Opening Line Report - Week 3
September 11, 2017
By Marcus DiNitto
Clemson, coming off a 14-6 win over Auburn, opened as a 3.5-point road favorite Sunday at the Wynn for its ACC showdown at Louisville, a 4.5-point swing from Louisville -1, the number the Westgate SuperBook was dealing on its Games of the Year lines this summer.
Bettors took Louisville +3.5 minutes after Week 3 college football lines were posted at the Wynn, prompting an adjustment to 3.
“I’m impressed with what I’ve seen from Clemson so far,” Wynn oddsmaker John Avello said of his opening number. “They didn’t score a lot of points (vs. Auburn), but they did win and their defense played real well. You miss a guy like (Deshaun) Watson, but the kid (junior Kelly Bryant) has stepped in and he’s capable of leading the team to a lot of wins.”
The Westgate’s Ed Salmons was surprised Clemson opened as the favorite of a field goal-plus and still believes his Game of the Year line was the better number.
“I think the line is going to close Louisville a favorite,” Salmons said. “I think Louisville will go off (-1). I don’t understand the line.”
Avello concedes Louisville has two big advantages in this contest (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC) – Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and revenge. In one of the best games of last season, the Cardinals lost a heartbreaker at Clemson, 42-36.
“They probably should have won that game last year,” Avello said. “They’ve had this game circled on their schedule since then.”
Said Salmons, “Deshaun Watson is not at Clemson anymore. Last year, Louisville was every bit as good as Clemson. (Cardinals receiver James Quick) just misjudged where he was on the field and stepped out a yard before the first-down marker (on 4th-and-12 inside the 5-yard line with about 30 second left on the clock). If he didn’t, they would have won that game.”
Salmons believes Saturday’s matchup favors the Cardinals.
“The teams that give Louisville the most problems are teams that can overwhelm their defense – their defense isn’t the greatest, but I don’t think they’ll get overwhelmed with Clemson.”
Here are Avello’s and Salmons’ thoughts on three more key games on Saturday’s Week 3 card.
Oklahoma State (-14) at Pittsburgh - (ABC, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Highly-regarded Oklahoma State was bet from -11 to -14 by Monday morning at the Wynn against a Pittsburgh team that has failed to impress though two weeks.
The Cowboys’ two wins have come against non-Power 5 programs Tulsa and South Alabama, but Avello likes what he has seen from Mike Gundy’s group.
“They’ve certainly got a very potent offense, and we kind of new that coming in,” Avello said.
In fact, while Oklahoma State has yet to get into the meat of its schedule, Avello says it’s conceivable for this team to run the table.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has disappointed thus far. The Panthers struggled with Youngstown State in a 28-21 win at home in their season opener, and then lost at in-state rival Penn State, 33-14.
“Penn State could have won the game by more, but they knew they had the game under control so they just went through the motions,” Avello said.
“Maybe they’ll play better,” he added of Pitt ahead of their matchup against Okie State “They’re an 8-win team the last couple of years, they play pretty good football at home, so we’ll see if this team can get a little bit better here, because they’re going to have to facing this giant .”
Salmons is high on Oklahoma State as well, rating the Cowboys as the second best team in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma. Still, two touchdowns feels like an overlay to him.
“This one seems just a little bit on the high side,” he said of the 14-point spread.
Tennessee at Florida (-5.5) - (CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET)
This line and any analysis that comes with it has asterisk attached, as there’s a chance the game will be moved because of Hurricane Irma, but Florida opened -4.5 at the Wynn and was bet up to -5.5 by Monday.
Florida’s football program has already been affected by Irma, as its Week 2 game against Northern Colorado was cancelled. That leaves the Gators’ Week 1 game against Michigan as the only true contest by which to measure them this season.
It wasn’t pretty. Florida lost 33-17, gained just 192 yards and nine first downs, was shutout in the second half and failed to score an offensive touchdown.
Avello and Salmons offered different takes on Florida’s showing against the Wolverines.
“Their offense just looked terrible,” Avello said. “They were lost at the quarterback position.”
Asked if that was a function of Florida’s offensive unit or Michigan’s defense, Avello said, “I wasn’t that impressed with the Michigan defense. I think they’ll get better as the year goes on. At the end of the year, who knows, they could be national championship contenders. But it looked to me that the Florida offense was struggling, that they were trying to find their way.”
