Last Updated: 2019-09-16
Week 4 of the college football season is here. The overreactions are a little subtler than they were last week, but there are still some out there in the marketplace. We also have a Thursday night game to consider this week, so the long national nightmare of going six days without everybody’s favorite sport is down to five for this week.
Non-conference games are wrapping up, at least until the SEC gets its scheduled bye week in the month of November. There will be some sporadic games after this week, but for the most part, conference play really gets going in Week 5. That means that you will want to pay close attention to this week’s situational betting tips for college football, once I get it written.
We’ve been seeing some pretty substantial early-week line moves over the course of the season thus far. In theory, as everybody’s power ratings tighten up and we have a better idea of who these teams are and what they are going to be for this season, the magnitude of the line moves should get smaller with each passing week. The markets should get more efficient and bettors should as well.
In looking at the betting board for Week 4, that isn’t the case yet.
Here is the Opening Line Report for Week 4:
303/304 Houston at Tulane (-3.5) – A couple stray -4s are out there as Tulane and Houston meet in the Big Easy this week. From a spot standpoint, this is a rough one for Houston. The Cougars had to prep for the Washington State Air Raid last week and came up short. Tulane had a glorified scrimmage against Montana State. Now Houston, with a first-year coaching staff, has to prep for Tulane’s modified spread option on a short week. From a pure power ratings standpoint, this line is likely lower than the market’s 3.5, but the spot is really awful for Houston and that appears to be reflected in the line.
305/306 Utah (-3.5) at USC – This couldn’t have been an easy line to set. USC didn’t play poorly at BYU, but lost the turnover battle and came up short in overtime. The Trojans did look a lot better two weeks ago at home against Stanford. Now Utah is in town, as the Trojans get back into Pac-12 play. This line opened -1.5 at Circa, who now creates the college football betting market. Most of the offshores opened 3 or 3.5. This line is threatening to move down to 3 with varying juice based on the early worldwide action.
309/310 Air Force at Boise State (-8) – Early indications are that this will probably become a sharp vs. public split game. Air Force, who beat Big Brother Colorado last week, is down from 9.5 to 8 for this Mountain West Conference rivalry game against Boise State. We’ll see if this was a numbers grab with the expectation of the line coming down or a true position as we go throughout the week. Right now, I would assume it’s a true position.
319/320 UCF (-12) at Pitt – UCF was dominant in a blowout win over Stanford and everybody is raving about freshman southpaw quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Pitt lost a very emotionally-charged game last week in Happy Valley and now plays another non-conference game before getting back to ACC play. UCF has a chance to knock off a Power Five program and seems to have a pretty large chip on its shoulder about that. This line has gone up from -10 to -12 and could very well keep going until a point of resistance at either 13 or 13.5.
323/324 Nebraska (-11.5) at Illinois – All is well in Lincoln Land now, right? Nebraska looked like the team we expected in a blowout win over Northern Illinois. Now they’ll face (Central?) Illinois (THE Illinois?) in Big Ten West action. The Illini just lost to Eastern Michigan, which is not good for market confidence. It’s entirely possible that this line keeps going up based on perception. Also, Illinois might just be bad, despite the Week 1 blowout of Akron, who has been one of the worst teams in FBS.
325/326 Temple (-14) at Buffalo – Not for nothing, I think this line is an overreaction. It’s also hard to hold a Buffalo ticket after the Bulls were dominated last week by Liberty. The Owls beat the Flavor of the Month team and are getting propped up in the market as a result. It was a sloppy mess of a game, but Temple did best Maryland in Week 3 to slow the pro-Terrapin sentiment for a team that crushed Howard and a terrible Syracuse squad. I’d expect this line to come back down when the brave souls that like Buffalo have a say.
333/334 Michigan State (-7) at Northwestern – Michigan State outgained Arizona State by over 200 yards in Saturday’s debacle. Awful clock management, missed calls, and bad execution doomed Sparty. Northwestern had its hands full for a half with UNLV, as the Wildcats have one of the country’s most impotent offenses. This will be a very, very low total and is a big number of -7. It has gone to -7 with extra juice and there is even a stray 7.5 out there. When you see a sizable favorite in a game with a low total, and that favorite is getting bigger, it should catch your eye. For what it’s worth, Circa opened this Michigan State -8.5 with a total of 40. The offshore market opened MSU lower than a touchdown.
339/340 Western Michigan at Syracuse (-6) – Ironically, this was the line last year in Week 1 when these two teams squared off in Kalamazoo. I guess that’s a pretty good commentary on how Syracuse has fallen off. Western Michigan has been all over the map this season, getting blown out by Michigan State, but also blowing out Georgia State and Monmouth. Syracuse has been consistently poor this season, even in the shutout win over Liberty. My best guess is that this line comes down throughout the week. Syracuse has been isolated as a fade team since the start of the season and nothing has happened to change that opinion.
