Wilson: 8 College Football Week 1 Games I’m Betting Based on These Mismatches
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: JT Daniel
- Collin Wilson is already deep into the college football Week 1 betting card.
- He's using returning production mismatches, scheme changes and more to identify betting value before the market catches up.
This article has been updated from a previous version published in June.
But another betting angle we can attack in the summer is Week 1 point spreads, which are widely available.
If you are a longtime reader of The Action Network and CW9, key statistics within the Five Factors play a huge role in determining winners. Army exposing defensive lines with a poor stuff rate, Notre Dame leading the country in pass breakups against Stanford, and Texas A&M defensive impotency against explosive offenses all play a role in the handicaps.
The analysis around Week 1 comes from a completely different point of view. The initial kickoff centers around returning production, stability in the offensive and defensive coordinators, and scheme changes. It is important to know Tulane will see a complete philosophy change and that Georgia Tech is scrapping the triple option.
Here is a look at 9 of the biggest mismatches in college football’s first weekend, and how I’m betting them.
FIU at Tulane
- FIU Overall Returning Production Rank: 6
- Tulane Overall Returning Production Rank: 99
Coming live from Yulman Stadium on a Thursday will be the new look Tulane Green Wave. Doug Ruse was fired as offensive coordinator and Will Hall had a few practices before a Cure Bowl domination of Louisiana Lafayette. This Tulane team will look to have a faster tempo and less complex play calling. Fewer complications is good for the Green Wave’s offensive returning production rank of 106th.
Butch Davis arrived at Florida International in 2017 off a 4-8 season. Fast forward two years and the Panthers have a combined 17-9 record and success on the recruiting trail.
A defensive returning production rank of 26th is highlighted by a 2018 unit that was 21st against explosive plays. That will be key against a Tulane offense that finished 2018 No. 9 in IsoPPP and 119th in Success Rate.
The Pick: Florida International +3
Wisconsin at South Florida
- Wisconsin Offensive Returning Production Rank: 7
- South Florida Defensive Returning Production Rank: 93
All the rage a year ago was the Wisconsin offensive line and running back Jonathan Taylor. After plenty of injuries and inefficiency on offense in passing situations, it was easy for teams to sell out against the Wisconsin run.
Every single double digit receiving target returns in 2019, but quarterback Jack Coan will need to continue his Pinstripe Bowl magic to keep the job. Alex Hornibrook, last year’s starter, transferred to Florida State.
South Florida loses plenty of production on the defense, namely linebacker Khalid McGee, who had 86.5 tackles which accounted for 11.5% on the team.
The Bulls defense was much better in defending the pass, but should continue to have problems stopping the run. The Action Network power ratings have this game at Wisconsin -17, and the line should continue to rise through the summer.
The Pick: Wisconsin -11
Oklahoma State at Oregon State
- Oklahoma State Offensive Returning Production Rank: 91
- Oregon State Defensive Returning Production Rank: 3
Speaking of offenses going under a change, Oklahoma State hired Princeton offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson to the same role in Stillwater.
Known for having the most explosive offense in Ivy League history, Gleeson is handed a quarterback competition, running back Chuba Hubbard, 150 target receiver Tylan Wallace and three experienced offensive lineman. A highlight reel of a Princeton game in 2018 shows plenty of RPO, dual threat quarterbacks, a shovel pass, and plenty of misdirection.
Oregon State comes in with one of the highest returning production ranks on the defensive side of the ball.
But that may not be a good thing after the Beavers posted ranks of 129th in success rate and 109th against explosiveness on defense. Our power ratings make this a 15-point game in favor of the Pokes, and I am more than content to sit and watch Sean Gleeson’s first game.
The Pick: Pass
Fresno State at USC
- Fresno State Defensive Returning Production Rank: 121
- USC Offensive Returning Production Rank: 21
If there is a team to not back in Week 1, it is Fresno State. With an overall ranking of 129th in returning production, Jeff Tedford will need his best coaching job to beat USC in the Coliseum. While the Bulldogs offense is without quarterback Marcus McMaryion and a host of skill position players, the defense loses almost everything in the back 7. That should be good news for USC quarterback JT Daniels.
New USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell coached an attack at North Texas that was top 40 in success rate and IsoPPP. This number has value at -13 or better.
The Pick: USC -12.5
Boise State vs. Florida State
- Boise State Offensive Returning Production Rank: 120
- Florida State Defensive Returning Production Rank: 17
Death, taxes and a Harlon Barnett coached defense are something to bank on. The defensive coordinator was responsible for some of Michigan State’s most successful rosters before heading to Tallahassee. Despite an average starting field position rank of 124th, Florida State finished 37th in defensive S&P+, led by nickel back Hamsah Nasirildeen.
Although the game is listed at a neutral site, Boise State will travel to TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Action Network power ratings make this game Florida State -5.5 at a neutral site.
Considering this has home field advantage for the Seminoles, any positive news from the offensive line should steam this number through the summer.
The Pick: Florida State -4
Texas State at Texas A&M
- Texas State Overall Returning Production Rank: 3
- Texas A&M Overall Returning Production Rank: 102
Not only do we have a stark contrast in returning production ranks, Texas A&M may have overlook to Clemson in week 2. A few sports books opened this line at Texas State +35.5, which became one of my first plays on the Action App.
You’ll hear plenty from me soon on Texas State concerning their win total and 160-1 odds to win the Sun Belt.
As for this game, new Texas State head coach Jake Spavital has ties to Texas A&M as their offensive coordinator from 2013 through 2015. He is expected to bring even more life to an offense that was 58th in IsoPPP in 2018.
Texas A&M ranked 119th in defending IsoPPP in 2018, and may not look to run up the score with Clemson on deck. Both the Action Network and S&P+ have this spread at -30 or less for the Aggies.
The Pick: Texas State +34.5
Ole Miss at Memphis
- Ole Miss Overall Returning Production Rank: 116
- Memphis Overall Returning Production Rank: 7
Per our Group of Five win total piece, Memphis is a play-on team in 2019. The Tigers return almost more than anyone in FBS in an opening rivalry game. Not only will Ole Miss struggle with new personnel on both sides of the ball, there are plenty of cooks in the coaching kitchen.
Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre were just facing off in the Pac 12 as head coaches. The former Arizona and Colorado coach will now serve under Matt Luke, who is entering his second full year as Ole Miss head coach.
The coaching cabinet at Ole Miss may treat their opener as prep for SEC conference play against Arkansas in Week 2.
The Pick: Memphis -6
Louisiana Tech at Texas
- Louisiana Tech Overall Returning Production Rank: 30
- Texas Overall Returning Production Rank: 121
Plenty has been written about how much production Texas lost from the 2018 roster. With an offensive IsoPPP rank of 115th last year, head coach Tom Herman will look to get more explosive in 2019. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger will have that chance with receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay.
The opener with Louisiana Tech comes against one of the best cornerbacks in the nation, Amik Robertson. The junior defensive back had 7.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions and 12 pass breakups last season. Robertson embodies the term ‘havoc’, and will have his eyes set on Ehlinger from the start.
The Longhorns may have overlook in this game, as LSU visits Austin in Week 2. The Action Network Power Ratings make this game Texas -14, giving plenty of value to the current posted number.
With the Texas steam in the preseason market, it may not hurt to try and nab a Louisiana Tech +21 over the summer.
The Pick: Louisiana Tech +20.5
Virginia Tech at Boston College
- Virginia Tech Overall Returning Production Rank: 11
- Boston College Overall Returning Production Rank: 110
How much does Virginia Tech return on defense? Front 7 stoppers Ricky Walker and Rico Kearney made 9.7% of the team’s tackles in 2018 and are the only players that will not return for defensive coordinator Bud Foster. The Hokies defense ranks first in the country in returning production.
The Boston College defense is on the exact opposite end of those rankings, coming in at 128th. This is a revenge game for Virginia Tech, which had as many total yards but lost 31-21 in last years contest.
Both the Hokies and Eagles lose key players in the trenches, as Boston College will have just one returning player on the defensive line. Quarterback Ryan Willis should have less pressure and more time to hit four of his top five targets that return in 2019.
The Pick: Virginia Tech -2.5