Handicapping Week 1
February 16, 2017
By Brian Edwards
Editor's Note: Check out more columns and expert selections on VegasInsider.com from Brian Edwards!
Week 1 College Football Odds are Up!
We’re still more than six months away from the start of the 2017 college football season, but that hasn’t deterred offshore books from posting lines for Week 1. There are three games on Aug. 25 and 26 to whet the appetite for the next weekend that’ll feature a plethora of high-profile matchups.
On Friday, Aug. 25 in Sydney, Australia, Stanford and Rice will square off overseas. 5Dimes.eu, a major offshore sportsbook, currently has the Cardinal installed as a 33-point ‘chalk.’ (All lines have -120 prices either way.) Then on Saturday, BYU will host Portland State as a 29.5-point home ‘chalk,’ while the Charlie Strong Era at South Florida will begin with a trip to San Jose State. The Spartans are 10-point home underdogs.
Strong won’t have the school’s all-time leading rusher, Marlon Mack, who opted to skip his senior season and leave early for the NFL Draft. However, Strong’s offense will feature senior Quinton Flowers, who rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 TDs as a junior in 2016. Flowers also threw for 2,812 yards with a 24/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
On Thursday, Aug. 31, Indiana will play host to Ohio State in Bloomington and 5Dimes has the Buckeyes favored by 18.5 points. They’ve hired former IU head coach Kevin Wilson as their new offensive coordinator. Wilson took IU to back-to-back postseason appearances, but was dismissed by the program nonetheless.
On Friday, Sept. 1, Washington will venture into New Jersey to take on Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lost last year’s lid-lifter at UW by a 48-13 score as 25-point road underdogs. Chris Petersen’s team will bring back a pair of offensive stars in rising junior QB Jake Browning and fellow junior RB Myles Gaskin,, who led the Huskies to an appearance in the College Football Playoff before falling against Alabama at the Georgia Dome.
The featured Week 1 showdown on Saturday will take place at the new Mercedes Benz Dome in Atlanta, where Alabama and Florida State will collide. These schools haven’t met since Nick Saban’s first season in 2009 when the Seminoles won a 21-14 decision in Jacksonville.
Alabama and FSU might be No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation when they meet in The ATL. 5Dimes has the Crimson Tide installed as a 4.5-point favorite. Saban is currently looking for a new offensive coordinator after Steve Sarkisian was hired for the same job with the Atlanta Falcons in early February.
Both clubs will have sophomore QBs looking to duplicate outstanding freshman campaigns. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts took control of the starting job as a true freshman in a 52-6 season-opening win over Southern Cal at Jerry World. He would go on to complete 62.8 percent of his passes for 2,780 yards with a 23/9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Most notably, he provided a scrambling dynamic, rushing for 954 yards and 13 TDs.
Meanwhile, FSU redshirt freshman Deondre Francois connected on 58.8 percent of his throws for 3,350 yards with a 20/7 TD-INT ratio. He rushed for 196 yards and five TDs.
Florida and Michigan will meet at Jerry World in Arlington, TX. 5Dimes has the Wolverines favored by 6.5 points.
This will be a rematch of the Citrus Bowl two seasons ago when Jim Harbaugh’s team smashed the Gators by a 41-7 count as a 4.5-point ‘chalk’ in Orlando. UF also lost a bowl game to Michigan in 2007 and, switching to basketball for just a moment to stress how important this game is to the Florida fan base, was ousted from the 1988 and 2013 NCAA Tournaments by the Wolverines.
Michigan State also sent UF packing from the NCAA Tournament twice in the early 2000s and dropped the Gators in a bowl game on New Year’s Day of 2000. My points? UF hasn’t had much luck against schools from Michigan in either football or basketball, opening the door for Jim McElwain to really win over Gator Nation – something he’s yet to do despite back-to-back SEC East titles due to the team’s offensive ineptitude -- with a victory to start the 2017 campaign.
Florida will likely be going with a redshirt freshman as the starting QB. Luke Del Rio is out for the spring, leaving Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks to battle it out for the right to steer this team.
