College Football Odds, Picks: Collin Wilson’s 2023 Game of the Year Bets, Including Nebraska vs. Colorado & More
Steven Branscombe/Getty Images. Pictured: The Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The first batch of college football lines have hit the board, as FanDuel presented a select sample of Game of the Year spreads.
With experience numbers evolving as rosters are completed, early power ratings help gauge which numbers present value.
While win totals and conference futures are among my higher-stake bets during the preseason, there are reasons to act on a Game of the Year line when an opportunity presents itself.
Wagering on a single game with more than six months in advance does come with a higher risk. The ultimate goal is to create a point spread window that provides the option to hedge and win both sides of the game.
No matter how many points of closing line value are achieved, there’s always room for turnovers, penalties and horrific coaching in a single-game sample.
Here are a few of the games released that generated my interest and may be in play for a bet as spring practices begin.
Navy (+17.5) vs. Notre Dame
Saturday, Aug. 26 · Dublin, Ireland
There has been no lack of news coming from South Bend, as Tommy Rees left his post for the offensive coordinator position at Alabama. Irish head coach Marcus Freeman, who has coached defense at every stop, recently turned to tight ends coach Gerad Parker as the new offensive coordinator.
Notre Dame focused on keeping a pro-style offense even after securing one of the biggest transfer portal victories in former Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman. With limited play-calling experience, Parker is set to continue making the Irish a team that’s physical in the trench with a run-first attitude.
For all the experience on the offensive side of the ball, the defense does lose a number of contributors. Less than 40% of tackles, stops and pressures return for an opener overseas against Navy’s triple-option offense.
The Midshipmen played stingy defense down the stretch in 2022, limiting UCF, Cincinnati and Army to 20 points or less. Defensive coordinator Brian Newberry was promoted to head coach, and Grant Chesnut was hired as offensive coordinator.
Chesnut comes in after several years of calling plays at Kennesaw State, an FCS leader in the triple option. Shades of Paul Johnson’s offenses at Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern are sure to fill the Navy playbook with Chesnut coming in as a former offensive lineman for the Eagles.
SEE IT. BELIEVE IT. THE 𝗢𝗪𝗟-𝗥𝗔𝗜𝗗 ‼️
📊 https://t.co/VF6dlhERUo#GoldStandard | #KSUSwitch pic.twitter.com/zxM47uLxrP
— Kennesaw State Football (@kennesawstfb) November 5, 2022
Considering the experienced Navy defense will start off against a first-time signal-caller for Notre Dame, the scoreboard in Dublin may not see much action.
With a projection just under two touchdowns, the current point spread over 17 shows an edge for the Midshipmen.
Nebraska (-6.5) at Colorado
Saturday, Sept. 9 · Boulder, Colorado
Let the love for Deion Sanders begin.
This line initially opened with Nebraska as a touchdown favorite. Both early power ratings systems from Action Network and SP+ call for this game to be closer to two touchdowns, but steam has already hit the Buffaloes.
Sanders did a fantastic job in the transfer portal, pulling in several star athletes to obtain one of the highest marks on offense in TARP. There will be no shortage of weapons for what Colorado wants to execute under offensive coordinator Sean Lewis’ “Flash Fast” system from Kent State.
While the defense also pulled above national average marks in experience, the ceiling for this team remains in question. The Buffaloes won a single game in 2022. Now, expectations sit around four wins after the closure of the transfer portal.
Nebraska is also under new management, as former Baylor and Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule returns to FBS. Gauging the Cornhuskers in the post-Scott Frost era is as much a task as Colorado.
Both Casey Thompson and Chubba Purdy are expected to compete for starting duties at quarterback. The offense returns a heavy amount of rushing yards and offensive line experience, while the defense graded out positive in experience because of the secondary.
Ultimately these two teams will be a mystery heading into the season, but one known variable is the appetite for gamblers to support Sanders as the head coach at Colorado.
This number has already taken steam, as will every Buffaloes wager type leading up to Week 1 of the season. While our projection is for Nebraska to win this game by more than a touchdown, the correct timing to fade Colorado in order to obtain the best number will be around mid-August.
Washington (-8.5) at Michigan State
Saturday, Sept. 16 · East Lansing, Michigan
Don’t blink. This line moved faster than a TweetDeck column during the Super Bowl.
This number originally opened at Michigan State +5.5 before a swarm of attention put the Spartans on the fade train.
Head coach Mel Tucker signed a new contract before posting a 5-7 record in 2022, missing bowl season for only the second time in the last 15 years. Now, Michigan State will be missing key pieces on defense in the area of tackles and pressure.
Before Sparty is set to begin conference play, a date with former Indiana offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer is on tap.
Word has already started to circle the college football world before the end of February that Washington is going to field a loaded squad this season. With the highest combination of offense and defense, per TARP, the Huskies are set to compete for the Pac-12 and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Consider this a revenge game for DeBoer and quarterback Michael Penix Jr., as the pair of former Hoosiers lost to the Spartans in 2019.
Washington drew a minimum of 80% returning experience in any metric from offensive line experience to defensive pass breakups. This series was played in Husky Stadium last year, as Washington took a three-score lead into the locker room at halftime.
The early Action Network projection on this game has Washington favored by nearly two touchdowns, giving a bit more value to a spread that has already seen lightning-fast movement.
LSU (+9.5) at Alabama
Saturday, Nov. 4 · Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Alabama is taking a hit in the respected power ratings system. SP+ moved Alabama down six points after grades were released on returning production. Action Network’s TARP generated a power rating slide of 6.5 points for the Crimson Tide.
There’s no doubt Nick Saban will be fielding dozens of questions at SEC Media Days about the hiring of a conservative offensive coordinator in Tommy Rees and a former opposing defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele.
On top of that, replacing quarterback Bryce Young and defensive end Will Anderson is an impossible task.
At the conclusion of Georgia’s destruction of TCU in the national title game, my first future placed to win the 2024 National Championship was LSU.
The Tigers return one of the highest marks on offense in experience, especially from an offensive line that was filled with underclassmen in 2022. The defense has the chance to be even better with the return of linebacker Harold Perkins. One aspect of Perkins’ play was his sagging grade in pass coverage. The addition of linebacker Omar Speights via the transfer portal relieved those worries, as this LSU defense is set to terrorize the SEC once again.
The Tigers beat Alabama in Baton Rouge after entering the game as 13.5-point underdogs.
The issues that plagued the Crimson Tide still exist, from a leaky secondary to a wide receiver stable that lacks any explosiveness in the “yards per route run” category.
SP+ makes this line a hair under a touchdown, while our Action Network numbers have this closer to a field goal thanks to one of the best home-field advantage numbers for the Crimson Tide.
Either way, there’s value in taking LSU in this Game of the Year if you haven’t already invested in Brian Kelly’s second season in Baton Rouge.
More Preseason NCAAF Coverage From Action Network
How would you rate this article?
This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.