Week 1 Odds & Analysis
May 8, 2014
By Brian Edwards
5Dimes released lines for Week 1 of the 2014 college football season a few weeks ago. The offshore betting shop is currently showing numbers for 25 contests, so let's take a look at some of the marquee matchups.
Things were a lot different the last time Boise State visited the Georgia Dome. The Broncos had Chris Petersen on the sidelines and Kellen Moore under center, and the result was a beatdown of Georgia in front of an enemy crowd in Atlanta.
On Thursday, Aug. 28, BSU returns to the Ga. Dome to face Ole Miss, which is an eight-point favorite, down from the opening number of 8.5. The Rebels are thriving under Hugh Freeze, who enters his third year at the helm with hopes of getting the program to its first SEC Championship Game.
Ole Miss won't have starting linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche against the Broncos. The redshirt junior, who was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2013, was suspended from spring practice and the season opener following his February rest for disturbing the peace and not complying with a police officer.
Ole Miss bring back loads of talent, including quarterback Bo Wallace, who will be the starter for a third straight season. Wallace has one of the SEC's premier wide receivers in sophomore LaQuon Treadwell and an outstanding group of young running backs.
Petersen's dynastic eight-year tenure in Boise ended when he finally took a job from a BCS school (Washington) after turning down more than a dozen inquiries through the years. His replacement is Petersen's former offensive coordinator and last year's head coach at Arkansas State, Bryan Harsin.
Harsin's transition year will be made easier by the presence of QB Grant Hedrick, RB Jay Ajayi and WR Matt Miller. Hedrick performed well while getting most of the snaps in the last seven games of 2013. He posted a 16/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and also ran for six scores. Ajayi and Miller are two of the best at their respective positions in the Mountain West Conference.
Also on Thursday night in the first game on the new SEC Network, South Carolina will take on Texas A&M at Williams-Brice Stadium. 5Dimes opened the Gamecocks as nine-point home favorites and the line hasn't budged.
Connor Shaw never lost a home game during his storied career, but he's off to the NFL along with defensive star Jadeveon Clowney. Dylan Thompson inherits the starting QB job and he's well prepared to do so. Thompson has already had plenty of big moments in his career. He threw the game-winning TD pass to beat Michigan at the Outback Bowl and torched Clemson for 310 passing yards and three TDs without an interception in the 2012 regular-season finale.
Kevin Sumlin's team will have to replace the greatest QB, Johnny Manziel, in school history, in addition to All-American OT Jake Matthews and WR Mike Evans. The Aggies had the SEC's worst defense in 2013 and will need to vastly improve on that side of the ball in order to contend in the West.
Other Thursday games include Vanderbilt (-21) vs. Temple, Wake Forest (-7) at Louisiana-Monroe and Minnesota (-34.5) vs. Eastern Illinois.
On Friday, Colorado State vs. Colorado is a pick 'em game in Denver. Also, BYU is a 13-point 'chalk' at UConn.
The Saturday action gets started at 8:30 a.m. Eastern when Penn State and Central Florida collide in Dublin, Ireland. The Nittany Lions will begin the James Franklin Era in a four-point favorite role vs. the Golden Knights, who are off a banner year that was capped by Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor as double-digit underdogs. However, George O'Leary's squad must replace QB Blake Bortles and leading rusher Storm Johnson.
Georgia will open against Clemson for a second straight season in hopes of avenging a gut-wrenching 38-35 loss at Death Valley last year. The Bulldogs, who lose four-year starting QB Aaron Murray, will have Hutson Mason under center. Mason orchestrated a comeback win at Ga. Tech in last season's regular-season finale on The Flats. He will benefit from the return of the best RB combo in the country, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Clemson has to replace a long-time starting signal caller too, as Tajh Boyd is gone after throwing for more yards than any QB in school history. The Tigers have to replace playmaker Sammy Watkins as well.
5Dimes has Mark Richt's team favored by seven.
Auburn had an incredible first season under Gus Malzahn and will be looking to repeat as SEC champs. That quest begins at home against Arkansas as a 22-point favorite. The Razorbacks ended the 2013 campaign on a nine-game losing streak, but they have a dynamic group of RBs led by Alex Collins. The key for the Hogs will be improved play out of QB Brandon Allen.
5Dimes opened Alabama as a 23.5-point 'chalk' for its opener vs. West Virginia from the Georgia Dome. This will be the fourth time the Crimson Tide has played in Atlanta to start the year during Nick Saban's tenure. They are undefeated in the three previous games against Clemson and Va. Tech (twice). 5Dimes has adjusted this number to 22.
This game could feature a pair of starting QBs that used to play at FSU. Jacob Coker joins 'Bama in August and many think he'll earn the starting gig. Meanwhile, Clint Trickett was WVU's most effective QB in 2013, but he did miss the spring and will have to perform well in August. Going into his fourth season on the hot seat, Dana Holgorsen would be best served by helping his team avoid a blowout in this spot.
LSU and Wisconsin will square off at Reliant Stadium in Houston. 5Dimes opened the Tigers as three-point favorites, went up to 4.5 and are now down to four. These teams will play at Lambeau Field in 2015.
Florida State opened as an 11.5-point favorite for its opener vs. Oklahoma State from Arlington, Texas. The defending champs were quickly adjusted up to 13, but the game is now off the board, presumably because of Jameis Winston's recent shopping spree at Publix. Like TNT's Charles Barkley noted last week, "who the hell goes to Publix to order seafood?"
I have no idea why 5Dimes has Tennessee as a 7.5-point home favorite vs. Utah State, especially after opening the line at 6.5. This trip to Neyland Stadium for the Aggies has outright upset written all over it. Matt Wells's squad will have a major edge at the QB position with Chuckie Keeton coming back after tearing his ACL last September.
Finally, Louisville is a 3.5-point home favorite against Miami in Bobby Petrino's second debut at the school. Back when the 'Canes were still among the nation's elite in Petrino's first tour of duty at U of L, he nearly guided the Cardinals to a shocking upset at the Orange Bowl, only to see his team allow a 24-7 lead at halftime get away.
All of these spreads have a -120 price tag attached to them and may be subject to $100 maximums.
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