Aug 26, 2019
Hot & Not Report - Week 1
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Week of August 26th
With last week's piece focusing on what's now come and gone for Week of the NFL preseason, I'd like to bid adieu to the NFL for just a week. The first full opening week of college football is upon us this week, and Week 4 of the NFL preseason is just a week that's best to take off unless you are really into researching and reading up the bottom halves of every NFL team's potential depth chart. Instead, it's on to the collegiate world this week with the emphasis being on two specific conferences: the Pac-12 and the SEC.
These are two conferences that have been on opposite ends of the spectrum for the most part when in comes to discussing college football on the national stage the past few years, as the SEC is still the flag bearer for this sport in terms of overall depth, talent and churning out NFL-caliber players.
But chaos can be beautiful too, and while the Pac-12 gets called out for its parity and how they never have one/two really elite teams, once conference play gets going, Pac-12 games can be some of the most entertaining out there because of that same parity in regards to it being up in the air as to who will win.
Either way, there are some specific football programs from both conferences that have had good/bad runs in season openers the past few years, and they've drawn my eye for this week. And while trends are just simply a small piece of the entire picture, they can serve as a solid place to start in terms of game selection, so here are a few SEC/Pac-12 schools to hone in on as play on or against programs for this first game of the year.
They'd better be wearing RED
Alabama (4-0 ATS)
Texas A&M (5-0 ATS)
Georgia (4-1 ATS)
Stanford (4-1 ATS)
Right off the bat I've probably got to make the distinction that Texas A&M actually wears maroon as to not upset Aggies fans, but that's a close enough shade to red for me to include them in this group. Besides, with a 5-0 ATS run going in season opener's the past five years, and a home game on Thursday coming up for Texas A&M as massive -33.5 point favorites vs Texas State, there is a Day 1 game for bettors to sink their teeth into further.
Furthermore, 'maroon' can be defined as a “brownish crimson” color which brings me to one of the other teams on this list in the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama has covered the number in each of their previous four season openers, and they've done so despite scheduling some 'supposed' tough opponents for themselves in that first game of a campaign. Louisville, Florida State, USC, and Wisconsin were all vanquished by Nick Saban's powerhouse program in season openers the past four years, and this week has Saban and the Tide laying 30+ against Duke. Considering Duke's in a bit of a transitional year with QB Daniel Jones moving on, bettors should probably not be afraid to lay all that chalk with Alabama this weekend. The spread has already been bumped a few points Alabama's way, and given that their average margin of victory against those quality foes in the past four season openers is still 32 points, blowing out a fresh-faced Duke team should be easily in the cards.
Of the other teams listed above, Georgia's laying 20+ on the road in a SEC rivalry game against Vanderbilt (who are on a 4-0 ATS run in season openers themselves) in a spot that might be best to stay away from, while a ranked Stanford team hosts a ranked Northwestern team (in coaches poll) is laying about a TD (-6.5) at home.
Stanford's going through a bit of a transitional phase this year too with Bryce Love having moved on, as it's on QB K.J Costello and a bunch of new faces to keep this proud program moving forward in the Pac-12. Given the schedule the Cardinal have – Northwestern, @ USC, vs Notre Dame only non-conference games – a SU and ATS win over the Wildcats later this week could propel Stanford on their way to one heck of a season. Recent history suggests we will get the best out of Stanford to start, and Northwestern as a fringe Top 25 team might be a little ambitious for Pat Fitzgerald's program.
The traditional 'basketball' schools
Kentucky (0-4 ATS)
UCLA (1-4 ATS)
I did think about adding Missouri's 1-4 ATS run in season openers to this list as well, but then the header would have to be Wizard of Oz related (Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh my) and even then it's hard to truly consider 'wildcats' as 'lions'. So it's just the two traditional basketball schools from these conferences that get the spotlight this week and both better be prepared to shine brighter than they have in recent season openers if they want to gain some respect in the betting market.
For UCLA, it's a road trip to Cincinnati as small road underdogs on Thursday, in a game that has already seen the Bruins take enough action to push them down and through that key number of +3.
UCLA opened up in the +3.5/4 range way back when, and is currently sitting at+2.5 everywhere. It's Year 2 for Chip Kelly's team, and one that should bring plenty of improvement for this Bruins squad, but historically slow starts in openers has to give pause on jumping on board the Bruins now.
Last year's season opener loss did come to this same Cincinnati team (26-17 loss) as double-digit home favorites for the Bruins, so the revenge angle is on their side, but having had this line move through that key number already, it's extremely hard to take the Bruins at +2.5 now based on a pure numbers perspective. With recent ATS history working against the Bruins as well, this could be one of those games that lands as a Cincinnati win by a FG in where UCLA's bad ATS run in season openers against the closing number continues. Keep an eye out for that.
Kentucky is at home in Week 1 laying 10.5/11 points to a visiting Toledo team that won't be a push over. Toledo is expected to compete for a MAC title this year, and with nine returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, Kentucky's QB Terry Wilson better be prepared to show some growth in his passing game skills right from the outset.
In fact, the MAC is still a conference that seemingly improves from top to bottom each year and gets treated like a doormat at times from some programs that are in bigger conferences but have suspect talent on the football field. Reputation on a name can only go so far, and Kentucky's in for a few changes this year as it is. That's not to say Toledo wins this game outright, but given the opponent, spread, and ATS historical history,