Week 1 Betting Odds, Picks for Alabama vs. Miami: Analytics Recommend Buying Hurricanes Early (Sept. 4)

Week 1 Betting Odds, Picks for Alabama vs. Miami: Analytics Recommend Buying Hurricanes Early (Sept. 4) article feature image
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Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Harley.

  • The Alabama Crimson Tide and Miami Hurricanes go to battle on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Tide enter as big favorites, but our analytics team says it might be worth fading them in the first half.
  • Check out their full breakdown for the game below.

“Nick Saban doesn’t rebuild. He reloads.”

If you spend enough time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, during the college football offseason, you’ll hear that phrase many times.

And that simply isn’t hyperbole: Alabama has been ranked in the top five in recruiting (according to 247sports composite rankings) every year since 2007 and made the College Football Playoffs all but one time since its inception.

So, how could you fade Alabama early in Saturday’s game against Miami?

Alabama: Offense Lacks Continuity Entering Season

Alabama is replacing a starting quarterback, two starting wide receivers (both top-15 picks), three starting offensive linemen and its starting running back. The Crimson Tide ranks last in TARP on the offensive side of the ball, sitting at 26 percent.

The high-powered passing offense that was led by Mac Jones, Najee Harris, Devonta Smith & Co. is gone.

Quarterback Bryce Young will be asked to lead this group after playing in garbage-time spots last year. John Metchie will be the main receiving threat, with help from Jahleel Billingsley and Slade Bolden. All contributed last season, but none were indispensable.

It’s tempting to think about how the Alabama offense went from Tua Tagovailoa to  Jones and actually managed to improve. However, Jones played meaningful snaps in Alabama’s last five games of the 2019 season, starting two of them.

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He had veteran starters in Harris, Smith and Jaylen Waddle at the skill positions, as well as veterans Alex Leatherwood, Deonte Brown and Landon Dickerson (transfer from Florida State) anchoring a stellar offensive line.

That said, look for new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to rely on Alabama’s best returning offensive player early in his first game in running back Brian Robinson.

Robinson will be Alabama’s workhorse this year, and his bruising style of running the ball might remind Crimson Tide fans of Josh Jacobs. He averaged 5.31 YPC on 91 attempts with six touchdowns in 2020.

With Young getting his first meaningful minutes, O’Brien could choose to ease the young player into his new role by leaning heavily on a veteran running back. Expect to see a methodical run game, as well as long drives, in at least the first quarter and likely the first half as a whole.

Miami: Welcome to the D’Eriq King Show

The Hurricanes are one of the most experienced teams in the country, tied for first in offensive TARP and tied for sixth in defensive TARP. Quarterback D’Eriq King is one of the Heisman favorites (+2500), and if Miami can pull off this upset, his stock will rise faster than GameStop did in January.

Yes, King is a dual-threat, but his most important attribute early in this matchup will be his ability to take care of the football. King was third in the country last season with just 1.7% of his plays being turnover-worthy, according to PFF.

Miami might not win this game — or even go into the half with the lead — but it can keep it close if King holds to form and doesn’t turn over the ball.

King can also lead an explosive offense. Last year, Miami ranked fifth in Offensive Explosiveness, according to CollegeFootballData. His ability to extend plays with his legs can allow receivers to cut to open space against zone coverage or beat their man backyard-football style against man. Of course, he can always move the chains by tucking the ball and running. 

According to the Action Network’s projected spread, this number should be around 11 points. It currently sits at 19.5 at DraftKings, which also has the best first-half spread.

Pick: Miami 1H +10.5 (-110 | Play to -125)

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