USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dwayne Haskins, Scott Frost, Trevor Lawrence
- I'm banking on Ohio State to get better with a new quarterback, and Nebraska to struggle in Scott Frost's first year.
- Oklahoma and Clemson also look like good bets to remain atop their conferences, though the Tigers hold more value to make the College Football Playoff.
Go ahead and take a look at the sports schedule for the first Saturday in August. The only major sporting event you can bet on before 4 p.m. ET is a thriller between the Cubs and Padres. Does it get any better?
Yes. Yes, it certainly does.
Just fast-forward to the last Saturday in August. You’ll still have the option to bet on bad baseball games. Oh, and you’ll also have a full, glorious slate of college football action.
The best way to pass the time between now and then? Finalize that CFB futures card of yours.
I’m here to help. Let’s get to it.
All lines taken from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook on July 29. Always shop for the best line.
To Make the College Football Playoff
Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
With Clemson -200 to win the ACC, there’s more value in backing the Tigers to make the College Football Playoff. Why? Just last season, an 11-1 Alabama team failed to make its conference title game, but played in — and won — the playoff. The subjective nature of the selection committee makes this same scenario a distinct possibility with Clemson should it slip up in potentially tricky road games against Texas A&M or Florida State.
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Incumbent quarterback Kelly Bryant had issues with passing explosiveness last season, particularly in the semifinal loss against Alabama. However, the addition of true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence could resolve that piece of the puzzle, allowing Clemson to come back from any deficit. Lawrence was the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2018 — and one of the highest-rated recruits ever — by 247sports.com. He created quite the splash at Clemson’s spring game with his downfield accuracy.
Couple the offensive upgrade with an experienced, NFL-talent-laden front seven on defense, and the Tigers should be scary good. The defense ranked second in yards per play allowed in 2017, and the entire line returns. Wanna bet Dabo’s dangling that No. 1 spot as incentive? Clemson should have the talent to pull it off: The entire preseason first-team All-ACC defensive line plays for the Tigers.
Clemson to make the playoff is a must-add to your betting portfolio.
Season Win Total
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Nebraska coach Scott Frost
Scott Frost’s Year Zero is upon us, and that could provide some value for bettors. This win total opened at 5.5 and has been bet up a full game to 6.5.
For Nebraska to win seven games, the Cornhuskers will have to sweep the six games they’re projected to be favored in and pull off an outright upset. But the schedule is brutal, especially when you factor in the situations.
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Wisconsin and Ohio State will both be coming off bye weeks before playing Nebraska. Michigan is another cross-division game on the road. The Huskers will be six-point underdogs or more at Northwestern and Iowa. With a handful of freshmen and walk-on candidates competing for the starting quarterback position, this under ticket might be an easy cash by mid-October. Frost is also installing an entirely new up-tempo option offense, which very well might take a little bit to get going.
Oklahoma to win the Big 12 (-120)
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
The loss of Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and a host of key defensive players may leave a window open to bet the Sooners to win the Big 12 at a good price.
Oklahoma could lose two conference games, but the Big 12’s round-robin format increases the Sooners’ chances of making the conference title game. That’s because the best two teams get in — not one from each division. Since Oklahoma should not be an underdog to any Big 12 opponent at a neutral site, the -120 should be a bet you can easily hedge, if desired, in the title game.
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The Sooners are in great hands with Kyler Murray, who was selected ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in this year’s MLB draft. He’ll still be allowed to quarterback Oklahoma this season despite signing for more than $4 million.
If you’ve never watched Murray — who previously played at Texas A&M — run an offense, you may want to fasten your seat belt. He’s averaged 7.1 yards per rush in his two years. The Sooners’ offense might not miss a beat without Mayfield.
Game of the Year
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan State-Michigan, 2017
One of the best situational spots of the year comes with one of the more animated rivalries in college football. Home underdog Michigan State will host Michigan, which comes directly off a game with Wisconsin.
Teams haven’t had much success the week after playing the Badgers. From 2007-17, Wisconsin’s opponents went 45-66 (41%) against the spread the week after playing the Badgers. The Big Ten is 34-47 (42%) in that time frame.
Michigan State has a history of not only of covering in big games as an underdog, but winning outright, going 14-5-1 ATS and 11-9 straight-up since 2012. Sparty has also won eight of the past 10 in this rivalry.
2018 Heisman Trophy Winner
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins
There are a few keys to winning the Heisman Trophy. It helps, of course, to be a quarterback. Only three running backs have won the award since 2000, and they played for teams that had a cumulative record of 40-2. And your chances increase if you don’t play on the West Coast; we’ve seen only one Heisman winner play for a school west of Norman, Oklahoma, since 2006 (Oregon’s Marcus Mariota).
Haskins, who takes over for J.T. Barrett at Ohio State, fits both of those qualities.
Haskins should immediately improve passing efficiency ratings for the Buckeyes. Barrett operated Ohio State’s offense as a dual threat and struggled to move the ball downfield in chunks, but Haskins is a more polished passer. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson should move to more of an RPO offense with a quarterback who has explosive passing abilities.
That’s good news for Ohio State, which starts with three teams that have been terrible at defending explosiveness: Oregon State, Rutgers and TCU.
There is not much value left in the Buckeyes’ national title (+450), win total (10.5) or conference title (-110) odds, but Haskins’ Heisman number still presents value if you believe in the Buckeyes.