College Football Odds & Picks: 3 Game of the Year Bets, Including Miami vs. Texas A&M & USC vs. Utah
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Clark Phillips III.
With a number of Power Five win totals being released across the market, the next step in college football preseason activity is Game of the Year.
This is a bet on a single game, not just in Week 1, but throughout the entire season. Whether wagers ultimately win or lose, the goal is to identify teams that have an inflated perception with more than three months until kickoff.
A Game of the Year investment gives us the chance to get ahead of public perception that’s built during spring practice.
While win totals and futures have trickier opportunities for hedges, a single point spread bet this early in the season will give any gambler an opportunity to build a window.
An elite example came in 2015 when Western Kentucky opened as 16-point underdogs to Vanderbilt in the month of May. That number was beaten to a pulp by investors looking at the revamped Hilltoppers.
Those who were early on every Western Kentucky number were rewarded, but those who took the closing line were left empty in the wallet. A touchdown pass with 33 seconds left to play got Vanderbilt the +3 cover in a 14-12 loss.
Market entry is just as vital in 2022 as it was seven years prior. Here are three openers from FanDuel that took immediate action from this investor.
All odds via FanDuel.
Miami vs. Texas A&M
It’s a new era for Miami football.
The Hurricanes, led by new head coach Mario Cristobal, will take the field against a pair of warm-ups in Bethune-Cookman during Week 1 and Southern Miss in Week 2. Those two exhibitions serve as the Tyler Van Dyke Heisman campaign kickoff, as a trip to Kyle Field and Texas A&M awaits in Week 3.
The cupboard was not left bare in the wake of Manny Diaz’s departure, with Miami returning more than 65% of the offensive unit back, per TARP.
Although the Hurricanes finished just outside the top 75 in Success Rate and Finishing Drives, one of the best offensive coordinators in the country joins Cristobal’s staff. Josh Gattis left Michigan to take the same position with Miami and is no stranger to the SEC after previously coaching under Nick Saban.
Gattis was allowed to run his full offense during the 2021 season, leading Michigan to become the most devastating rushing attack in the nation. That offense was good enough to secure the Wolverines a Big Ten title and a groundbreaking trip to the College Football Playoff.
From a transfer portal and returning production perspective, the defense is what really stands out entering the 2022 season. Miami returns 79% of the defensive unit that will specialize in Havoc despite the retirement of the turnover chain.
The Turnover Chain is Dead. pic.twitter.com/x6vkK09B95
— Robby Espin (@RobbyEspinCFB) January 24, 2022
Texas A&M will also be under new management with the departure of defensive coordinator Mike Elko, who is now the head coach at Duke.
From a scheduling perspective, this game comes after an opener with former FCS national champion Sam Houston in Week 1 and Appalachian State during Week 2. Head coach Jimbo Fisher will not overlook the Canes, but a revenge spot in the Southwest Classic against Arkansas awaits in Week 4.
The biggest question for Texas A&M this season is who will play quarterback after Zach Calzada transferred within the conference and Haynes King returns from an injury-marred 2021 season. King did nothing to separate himself from LSU transfer Max Johnson during the spring game, as this battle will continue through September.
Only 58% on the offense and 46% on the defense return to College Station.
The Action Network projects this game to be a pick’em, indicating Miami would be a slight favorite at a neutral site.
Texas A&M’s young offense will look to grasp the pro-style offense, while new defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will coach a 4-2-5 scheme for the first time in his career.
Take the Hurricanes comfortably through +7 all the way to a field goal spread leading up to this monster nonconference game.
Pick: Miami +9 (Play to +3)
Notre Dame vs. BYU
There may not be a bigger discrepancy from a transfer portal and returning production difference than BYU and Notre Dame.
This game will take place on Oct. 8, giving both Irish staff and players time to get in sync. But stable quarterback play will be the early theme for the Irish.
A conservative offense will continue under offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, who declined to join Brian Kelly at LSU. Notre Dame returns just 37% of an offense that finished 61st in Success Rate last season.
The spring game shed no light on the quarterback battle, as Tyler Buchner missed with a sprained ankle.
BYU brings 88% of its defense back from the 2021 season. The true handicap in this game comes on the other side of the ball, where the Cougars return 76% of an offense that finished top-10 nationally in Success Rate.
That number is even more impressive considering the departure of offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, now filling the same role at Baylor. Cougars coordinator Aaron Roderick spearheaded an offensive unit that finished 20th in Finishing Drives.
Jaren Hall will be the Big 12’s best QB this season.
(Don’t worry, my point still applies.) pic.twitter.com/HH5MDjFJIw
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) March 15, 2022
Marcus Freeman will start his first full season as head coach after losing the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma State.
The BYU game does come after a bye week, but there’s reason to believe that the Irish power rating may take a hit before meeting the Cougars in Las Vegas. Notre Dame is a two-score underdog in the opener to Ohio State and a small favorite at North Carolina in Week 4.
The Irish will spend the month of September looking for answers to the losses of safety Kyle Hamilton and running back Kyren Williams. Look to take BYU through +7 as an upset victory and a spin of the Rebel Roller may be in order.
Pick: BYU +9 (Play to +7)
USC vs. Utah
The love for USC this preseason may have hit a peak with the posting of the spread for the October trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium. There has yet to be any kind of cold water thrown on the Trojans in the wake of the Lincoln Riley hire.
Quarterback Caleb Williams and a handful of high-profile transfers now call Southern California home. This is still a head coach who has not won a College Football Playoff game now working in a conference that has not sent a team to the national semifinals since 2016.
Caleb Williams is so good at football lol pic.twitter.com/QRcRUb1uJJ
— CJ Vogel (@CJVogel_TFB) April 23, 2022
The projection for this Pac-12 South from Action Network is Utah -19, close to the SP+ estimation of -15.5. Utah made the trip to USC last season, taking the home team to the woodshed in a game that the Utes held a 35-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Trojans had porous recruiting rankings for consecutive years, leaving plenty of questions for the defense this fall. Coordinator Alex Grinch will have to resolve the gaping holes that saw near-dead last rankings in tackling, Stuff Rate and standard downs explosiveness.
Utah will hit the ground running in 2022. The Utes return more than 70% of an offense that finished top-20 in Havoc Allowed, Success Rate and Finishing Drives.
Coordinator Andy Ludwig brings back quarterback Cameron Rising and a top-25 rank in passing downs Success Rate.
The Trojans defense returns 57% and is also the superior unit in the Pac-12 South. Only Arizona returns more experience on the defensive side of the ball in the conference.
Utah posted a rank of 25th in Finishing Drives and 13th in Havoc — all easy to repeat under coordinator Morgan Scalley.
Williams should be the highest-scoring player in college football during 2022, but the defense will be the reason for the Trojans’ shortcomings in winning the South.
Utah is a buy at +3 all the way through -3 and is the top option on the board when picking Game of the Year lines.
Pick: Utah +3 (Play to -3)
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