Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:57 PM
Auburn vs. Oregon
Editor's Note: Brian Edwards went 2-0 Thursday to get Week 1 off to a flying start! He cashed tickets on Cincinnati and Tulane, beating the closing lines by 32.5 combined points. Don't miss out on B.E.'s pay-if-it-wins-only selection for tonight or go ahead and get signed up for his season package
College Football Week 1 Saturday Night Preview
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn from Arlington, TX (ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Bo Nix has been dreaming about this moment for his entire life. The son of Patrick Nix, who threw for 4,957 career yards with a 31/16 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 32 career games, including 22 as Auburn’s starter in 1994 and 1995, Bo made up his mind – while still in elementary school – he would be the next great Auburn quarterback while watching Cam Newton lead the Tigers past Oregon in the 2011 BCS Championship Game.
Nix was a five-star prospect, one who led his high school to back-to-back state titles while becoming the state of Alabama’s all-time prep leader in career passing yards. He won the starting job by beating out redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood.
For his first career snaps as the Auburn QB, Nix will lead his team up against Oregon for a Saturday night showdown at Jerry World in Arlington, TX. The Tigers and Ducks will collide at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC.
As of Friday afternoon, most betting shops had Auburn installed as a 3.5 or four-point favorite, with the total at 55.5 points. As you can see in VI’s line history, bettors had plenty of chances in the last five weeks to get the Tigers at -2.5 or -3.
Likewise, just as gamblers might have missed the best number on Auburn, those that are bullish on the ‘under’ could’ve got that wager down when the total was more than 56, a key number for ‘over/unders’ in that it’s a multiple of seven. William Hill and the Wynn were at 57 less than two weeks ago.
Oregon is around +150 on the money line. Caesars was showing the best money-line payout in Las Vegas (+160) early Friday afternoon. For first-half bets at the Westgate SuperBook, Auburn is -3 with a total of 27.5 points. The Ducks are +140 on the money line.
Auburn finished 2018 with an 8-5 straight-up record and a 5-8 against the spread, firmly placing seventh-year head coach Gus Malzahn on the hot seat after he inked a lucrative contract extension in December of 2017. Making matters worse for Malzahn, school president Steven Leath was fired (paid to go away) by AU’s Board of Trustees in June just two years into a five-year contract. Leath was Malzahn’s biggest supporter, pushing hard for his contract in ’17.
With his job on the line, Malzahn is taking offensive call-playing duties back over. His team brings back 14 starters, seven apiece on each side of the ball.
I believe Auburn has the best defensive line in the nation. The trio of senior DE Marlon Davidson, senior Derrick Brown (second-team All-SEC in ’18) and Junior DE Nick Coe (third-team All-SEC in ’18) combined for 15 sacks and 20 QB hurries last season.
DC Kevin Steele’s unit has allowed 19.2, 18.5 and 17.1 points per game in the past three seasons. Phil Steele’s magazine has Brown as a preseason first-team All-American and Coe as a third-teamer.
Auburn didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher last season for the first time since 2009. However, all five starters return on the offensive line. The Tigers are three-deep in the backfield with JaTarvious Whitlow (787 yards, six TDs and a 5.2 yards-per-carry average), Kam Martin (458-1 TD-4.4 YPC) and Shaun Shivers (371-3 TDs-5.3 YPC).
Auburn gets back two WRs that had to redshirt due to injuries last year in Eli Stove and Will Hastings. Stove has 12 career starts and had 489 combined receiving yards in ’16 and ’17. Seth Williams returns after catching 26 balls for 534 yards and five TDs in ’18. Anthony Schwartz is also back, but he’s ‘questionable’ vs. Oregon after breaking a bone in his hand that required surgery in early August. Schwartz had 22 receptions for 357 yards and two TDs last year, in addition to rushing for 211 yards and five TDs with a 7.8 YPC average.
Oregon went 9-4 SU and 5-8 ATS in Year 1 of the Mario Cristobal Era, edging Michigan State 7-6 in a complete snoozer as a 1.5-point favorite at the Redbox Bowl. The Ducks posted other notable victories at 24th-ranked California 42-24, vs. seventh-ranked Washington (30-27 in OT) and vs. Arizona State (31-29).
They lost to Stanford at home in overtime after blowing a 24-7 lead. Their other defeats came at 25th-ranked Washington State (34-20), at Arizona (44-15) and at Utah (32-25).
