College Football Betting: Projecting the Direction of Week 1’s Point Spreads
We’re less than a month away from the first college football game of the season. Point spreads on all of Week 1’s games have been up both offshore and in Las Vegas since early June. A handful of games have already seen significant movement while others haven’t budged. Accurately reading the market, especially early in the season, can put bettors in the coveted position of “beating the closing line.” Below we take a look at a few games that bettors should key in on as Week 1 approaches.
Florida International at Tulane
CRIS Opener: Tulane -2
CRIS Current: Tulane -3 (-105)
Quick Take: Tulane has the look of a “bet on” team, especially with the offense projected to be more effective under first-year offensive coordinator Will Hall. FIU is off of a breakthrough 9-4 season and returns 16 starters including quarterback James Morgan. This is likely a “key number” play as only a few -2.5’s with juice remain offshore. Bettors interested in the Green Wave should grab the -2.5 while they can as this one projects to close -3 with juice or 3.5.
Virginia at Pittsburgh
CRIS Opener: Pittsburgh -1
CRIS Current: Virginia -3
Quick Take: One of the bigger line moves of the summer that also happens to be a conference game. UVA won eight games last year despite losing two late season roads tilts by a field goal. In both games, the Cavaliers “won” the box score. They also closed out the season strong with a 28-0 thumping over South Carolina. Bettors love teams that make yearly progression which is exactly what UVA has done under Bronco Mendenhall (2-10, 6-7, and 8-5). Pitt meanwhile somehow won the ACC Coastal despite being outscored by over 2 ppg on the season. Based on last year when UVA was a -7 home favorite over Pitt but lost 23-13, Week 1’s matchup should in theory be lined closer to a pick ’em but the markets clearly feel the gap between the two schools has widened. Look for this game to hover between 2.5 and 3. If you like Pitt, grab the +3 -110.
UMass at Rutgers
CRIS Opener: Rutgers -10
CRIS Current: Rutgers -14.5
Quick Take: There are always a few “one way street” line moves in Week 1 where seemingly the entire betting market is on one side. Under first-year head coach Walt Bell, UMass has been described as a “Year Zero” situation. It took all of three days for the market to push this game to -14 and even with it crossing a handful of key numbers, it’s unlikely to stop. The only way sportsbooks get any sort of balance is if this somehow climbs to -17.5, which it may. Imagine how much this line would have moved had UMass being playing someone with a better pedigree than Rutgers?
Toledo at Kentucky
CRIS Opener: Kentucky -13.5
CRIS Current: Kentucky -12
Quick Take: One of the more remarkable stats last season was Kentucky’s 6-7 ATS mark despite a 10-3 record. Bettors don’t like teams that win ugly. Bettors also don’t like teams that have outlier-type seasons and then lose five players in the NFL draft after not having a single draft pick the previous two seasons. Another situation where opponent is nearly irrelevant. Kentucky may close a single-digit favorite.
Florida Atlantic at Ohio State
CRIS Opener: Ohio State -24
CRIS Current: Ohio State -28
Quick Take: Remember last season when everyone jumped on the Kiffin Train in Week 1 and took FAU down from +21 to +18.5 at Oklahoma? And the Sooners proceeded to win 63-14? Bettors no doubt remember that and while the Owls took a step back last season you also got to feeling Kiffin was more than willing to take a knee early — it in theory paid off as FAU won the following Week, 33-27 over Air Force. Does Lane care about a road game he can’t win or a home game against UCF the following week? The remaining -27’s won’t last long.
UCLA at Cincinnati
CRIS Opener: Cincinnati -4
CRIS Current: Cincinnati -3.5 +100
Quick Take: Unlike the previously discussed games, here we have two teams that a lot of bettors view as “bet on.” UCLA has gotten a fair amount of preseason praise with Chip Kelly expected to work his magic in Year 2. Meanwhile, Luke Fickell has Cincinnati poised to be a perennial top 20 team after going 11-2 a year ago. The market is split right down the middle with -3’s and +3.5’s widely available. Those interested in the home side should go ahead and lock in -3.