College Football Game of the Year Odds & Picks: 3 Bets for Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame, UCLA vs. Stanford & More
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Graham Mertz.
The college football gambling dynamics changed when the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018.
The current landscape allows investors in a handful of states to make legal sports wagers from a number of different operators at any time. This has only benefited the consumers who now get a wide variety of oddsmakers rushing to be first to market in the college football world.
Long gone are the days of Las Vegas being the center of sports gambling as SouthPoint and the Golden Nugget raced to numbers for starved football fanatics.
DraftKings and FanDuel have each posted Week 1 and select game of the year lines. While the concept of win totals, Heisman and national title futures are straightforward wagers, game of the year is a point spread for a select game on the calendar.
There are many angles to attack when it comes to single-game point spreads this early in the year. Many gamblers will flock to brand names like Alabama and Texas. Others will back the hottest name on the market for 2021 in Iowa State. These wagers may pay off in the end, but they are a long-term losing strategy in betting game of the year.
Good to see the Nugget again pic.twitter.com/ZVp2dxMW0C
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) December 31, 2015
The goal of betting this type of wager comes down to one factor: How much point spread closing value can you create before kickoff?
Joe Burrow’s visit to Austin in 2019 is one of the biggest examples of setting a power rating number, knowing where the public will come in and when to fire on a game of the year. The consensus opener in the Tigers’ touchdown victory was LSU -7, a number that took so much Longhorns money that certain operators posted Texas -2.5 at one point.
Got roasted over these early CFB February projections:
LSU -8 at Texas
Texas A&M +21 at Clemson
UF -8.5 v Miami
LSU -7 at Texas
Texas A&M +20.5 at Clemson
UF -8.5 v Miami
— Collin Wilson (@_Collin1) March 19, 2019
As I write this, my cryptocurrencies have shaved 30% off the total value, so it’s important that we mention price point.
Games of the years are my lowest preseason investment in comparison to win totals and conference bets. The sharpest gambler at the counter can do all the mathematics, beat the public and have closing line value of more than a touchdown, but at the end of the day, the games have to be played. Turnovers, injury and weather are all unpredictable for a single game, which is why my higher-volume bets come on season-long wagers.
With that said, there are three college football game of the year tickets I acquired immediately.
Collin Wilson’s Game of the Year Picks
Week 4: Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin
After a cover in a losing effort to Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Notre Dame looks to regroup in the 2021 season.
The offensive coordinator move to Tommy Rees had minimal drop-off for the Irish last season, as they ranked 13th in Havoc allowed and 35th in Success Rate.
While Ian Book moved the chains successfully behind a great offensive line, it was the defense led by Clark Lea that got Brian Kelly to his second playoff. The Notre Dame defense ranked 22nd in Success Rate and sixth in total Havoc. Much of this can be wiped off the board with the clock expiring on Book, one of the lowest TARP rates and Lea moving on to become the head coach of Vanderbilt.
A quarterback battle will continue into fall camp with former Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan expected to win starting duties. Coan struggled in the spring game but is expected to be a caretaker to the quarterback position as Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner get more snaps.
The offense will again have issues creating explosive plays from receiving targets, as the spring game was loaded with tight end dump passes and an offensive line giving up sacks.
The Irish defense will undergo a schematic change, as Lea was the disciple of Mike Elko’s 4-2-5 scheme that is currently run at Texas A&M. New defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman will implement a 3-3-5, a scheme typically used to disguise coverage against pass-heavy teams. That may be the exact opposite of the Wisconsin game plan, as head coach Paul Chryst runs the ball at a 60% clip.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 15, 2020
Running back Jalen Berger was a discovery for the Badgers last season, racking up highlight yards with each carry.
The biggest mystery was the Badgers’ lack of scoring, as quarterback Graham Mertz took over duties from Coan and went 20-of-21 against Illinois in the season opener. From that point on, the entire 2020 season was a wash for Mertz in the Success Rate and Explosiveness department. A report later revealed the freshman dealt with a shoulder injury throughout the season.
This game will be played at Soldier Field, as the Action Network Power Ratings currently put this number at Wisconsin -9.5 on a neutral field.
After playing two games, the Badgers will have a bye week with extra time to prepare, while the Irish face Florida State, Toledo and Purdue before heading to Chicago.
With Notre Dame lacking an explosive offense and a scheme change coming on the defensive side of the ball, look to take Wisconsin up to -7.
Pick:Wisconsin -3.5 (Play to -7).
Week 4: UCLA vs. Stanford
Pour one out for the Trees and their 2021 season.
The Cardinal arguably have the toughest schedule in the nation and are bottom-10 in TARP. Five players were drafted to the NFL, including two key offensive linemen.
Stanford will begin the season against Kansas State before back-to-back road trips to USC and Vanderbilt. There’s a possibility head coach David Shaw’s team is 0-3 heading into this game against the Bruins.
The spring game is scheduled for May 22, which should shed some light on the replacement of quarterback Davis Mills. The lone bright spot returning for Stanford is running back Austin Jones.
Austin Jones muscles his way in for an 8 yard TD as Stanford (-1.5) goes back out in front 24-17
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) November 28, 2020
Thanks to the “Super Senior” fifth year of eligibility, UCLA returns over 85% of its production.
The Bruins were reminded daily that their four losses in 2020 all came within one possession. The defense proved to be excellent in preventing explosive plays on the ground. The Bruins were third in defending Standard Downs Explosiveness, putting the spotlight on Stanford quarterbacks in passing downs. Despite the loss of defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa to the NFL, the defense will look to improve upon a top-30 rank in Defensive Pass Explosiveness and Sack Rate.
This is a make-or-break season for Chip Kelly as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is under new management with the hire of quarterback coach Ryan Gunderson. If that name is unfamiliar, Gunderson is responsible for the San Jose State passing attack that put the Spartans on the map with the rebuild of Nick Starkel. A former Broyles Award nominee, Gunderson is tasked with getting consistency out of Thompson-Robinson.
Here's that UCLA touchdown, Greg Dulcich … from Dorian Thompson-Robinson!
— UCLA Football (@UCLAFootball) December 13, 2020
Game of the year is all about timing, as UCLA gets a warm-up in Week 0 with Hawai’i before the SEC comes to town in Week 1.
LSU is listed at -3 against UCLA in a game of the year that should be lined as a pick’em. The better value is against a Stanford team under a complete rebuild that has more than a 40% probability of losing its first three games.
If the Cardinal lose their first three games and UCLA beats LSU in Week 1, the touchdown spread in Week 4 might be closer to -17 in favor of the Bruins.
Week 10: Utah vs. Stanford
As stated in my conference and division odds opening bets, there may be nothing I love more than how under the radar Utah football is flying.
There is only so much Charlie Brewer love we can hand out in our preseason content, but the quarterback position will be a strength for the Utes. Brewer was top-30 in 2019 in big-time throw percentage at Baylor.
Backing the offense is an experienced and successful defense.
Utah fields the second-highest number in TARP on the defensive side of the ball. The Utes also posted the second-highest Success Rate of all defenses in the Pac-12 during 2020.
The timing on this bet is also important, as Utah starts the season with Weber State, BYU and San Diego State. As we mentioned with Stanford earlier, there’s a high probability these two teams have opposite records by the end of September, making this line a good one to bet now.
Pick: Utah -7 (Play to -13.5).