Virginia Tech and West Virginia will collide in Landover, Maryland. 5Dimes has the Hokies favored by three. They’re off an outstanding first season under head coach Justin Fuente, who led his team to the ACC Championship Game where Virginia Tech lost (but covered) versus eventual national champ, Clemson. Then the Hokies closed the year in style by rallying from a 24-0 halftime deficit to beat Arkansas 35-24 as seven-point ‘chalk.’
N.C. State will face South Carolina in Charlotte. The Gamecocks were better than expected in Will Muschamp’s first season, garnering a postseason invite before falling in overtime to South Florida. Muschamp played a ton of freshmen and sophomores and then hauled in a recruiting class that was ranked No. 16 in the nation by Rivals.com.
5Dimes has the Wolfpack installed as a 7.5-point favorite.
Louisville and Purdue will square off in Indianapolis with new Boilermakers’ head coach Jeff Brohm facing his alma mater after earning the Big Ten gig following a successful stretch at Western Kentucky. The Cardinals are favored by 21 points at the offshore book. They return Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson for his junior campaign.
Colorado and Colorado State will face each other in their annual opener in Denver. CU is off its best season in decades, getting to its first Pac-12 Championship Game since joining the league. The Buffaloes went bowling for the first time since 2007 in the fourth season of Mike MacIntyre’s tenure. They are favored by 6.5 over the Rams, who are entering the third year of former Georgia QB and long-time offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s stay at the school in Ft. Collins.
BYU and LSU will throw blows at NRG Stadium in Houston. 5Dimes has the Tigers listed as 14-point favorites. The Cougars should expect a heavy dose of LSU star RB Derrius Guice, while Ed Orgeron’s secondary will have to face QB Tanner Mangum, who threw for 3,377 yards and 23 TDs in 2015. Mangum moved back into a back-up role behind Taysom Hill for nearly all of last season.
UCLA will be looking to avenge an overtime loss at Texas A&M when it hosts the Aggies, who are two-point road underdogs at 5Dimes. The Bruins endured a disastrous 4-8 season after they lost star QB Josh Rosen to a shoulder injury. Rosen is expected to be healthy when Kevin Sumlin’s team comes to town to start a critical campaign for the sixth-year head coach.
After a shockingly successful run under Matt Rhule, Temple starts the Geoff Collins Era at Notre Dame. Rhule bolted for Waco to take the Baylor job, while Collins scored his first head-coaching gig after a two-year stretch as defensive coordinator at Florida. The Gators fielded one of the nation’s top defenses in both years with Collins as DC.
Like UCLA, the Fighting Irish are coming off a brutally disappointing year that has Brian Kelly feeling a tad warm about his job security. Notre Dame is favored by 10.5 points over the Owls, who will be looking for a QB after the departure of the school’s all-time leading passer, P.J. Walker.
North Carolina must replace QB Mitch Trubisky in 2017 when it opens at home vs. California. The Tar Heels are favored by 7.5 at 5Dimes.
To close the weekend in the Monday Night Football slot since the NFL won’t start until the following week, Tennessee and Georgia Tech will square off at the Mercedes-Benz Dome in Atlanta. The Volunteers are favored by six points.
With Josh Dobbs’s departure, Butch Jones will be searching for a new QB to run the show during a crucial year of his tenure at UT. Jones has mastered the art of chafing the restless natives in Knoxville.
During the first three years of his tenure when the Vols went 21-17, Jones constantly spent his media sessions pointing to stats about the youth and inexperience of his teams. He would even go so far as to point out how many players had never been on an airplane before the first road game of each year. In other words, he was laying down excuses to lose before games were even played.
After Tennessee was eliminated from SEC East contention this past November, Jones was asked about his seniors not winning a championship during their careers. Jones responded with this gem: “These individuals mean a lot to me personally, and they mean a lot to our football program. When we talked about winning championships, they’re a champion. They’ve won the biggest championship – and that’s the championship of life.”
His most recent one-liner to alienate Volunteer Nation came during his presser on National Signing Day. When quizzed about the lack of inking 5-star recruits like he had done in recent classes, Jones said, “The only five-star that we even concern ourselves with is a five-star heart. We want five-star hearts and five-star competitors.”
Jones’s UT squad might beat G-Tech in the opener in Atlanta, but this clown is going to be looking for a new job by December unless he wins the SEC East. And it says here that the Vols won’t be returning to Atlanta for the first weekend of December.
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