College Football Week 0 Notes: Betting Primer Featuring All 7 Games
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: A Notre Dame football helmet.
- Seven games are on the docket for Week 0, and Dan Keegan is kicking off his College Football Betting Primer series.
- Notre Dame and Navy kick things off in Ireland.
- And don't forget about Heisman favorite Caleb Williams and the USC Trojans in the night cap.
We did it. We made it.
It’s been over eight months since Georgia dismantled TCU — I hope you laid the points — and our longest offseason has finally closed out. It’s time for the strange little sampling of games known as Week 0.
We welcome the familiar feel of the college football season with open arms. All of our favorite traditions are back: game day menus, Lee Corso on "College GameDay," tailgate parties, getting “Rocky Top” stuck in your head for six hours, trying to find the Pac-12 Network for 15 minutes before giving up, and of course, winning (and losing) money each week.
While this is a season of tradition, it's also a season of change. Major conference realignment waves crash this year and next, and this is the last season of the four-team playoff. Soon the CBS horns at 3:30 ET will not blare for the SEC anymore. Army is abandoning the flexbone triple offense. The clock won’t stop on first downs anymore.
Maybe this is the year you actually follow through on your promise not to emotionally bet the late-night West Coast games after taking a bath in the primetime matchup. People can change, too.
And each season also brings many new opportunities. New faces in new places, like Deion Sanders in Colorado, Sam Hartman in South Bend and Big Ten games on Peacock. Yep, don’t forget about that.
Jacksonville State and Sam Houston join the ranks of FBS, and Cincinnati, Houston, BYU and UCF have been promoted to the Power 5.
Another new addition for this season: these words you're reading right now, on these electronic pages.
Welcome to the first edition of our Weekly College Football Betting Primer. Each week, I will guide you through the slate, highlighting some interesting matchups and games of note, dispensing some trends and nuggets along the way.
So, thank you for reading, I'm excited to bring you the College Football Weekly Betting Primer.
Let’s get into the Week 0 offerings.
Speaking of traditions new and old, the campaign officially begins with a game exported to old Erin’s shores. This stinks for hometown fans robbed of a chance to tailgate and see their team in their own stadium, but it's a cool road trip for both fanbases, plus a boon for any triple-option enthusiasts residing in Ireland.
Navy will be sticking with that unique scheme — unlike its rivals at West Point — although new offensive coordinator Grant Chesnut’s version will be different from the playbook run by longtime and now-former head coach Ken Niumatalolo.
Quarterbacks are the storyline here.
For Notre Dame, this is the first glimpse at Wake Forest and ACC record breaker Hartman, who promises to unleash a new level of passing proficiency not seen from the Golden Domers in recent campaigns. Hartman could have a big day across the pond, as Navy’s defense ranked 99th in Success Rate against the pass last year.
The real intrigue is in the Midshipmen lineup, where fourth-stringer Blake Horvath might be in the lead chair on Saturday thanks to some tough breaks. Incumbents Tai Lavatai (18 career starts) and Xavier Arline (nine) both missed spring practice and Chesnut’s install due to injury.
Tedros Gleaton took advantage of this open depth chart and beat Horvath pretty clearly for the role, according to reports, but he had to miss preseason camp to attend academy summer school.
Horvath is now elevated to the top of the depth chart; how this rotation shakes out on game day is anyone’s guess, and it could make all the difference in the Midshipmen’s ability to run this new scheme and keep the game close.
Jacksonville State plays its first-ever game as FBS members and hosts the manageable Miners in its debut. The Gamecock program is a proud one and will be well-supported by their faithful followers.
But big-time college football is hardly unfamiliar territory for head coach Rich Rodriguez, who's won 118 career games at the FBS level.
Last fall, James Madison raised the bar for a first-year FCS promotion team and opened its season with a 44-3 thrashing of a middling Middle Tennessee program.
Now, I’m not advising you to bet your mortgage on Jacksonville State thanks to one data point from another team. Certainly, the situations aren't perfectly analogous — the Dukes were an FCS powerhouse team and the Gamecocks were merely good one — but perhaps the gap between the two levels of the sport is closer than once believed.
As for me, I’m playing the narrative and taking the home team getting points in one of the most anticipated games in program history.
Despite two historic helmet programs headlining this mini-slate of Week 0 matchups, the best game for college football hipsters is this clash of G5 contenders.
Both teams should be in contention this fall for their conference crown, although neither is the betting favorite.
One of these programs will get a critical early-season win to build momentum as they look to win their leagues; San Diego State is +900 to win the Mountain West and Ohio is +280 — behind only Toledo — to win the MAC.
Pay attention to the health of Ohio’s All-MAC quarterback Kurtis Rourke; the Maple Missile is recovering from an MCL and ACL tear suffered late last November.
He's been tabbed to start the game — leading to some moneyline action on Ohio this week when the news broke — but if he seems limited, there might be some live-betting opportunities.
This is the first of two games that pair-up traditional FBS cellar dwellers. Despite all four teams having track records of ineptitude, the spreads are actually quite large because of last season’s results.
New Mexico State put a hapless decade in its rear view mirror last season by making — and winning! — a bowl in Jerry Kill’s first season.
Now, it's giving double digits at home to UMass.
The second game is this one between Hawaii and Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt blew the doors off of Hawaii last season on the island by a final margin of 63-10.
Has Timmy Chang rebuilt his alma mater to a point where the Rainbow Warriors can cover the spread of 16.5?
Also, do these sizeable spreads say more about the moribund underdogs, or should Vanderbilt and New Mexico State actually deserve this kind of respect?
College football’s brightest star takes center stage in the sport’s most anonymous theater. We only have a few more opportunities to watch Caleb Williams ply his trade in the amateur ranks, and we — the college football adoring public — are robbed of that chance every time USC is relegated to the Pac-12 Network.
Oh well, thank goodness for the highlight accounts on social media.
San Jose State is a plucky outfit in the Mountain West Conference this year, and it's well-coached and well-quarterbacked, but the talent advantage is overwhelming for the blue-blooded Trojans, who are 30-point favorites.
If you're backing the Spartans, you believe the backdoor could be wide open for them; Southern Cal is still working on building its roster depth and could play out a comfortable win with its second-stringers running a vanilla game plan.
If you're riding with Lincoln Riley, you're trusting the talent and returning production advantage; our own Collin Wilson wrote about the large discrepancy in returning production between these two teams, according to his TARP metric.
The latest kickoff on this sampling menu also promises to be the most high-scoring — at least on Louisiana Tech’s side.
The Bulldogs ranked sixth nationally in explosive plays last season in Sonny Cumbie’s first season at the helm, and that was with a musical chairs quarterback room.
Expect even better things this fall, as Cumbie gives the reins of his Air Raid attack to Hank Bachmeier. The Boise State transfer saw his career turn lukewarm on the blue turf, but he hopes to revive it by operating Cumbie’s prolific playbook alongside the fire-and-ice receiver duo of Smoke Harris and Decoldest Crawford.