With spring practices coming to an end across the country, it feels like a perfect time to start ramping up the college football coverage. We even recently saw our first season win totals hit the market, which I will cover extensively in the near future.
I compiled 18 quick-hitting notes to help with your betting preparation for the upcoming season. Let’s get to it.
I pulled Week 1 lines from 5dimes. As always, shop around for the best numbers.
18 Early Notes for the 2018 College Football Season
- Potential Win Total Overs: The 2nd Order Wins metric, which measures expected wins based upon advanced statistics per FootballOutsiders.com, can help signal improvement in an upcoming season. This metric, which attempts to remove luck, points to a jump in wins next season from Miami Ohio, Baylor, Arkansas State and Ole Miss. All three deserve consideration for a season win total over wager. I will particularly target Baylor, which should also rebound in the Net Turnovers department after finishing -14 in 2017. Specifically, the Bears should see regression in their -3.03 ppg Turnover Luck margin.
- On the Flip Side: Teams on the opposite end of the 2nd Order Wins spectrum include Army, Troy, Akron and Northwestern. Not only do the Zips have to worry about turnover regression (+11 net in 2017), but they also lose seven of their top eight pass catchers to graduation. Kato Nelson showed promise last season under center, but he’ll have his work cut out for him with all of the new faces. I’d look to play the season win total under on all four aforementioned teams, especially Akron.
- A Gleaming Schedule: Army might have the softest schedule in the country in 2018. The Knights face only three FBS teams that had winning records last season in Duke, Oklahoma and Navy. The rest of their schedule is laughable. Army will face three teams that played at the FCS level in 2017 (Liberty, Colgate and Lafayette), three MAC teams, one of the lowest-rated FBS teams in San Jose State and will get a cross-country visit from Hawaii.
- Two Different Paths: After Sept. 29th, Notre Dame plays in South Bend only twice, while Virginia Tech leaves Blacksburg only twice over that span. Keep this in mind when looking for early season futures value.
- A New Era: The turnover-filled era of head coach David Bailiff officially came to an end at Rice. Since 2015, the Owls have posted a -42 net turnover margin. New head coach Mike Bloomgren, who comes in after a successful stint as Stanford’s offensive coordinator, should help turn those numbers around quickly. Stanford posted a positive net turnover margin in each of the past three years, including the third-best margin in the FBS in 2017.
- No Island Magic: Hawaii has a 1-9-1 ATS home record over the past two years under head coach Nick Rolovich. Conversely, Iowa State is 10-3 ATS at home during that span under head coach Matt Campbell.
- Reliable Monarchy: Believe it or not, Old Dominion has won 21 of 22 games as a favorite since joining FBS in 2015.
- Devil of a Time: If Herm Edwards thinks the offseason is challenging, wait until Arizona State starts the 2018 season. My early projections have the Sun Devils favored in only two games (-8.5 vs UTSA, -4 vs Oregon State).
- Chomp, Chomp: Dan Mullen has a favorable schedule in his first year at Florida. The Gators leave the state of Florida only three times for games against Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State. You can expect extra cow bells for that last one in Mullen’s return to Starkvegas after leaving the Bulldogs for Gainesville.
- Merry Moorhead: After a successful run as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, Joe Moorhead took over for Mullen as head coach at Mississippi State. The highly regarded coach will benefit from plenty of returning production from last season. The Bulldogs return 100% of their rushing yards, 70% of their passing targets and 12 of their top 14 tacklers on defense. Not a bad situation to walk into.
- Good Luck: If Boston College fails to reach six wins by mid-October, it may not qualify for a bowl. BC probably has the toughest conference stretch in the country after its bye week. Over a 23-day span, it will face Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State. Brutal.
- In-N-Out: Know your 2018 FCS transitions. Liberty will join the FBS level as an independent team. The Flames may have already established a rival, as they will square off four times over the next two years with New Mexico State, which the Sun Belt recently voted out. NMSU ended 2017 on a high note by winning its first bowl game in 57 years. The Sun Belt Conference also voted out Idaho, which relegated itself to the FCS level.
- Proper Prep: Clemson pushed in its game against Georgia Tech in 2017, but did cover in both 2015 and 2016. Some of Clemson’s new defensive players might lack familiarity with Georgia Tech’s unique spread option attack on Sept. 22nd. However, the Tigers will benefit from playing the week before against Georgia Southern, which runs a similar offense. That will certainly help with preparation.
- Will Call: While Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa and Khalil Tate will get most of the early Heisman hype, keep your eye on West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (pictured above). All of the aforementioned signal-callers should have fantastic seasons, but WVU has a dream schedule for Grier, who will face a number of pass defenses that ranked in the bottom half of the FBS last season. He could be worth a flier on a Heisman bet.
- All Aboard: 5Dimes has already posted Week 1 lines. Florida Atlantic +22.5 jumps out to me in Norman against Oklahoma. Florida Atlantic does lose three interior offensive linemen, but the Owls return a running back who rushed for more than 1,900 yards, their top wide receiver and top 12 tacklers. Keep an eye on the quarterback situation, with De’Andre Johnson battling freshly suspended Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison. Head coach Lane Kiffin has continued his magic of pulling top talent from Power 5 programs. All aboard the Lane Train!
- Boom or Bust: Meanwhile, Oklahoma loses quarterback Baker Mayfield, a handful of receivers and six of its top 11 tacklers. The experienced Owls defense will have a chance to catch a fairly raw Oklahoma team off guard in Week 1.
- Bear Down: Arizona will dominate a lot of the offseason discussion, with new head coach Kevin Sumlin and Tate the Heisman candidate. The Wildcats also have a boatload of defenders returning for their sophomore years. If you missed our previous futures article, consider a possible longshot future on ‘Zona.
- Week 1 Waiting Game: Arizona will actually open its season with BYU, which should rebound after a disappointing 4-9 season. The Cougars return almost every player on both sides of the ball. I’ll look to target this experienced bunch early on in this season, especially in week 1. The BYU defense, which ranked fourth in Rush Explosiveness and 32nd in Pass Explosiveness last season, can somewhat limit Tate. However, I’d wait to see if the current number of +11 hits two touchdowns before making an investment.
Speaking of waiting games, is it Aug. 25th yet? 128 days left until the opening day of the college football season. How about now?
Photo credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports