College Football Handicapping: Know Your Freshman QBs
There’s a ton of different betting angles bettors can consider for Week 1 of the college football season. One that we like to be aware of is freshman starting quarterbacks, particularly those on teams laying points. It’s not an automatic bet against situation; you will find situations where the rookie quarterback is actually an upgrade. However, the pressure and nerves attached to being named the starter despite having no experience can lead to mistakes and/or a conservative game plan by the coaching staff. Below, we list and analyze seven teams laying chalk in Week 1 that project to start a first-year signal caller.
USC -26.5 vs. UNLV
Projected Starter: JT Daniels
Comments: Daniels is the most ballyhooed recruit on our list; the 2017 Gatorade National High School Player of the Year. He faces a UNLV pass defense that a year ago posted decent numbers but was aided by a very soft schedule of opposing quarterbacks and option-based teams. Ohio State’s JT Barrett and two backups combined for 474 yards and 71 percent completions in a 54-21 win over the Rebels.
Nebraska -24.5 vs. Akron
Projected Starter: Adrian Martinez
Comments: The first-ever true frosh to start for Nebraska and the only scholarship quarterback on the roster. In head coach Scott Frost’s first season at UCF, the Knights ran the ball over 50 times per game the first five games of the season before later implementing a more balanced attack.
Minnesota -21 vs. New Mexico State
Projected Starter: Zack Annexstad
Comments: Not only is Annexstad a true freshman but also a walk-on. The situation doesn’t look promising as PJ Fleck originally brought in a JC transfer who didn’t pan out. That said, it’ll be hard for Minnesota’s passing attack to perform any worse than it did in 2017. Two Golden Gopher quarterbacks combined for less than 50 percent passing and a dismal 9-11 TD-to-INT ratio. New Mexico State faced a frosh quarterback in its first game; Wyoming’s Tyler Vander Waal. Vader Waal finished 13-of-22 for 137 yards.
Kentucky -17 vs. Central Michigan
Projected Starter: Terry Wilson
Comments: Wilson has experience having come from the JC ranks. Reports indicate Wilson’s best attribute is his ability to run and that he lacks polished passing skills. The Wildcats also lost their starting left tackle which suggests Wilson will be on the move more often than not. Kentucky ran the ball 60 percent of the time last year with a senior quarterback. Expect that an more with Wilson under center.
Rutgers -16.5 vs. Texas State
Projected Starter: Artur Sitkowski
Comments: Like Minnesota, Rutgers’ passing attack has nowhere to go but up after posting a 91.9 team QB rating in 2017. Sitkowski is considered the biggest recruit of head coach Chris Ash’s tenure. He also passed former senior starter Giovanni Rescigno en route to the starting job. Another team that has a pedigree for running the ball at a 60 percent clip. Interestingly, Week 1’s opponent, Texas State, failed to record a single interception last season.
Wake Forest -6 at Tulane
Projected Starter: Sam Hartman
Comments: Hartman went from third-string in the spring to starter after beating out two returnees. He posted big numbers in high school and will be asked to lead a Demon Deacon offense that switched from ultra-conservative to more of an up-tempo/spread in 2017. It’ll be interesting to see head coach Dave Clawson’s offensive approach after switching from a four-year starter to a true freshman. The good news is Hartman will work behind one of the nation’s most experienced offensive lines (131 career starts).
Marshall -1 at Miami-OH
Projected Starter: Isaiah Green/Alex Thomson
Comments: Head coach Doc Holliday said the quarterback situation will be a game time decision. Thomson is a grad transfer from FCS Wagner and has been limited in practice due to a shoulder injury. Green is a redshirt freshman. Whoever takes the snaps will attempt to operate a far different Marshall offense than what bettors saw last season. After playing at one of the nation’s slowest clips, the Thundering Herd have reportedly adopted an up-tempo approach for 2018.
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