If you have been a visitor to this website in the past two years, you know college football is my passion above everything else in the world of sports and wagering.
Jimmy Vaccaro, my partner at the South Point sports book, knew the work I had done in the past few years as a handicapper, creating my own power ratings and using them for every game from the beginning of the season to the end. He encouraged me to get the first week of college football on the board as soon as we could. The work I put in also gave us the ability to put up many college games of the year as well as season win totals on every single college team.
Now that I am no longer a member of the Against The Number team, I am not betting individual games but I am booking every game on the board. That new role of mine, which is really an old role of mine, has forced me to have an opinion on more games than I did as a handicapper. All the opening numbers, good and bad, were strictly my opinion.
You can see whom I favor in most games just by taking the opening line and see where it has moved since. You can do the same to see what season win totals I favor. But be forewarned: I have reconsidered some of my opening numbers because of some new information that has been made available. I also have had a tremendous amount of respect for certain handicappers who have some vastly different opinions, especially on some of the less popular teams from smaller conferences.
So let me give you a quick overview of some of the games and season totals that stand out to me.
The first week of this season is the best college football opening that I can remember. The marquis match ups haven’t had a lot of movement but the South Point has had some serious action on some games that might be under the radar of the general public. Of course, if you’re a betting man you’re interested in any game that has a wagering opportunity associated with it.
The first game of the full opening week- not counting Hawaii vs California in Australia- is Indiana vs Florida International. This game is one of the biggest movers on the docket. I opened Indiana -3 and we are now up to -9. Indiana made some nice strides last season with a very explosive offense, but the defense was no bargain. This year they lose a lot on O, but will probably be a little better on D.
FIU will be okay on O, and their D should also be a little better even though it fell apart late last season. My opening number might have been a little light, but taking +9 with this home dog looks like some decent value.
In other first week action, I opened Minnesota -6.5 over Oregon State and they have climbed to -11. Minnesota is likely improved, but I don’t see Oregon State being anywhere near as poor as they were last season. I think that number has gotten too high.
Lots of sharp betters like Army this season. They had 7 close losses last year, and that can often be reversed. However, they play a Temple team that has been on the doorstep of legitimacy the past couple years and shouldn’t regress too much from last year’s leap forward. Temple opened -21.5 and is currently at -16.5. If you are looking to bet Army, a lot of value has been taken out of the number.
Is this the year Charlie Strong gets Texas back to being the Longhorn team that has challenged for and won a couple national championships? I’m not so sure about that, but I thought enough of them to open them at a pick em with Notre Dame. It’s been all Fighting Irish money, and now the South Point is up to Notre Dame -4.5. This game will be Sunday night, Labor Day Eve, and should be a good one. I think it goes to the wire.
Betting the conference championships is another way to invest your money in college football action.
If you’re looking for value, it’s always tough to find it when betting on Alabama. That’s certainly the case when you look at the odds to win the SEC championship. The South Point has ‘Bama 9/5. You might have a better chance with LSU (5/2), who gets Bama in Baton Rouge this season. Tennessee (5/2) also comes out of the easier SEC West. Someone might come from deeper in the projected standings, but a nice number on your ticket doesn’t mean a thing if your team doesn’t come home with the hardware. Auburn was a national championship contender a few years a go. They could be worth a small bet at 25/1, but I would keep it small.
The Big 10 championship has seemingly been dominated by Ohio State (6/5) and Michigan (8/5) since the Stone Age. Of course some other schools (Michigan State, Wisconsin) would take serious exception to that, but that’s what the prediction machine has on track for this year. Here is where I like a sleeper- Nebraska (7/1). They lost a bunch of close games last year in head coach Mike Riley’s first season. Some iffy quarterback play didn’t help much, either. Riley has been a good, if not great, coach over the course of his career. I like coaches in their second year with the program, especially when they suffered bad luck in their first. Nebraska has very navigable schedule with no Michigan or Michigan State on the slate. They are worth a look.
Oregon hasn’t been a PAC 12 outsider for over a decade. They have stumbled a little since the departure of Chip Kelly, but they are still a potent team. This season the league looks particularly competitive. I had Washington pegged early on as a national title sleeper, but now WAY too many people feel the same way. I haven’t soured on the Huskies, but a lot of the value has been taken out of them (3/1) to win the PAC 12. Oregon (6/1) is probably better value and is very live.
Season win totals have garnered a lot of action in recent years. This season the South Point was the first sportsbook to post season win totals on all 128 Division I teams (or whatever the hell they are calling it now.)
Did I underestimate Arizona State? According Phil Steele I did.
No disrespect to Mr. Steele, but I think he has over rated the Sun Devils. I opened their season win total 5 over -120. The South Point is currently running their total 6.5 under -130. If you don’t know, that’s monstrous move. We’ve had nothing but over money.
No one in this league has anything easy, and ASU is no exception. They better win the games they are supposed to without a stumble. I have them favored only three times all season. There are close contests on the slate with Texas Tech, Wash State and Utah at home and a trip to Colorado. If they are going over the current total they better win at least half, because I don’t see any other wins on the schedule. I think the bettors got this one wrong. I like my original number.
Another popular team this preseason has been the Miami Hurricanes.
Miami never played up to their potential under former head coach Al Golden. Golden consistently recruited some of the best incoming classes in college football. Unfortunately that never transferred into many wins. The Miami administration finally got fed up with Golden and fired him after a 58-0 drubbing at the hands of Clemson. Maybe they had a point. Miami turned their season around winning 4 of their last 5 before losing to Wash State in the bowl game.
(What really ticked me off was I had bet the Miami season wins under. They went over, but I felt if the coach gets fired in midseason, it should automatically count as a win for the under. The sportsbook saw it otherwise. Now that I’m booking again, I wouldn’t have paid me either.)
This year Miami brings in Mark Richt, who had a very good career as coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Very good wasn’t good enough for the Georgians, who thought the Bulldogs should be perennial national championship contenders.
Richt is a former Hurricane quarterback, playing behind Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar. I think Richt will do well at Miami, but perhaps not in year one. Betting against new coaches is something I have had success with over the years. A saying I’ve used is “they all look good on the way in, they don’t look so good on the way out.”
Richt could easily be the exception. He has a pretty solid roster to work with and very good quarterback in junior Brad Kaaya. Richt might be new to his position as Miami head coach, but he has been in the SEC pressure cooker for over a decade. He is definitely not in over his head. It just might take a year to get his system implemented. It wouldn’t be that big of a surprise if he wins right away. I might have just blown it with this one.
We kick off the season soon and I really can’t wait. I realize now that I’m back to being a bookmaker we might be on some opposite sides at times, but that’s the nature of our business. But good bookmakers try to go in with the wiseguys on their side. I truly hope any customers of Against The Number have a great season, and if we are on a lot of the same sides, that would be even better.
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