343/344 Michigan at Wisconsin (-3.5) – What a difference a few months makes, eh? In the Golden Nugget Games of the Year lines, Michigan opened -5. Suffice it to say that Michigan would have still been viewed as a favorite over Wisconsin in Week 1 and Week 2. Both teams are off of a bye here and now the Badgers are laying over a field goal. This is easily the most fascinating game and line of the week. My guess is that this line comes down, as it’s not like Wisconsin has been tested. I’d guess it settles in at 3, with some of the sharper books dealing 2.5.
349/350 Washington (-6.5) at BYU – Can BYU knock off back-to-back Pac-12 teams? Let’s be honest, Washington has been mediocre thus far. The Huskies lost to Cal at home and last week’s win over Hawaii could be considered misleading, as UDub was +3 in turnover margin and only outgained Hawaii by 55 yards. Of course, Hawaii ran 81 plays to Washington’s 57, so that was part of the equation, but Chris Petersen’s team doesn’t look as strong as usual. Will that entice some BYU money into the market? This ends a brutal stretch for BYU with Utah, @ Tennessee, and then USC. How much is left in the tank? We’ll find out. My best guess is that this line goes up to 7 and stays there for a bit.
361/362 Kentucky at Mississippi State (-7) – You got some good and some bad with Sawyer Smith last week. You got a lot of bad from Tommy Stevens and Mississippi State seemed to move more effectively with freshman Garrett Shrader in the game. This feels like a high-variance affair on Saturday. Most of the 7.5s are gone, as Kentucky is getting a little bit of early-week respect. If this line moves to 6.5 early in the week, that will be your indicator of the sharp side. If it doesn’t, we’ll be in a holding pattern for a bit.
363/364 LSU (-24) at Vanderbilt – This was a big mover based on the opening numbers. LSU could have been had at -19.5 at BetOnline and Circa opened 19. It’s been bet up to 24, which appears to be the point of resistance right now. 5Dimes is unwilling to be exposed early in the week, as they’ve already moved to 24.5 in hopes of getting Vandy money back. Otherwise, the offshore market is painted 24. That’s probably about it for this line, as 24.5 seems likely with the hope of getting Vanderbilt bets, but those may not come, even at that price. Nothing between 24.5 and 27 will draw much attention.
365/366 App State at UNC (-3.5) – Keep an eye on this game. UNC lost last week to Wake Forest to slow some of Mack Brown’s momentum off of back-to-back wins as a dog. UNC was the sharper side to some degree last week, but the Tar Heels fell short, despite a furious fourth quarter comeback. App State is already down from +4 to +3.5. This could end up a sharp vs. public split, as Jumpman may take public money as the bigger name, but App State is one of the best Group of Five teams again this season. The total is also likely to go up.
367/368 Auburn at Texas A&M (-4) – At first glance, this line is a touch too high. But, you’ve got freshman Bo Nix in College Station and that is likely to concern some folks. Circa came out with 2.5, which is where I, personally, have the number. I’m okay with the early grab on A&M under a field goal, but that felt like a spot where it was a numbers play to maybe middle this game with 3.5, 4, or 4.5. I don’t think A&M is a true position, so there is a good chance that this line comes back down.
375/376 Oklahoma State at Texas (-5) – Hmmm. This one is a little bit of a head-scratcher, as Oklahoma State has not gotten great QB play from Spencer Sanders in the early going. That hasn’t stopped bettors from taking a piece of Oklahoma State against Texas. This line opened as high as 7.5 out there and now sits in the dead zone between 4 and 6. In all likelihood, it will go back up to 6 or 6.5, but the early move did catch my attention and probably the attention of a lot of market watchers.
385/386 Oregon (-10.5) at Stanford – Stanford has really fallen off. The Trees were blown out early in Orlando by UCF and now have a big Pac-12 North matchup against Oregon. This line has only gone up since it opened, as the Ducks are getting a lot of love in Palo Alto. Oregon’s loss to Auburn in Week 1 almost seems like an afterthought with everything else that has gone on through three weeks, but it’s clear that Stanford is trending down and the market has capitalized.
391/392 Notre Dame at Georgia (-13.5) – Let’s see where this number goes. This opener probably surprised some people out there, but it hasn’t really moved at all. This will be one of the highest bet games of the week, as it draws a primetime billing on CBS. It is tough to see this number going any higher. If it went to 14 with reduced juice or 14.5, sharps would pounce on Notre Dame. There isn’t a ton of equity in betting Georgia right now. It looks like a holding pattern for the foreseeable future.
399/400 Utah State (-3.5) at San Diego State – This is a game I have a lot of interest in already. San Diego State is +3.5 with -115 mostly market-wide. The Aztecs are so great defensively, but their offense is not good at all. This may end up a sharp vs. public split type of game with the sharps believing in Rocky Long and the public taking the exciting, high-scoring team late in the day. For now, a modest move from -3 with extra juice to -3.5 is all we’ve seen. I’m not sure we’ll see more of that because this won’t be a popular game until Saturday with its position all the way at the bottom of the betting board.
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