Avello said he would have tended to open Florida a bigger favorite vs. Tennessee had it not been for that performance in addition to missing the chance to get things right vs. Northern Colorado.
Salmons noted two of Florida’s primary offensive weapons were suspended for the Michigan game – wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett – “not that it would have made a huge difference because they couldn’t block Michigan that game,” he said.
Salmons, though, expects a good performance from Florida this week.
“They’ve had huge success against Tennessee at home (six straight wins dating back to 2005), so I expect them to bounce back and win, and I think they’ll look much better this week,” Salmons said. “That (Michigan) game was really just a poor performance more than Florida being down. I think they’ll be above the level they’ve played the last couple of years.”
Texas at USC (-17) - (FOX, 8:30 p.m. ET)
While the Wynn and Westgate both hung 17 on this game, the line was as high as 17.5 elsewhere around town Monday, and as low as 15.5 Sunday. Whatever the iteration, it’s a big number – the Westgate was dealing 11.5 on its Games of the Year board – but the teams appear to be heading in opposite directions, and Longhorns QB Shane Buechele is questionable after missing last week’s game against San Jose State with a shoulder issue.
“The Southern Cal stock has certainly gone up,” Avello said. “Last week, they looked great offensively (in a 42-24 win against Stanford). Their quarterback (Sam Darnold), he’s good, isn’t he? I mean, he just looked really, really good.”
Avello said Texas’ Week 1 loss to Maryland “made their stock go down. It’s like two stocks going in different directions. This spread would have never been this high going into the season.”
Should Buechele be able to go, Salmons doesn’t believe there’s a large enough talent gap between USC and Texas to justify a spread this big.
“Provided the quarterback plays this week, I don’t see much of a difference between Texas and Stanford (USC closed -4 at home vs. Stanford). (Texas’) first game was just one of those crazy games. Sometimes, you’re just going to have a crazy game. There were so many weird things that happened to them that game, and I think they were confused by what Maryland was doing offensively. Tom Herman is too good of a coach to allow that to happen to them.
“It’s hard to judge last week because they played such a bad team (Texas beat San Jose State 56-0), but I don’t see a 15.5-point difference between the talent level of Texas and USC.”
Early lines moves
These games saw the point spread move 2 points or more in the favorite’s direction in the first 24 hours of wagering at the Wynn:
UMass vs. Temple
Open line: Temple -12
After 24 hours: Temple -14.5
Illinois vs. South Florida
Open line: USF -14
After 24 hours: USF -18
Kentucky vs. South Carolina
Open line: South Carolina -5
After 24 hours: South Carolina -7
Kent State vs. Marshall
Open line: Marshall -11.5
After 24 hours: Marshall -14.5
Oklahoma State vs. Pittsburgh
Open line: OSU -11
After 24 hours: OSU -14
Baylor vs. Duke
Open line: Duke -12
After 24 hours: Duke -14
Tulsa vs. Toledo
Open line: Toledo -7
After 24 hours: Toledo -9
Idaho vs. Western Michigan
Open line: WMU -14
After 24 hours: WMU -20.5
These games saw the point spread move 2 points or more in the underdog’s direction in the first 24 hours of wagering at the Wynn:
Notre Dame vs. Boston College
Open line: BC +15.5
After 24 hours: BC +13.5
Air Force vs. Michigan
Open line: Air Force +28.5
After 24 hours: Air Force +24.5
Middle Tennessee State vs. Minnesota
Open line: MTSU +12
After 24 hours: MTSU +8.5
Utah State vs. Wake Forest
Open line: Utah State +16
After 24 hours: Utah State +13.5
North Texas vs. Iowa
Open line: North Texas +24
After 24 hours: North Texas +22
SMU vs TCU
Open line: SMU +20
After 24 hours: SMU +18
Appalachian State vs. Texas State
Open line: Texas State +26
After 24 hours: Texas State +24
Rice vs. Houston
Open line: Rice +24.
After 24 hours: Rice +22
Odds Subject to Change
Marcus DiNitto is a writer in Charlotte, N.C., who covers sports betting and all kinds of other stuff. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusDiNitto.
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