back two weeks ago and a laid a giant egg in Blacksburg. With a week off to prepare for the option, the expectation seems to be that David Cutcliffe can shut it down. The Yellow Jackets rolled Louisville, but the Cardinals have a myriad of problems and that win may not mean as much in the marketplace as the score would suggest. Duke is down from +3 to +1.5 pretty much across the market.

Virginia Tech (-5.5) at North Carolina – Hmm. Has Virginia Tech really fallen that far? Is North Carolina that improved with most of the suspensions in the rearview mirror? The Hokies head to Chapel Hill after getting beaten by Notre Dame, but Virginia Tech outgained Notre Dame 441-438 and just had problems in scoring territory. Something tells me this line may go back up, as Ryan Willis has put up solid numbers in place of Josh Jackson.

Akron at Buffalo (-11) – It turns out that being trucked by Miami of Ohio is bad for perception. The Zips head to Western New York to take on the Buffalo Bulls and this line has blown right through 10 to 11 and even 11.5 in some places. The Zips were soundly and badly beaten by the Redhawks last weekend. Buffalo ran up 434 yards on a very solid Central Michigan defense. This one may keep going up.

Middle Tennessee at FIU (PK) – Middle Tennessee opened a 2.5-point underdog for this week’s game against FIU and the market seems to have takes. MTSU was the initial side, as this line dipped as low as pick ‘em, but we’ve also seen some resistance on the FIU side. This line is bouncing around all over the place, with a split market-wide on PK or MTSU +1. If money lines were posted, this could be a ploy to get plus money on both sides, but, for now, it looks like just competing groups of early bettors.

Army (-14) at San Jose State – This isn’t a great spot for Army to travel cross-country and take on San Jose State. The line was originally 17, but has since dropped down to 14. Nobody will mistake San Jose State for a good team at 0-5, but the Spartans have been pretty strong against the spread, at least up until last week. This game is actually at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, so it won’t be a true home game for San Jose State, but it is a third straight road game for Army.

Ohio at Northern Illinois (-3.5) – Ohio is setting up to be the sharp side in this game. Northern Illinois has one of the worst offenses in college football and every game is a struggle for them. Laying points with an offense that bad seems like a real challenge. Ohio has not played anywhere near its capabilities this season, but the market is siding up with the Bobcats. NIU has played an extremely tough schedule to date, but last week’s struggles with Ball State didn’t inspire much confidence.

Louisiana Tech (-13.5) at UTSA – It turns out that getting outgained by Rice is bad for perception. UTSA won, but it was far from pretty. Now, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, who lost outright last week to UAB, are expected to be in a bounce back spot against a really bad Roadrunners team. This line opened 11.5 and has jumped a couple of points. Bookmaker is the first book to simply go up to the 14 and it wouldn’t be a stunner to see the rest of the market there shortly. UTSA is impossible to back right now.

Ole Miss (-6) at Arkansas – Arkansas sort of, kind of hung in there with Alabama last week. Ole Miss hung over 800 yards on Louisiana-Monroe in a get right game for the offense. Early indications here are that we’re going to see a bit of a sharp vs. public split. Arkansas seems to be the preferred side from long-term winners based on the early action. Ole Miss will get public love for being a high-scoring team and the Razorbacks haven’t looked good in Chad Morris’s first season at the helm.

Wisconsin at Michigan (-7.5) – Wisconsin hasn’t had many impressive performances this season and that notion is reflected in this week’s line against the Michigan Wolverines. The Big House is a worth a bunch in a night game, but that’s not the only reason this line has blown through the key number of 7 to 7.5. It opened 6.5, so this isn’t a big volume move, but the implications of crossing 7 early in the week are important. Books don’t want to get middled by crossing key numbers, but there appeared to be no choice with this game.

West Virginia (-6.5) at Iowa State – The next week without West Virginia money will be the first. Early-week players seem content to ride that Mountaineers gravy train all over the country for as long as it lasts. Personally, I’d be skeptical here, as Will Grier is throwing too many picks for my liking. That being said, WVU is the better team and we have to wait and see if Iowa State’s offensive explosion last week was legit. The market doesn’t seem to think so, as we’ve gone from 4.5 to 6.5 on this one. Just to be clear, we haven’t crossed a key number. If 6.5 is the point of resistance, this move isn’t all that notable.

Nebraska at Northwestern (-5.5) – This week’s biggest line mover is the game in Evanston between Nebraska and Northwestern. The Wildcats opened -9, but it has been all Nebraska money as Scott Frost looks for his first win with his new team. Northwestern won outright over Michigan State last week. Nebraska doesn’t have a win, but has been outgaining opponents regularly and the underlying metrics suggest that this team is ready to get one.

Iowa (-4.5) at Indiana – Sometimes we see line moves simply because something happened that probably won’t happen again. Last week, Iowa beat Minnesota 48-31, but only outgained the Gophers by 100 yards. Zach Annexstad threw three interceptions and Seth Green added another one, so Iowa benefitted from four interceptions. That isn’t the only reason we’re seeing Indiana money hit the board, but the expectation here may be that Iowa struggles to score without the benefit of takeaways. It isn’t a bad spot for the Hawkeyes, so that’s about all I can come up with for why we’ve seen a move from 6 to 4.5.

UCF (-5) at Memphis – We’ve seen money hit the board on Memphis just about every week this season. The fact that we haven’t has me very suspicious. My guess here is that we see this UCF line trickle up a little bit until we get midweek or late-week action on the Tigers. This is a double revenge spot for Memphis off two losses last season and I think there are a lot of UCF skeptics, and rightly so, because they haven’t played anybody. We’re up from 4 to 5 and seeing a move up to 5.5 as I write. I’m betting we close 3 or less when Memphis money hits.

Baylor at Texas (-15.5) – The Longhorns face a flat spot extraordinaire this week after beating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Baylor isn’t a very good team and hasn’t been nearly as competent as some people expected coming into the season. I don’t think that this is an early-week power ratings play. I think this is nothing more than fading Texas off of that win and grabbing a number that seems reasonable to take.

New Mexico State at Louisiana (-10) – New Mexico State won a game last weekend against a Liberty team in a horrendous spot. Now the Aggies travel east to Lafayette to take on the Ragin’ Cajuns. The -8 price wasn’t high enough to deter bettors as we’re now up to 10. That seems to be a point of resistance so far. Keep in mind that these early positions are at low limits and this is a game that won’t draw any public betting attention, so you’re really going up against other sharps playing a game like this.

Michigan State at Penn State (-13.5) – Michigan State does not look good this season. But, Mark Dantonio has a propensity for getting the most out of his teams against elite competition. Penn State is just on the cusp of elite as far as college football teams go, but they are vastly superior to Michigan State. The line confirms that. However, this number is down from 14.5 to 13.5 and we know Sparty is a lot better getting points than they are giving them.

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