Oregon returns 10 starters from an offense that averaged 34.8 points per game. Senior QB Justin Herbert elected to return to school even though he was projected as a high first-round draft choice in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Herbert completed 59.4 percent of his passes last season for 3,151 yards with a 29/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has made 28 career starts, throwing for 7,070 career passing yards and 63 TDs compared to only 17 interceptions.
Herbert’s favorite receiver Dillon Mitchell (75 catches, 1,184 yards & 10 TDs) is gone and several other wideouts are dealing with injuries. WR Brenden Schooler, who has 22 career starts, including 10 at safety in 2016 and 12 more at WR the past two seasons, is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Schooler had 21 catches for 203 yards and one TD in ’18.
True freshmen WRs Mycah Pittman (shoulder) and JR Waters (foot) are also ‘out’ vs. Auburn. Back-up TE Cam McCormick, who has three career starts to his credit, is ‘questionable’ with an ankle injury. On the bright side, Penn State grad transfer Juwan Johnson (cramps) was upgraded to ‘probable’ on Thursday. Johnson started 21 career games for the Nittany Lions in three seasons, amassing 1,123 career receiving yards.
Steele’s magazine ranks Oregon’s offensive line as the nation’s best. According to Steele, the Ducks’ 153 combined starts are the most for an FBS o-line since SMU had 158 in 2011.
This group will be expected to protect Herbert, especially since all three back-ups on scholarship are freshmen. The Oregon o-line needs to create holes for sophomore RB C.J. Verdell, who ran for 1,018 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 5.0 YPC as at true freshman last season. RB Travis Dye also returns after rushing for 739 yards and four TDs with a 5.3 YPC average.
Oregon’s defense brings back seven starters from a unit that allowed 25.4 PPG. Senior LB Troy Dye is a preseason second-team All-American in Steele’s magazine. Dye has started 35 career games and produced 313 tackles. He garnered second-team All-Pac-12 honors in ’17 and was a first-team selection last year, when he tallied 115 tackles, six tackles for loss, seven passes broken up, four QB hurries, two sacks and one interception.
Oregon opened the 2011 season at Jerry World, where LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu dominated to propel the Tigers to a 40-27 win over the Ducks. Oregon is 8-6 SU and 6-8 ATS in 14 neutral-site games since 2009. The Ducks were underdogs four times in Cristobal’s first season, going 1-3 both SU and ATS.
Meanwhile, Malzahn is 5-5 both SU and ATS in 10 games at neutral sites as Auburn’s HC. The Tigers are 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS in their last eight spots as single-digit ‘chalk.’
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- After losing 24-14 at Cincinnati on Thursday, Chip Kelly is 3-10 at UCLA since returning to college coaching. Florida was interested in hiring Kelly, but he preferred to move back to the West coast. Dan Mullen is 11-3 since taking over at UF.
-- Northwestern, 6.5-point underdog at Stanford, is 10-0 ATS with eight outright wins in its past 10 games as a road underdog. -- Kentucky is mired in a 0-10 ATS record in its last nine games as a home favorite. The Wildcats are favored by 11.5 points for Saturday’s opener vs. Toledo in Lexington.
-- Tulane QB Justin McMillan stole the show Thursday night in the Big Easy, leading Tulane to a 42-14 win over FIU as a three-point home favorite. The Green Wave dominated a solid Conference USA team that Butch Davis has done a great job with since taking over. Tulane had a 557-252 advantage in total offense. McMillan completed 14-of-18 throws for 199 yards and two TDs without an interception. He also had 63 rushing yards and one TD on merely nine attempts. This Just In: Willie Fritz can coach some football, ya’ll.
-- Clemson covered as a 37-point home favorite in its 52-14 victory over Ga. Tech thanks to a 51-yard field goal midway through the final stanza. With Trevor Lawrence getting intercepted twice, it was RB Travis Etienne who stole the show with 205 rushing yards and three TDs on only 12 carries. Etienne had 22/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy coming into the year, but that number will get reduced going to Week 2.
-- The Florida Gators had 10 sacks in last Saturday’s 24-20 non-covering win over Miami in Orlando. The sacks were the most by an SEC defense since 2008.
-- Was I appalled to see Oscar Meyer wearing my orange and blue colors last week? You can't even imagine!! Since I was wrapped up in the UF-UM game, I only had time to send out a G-rated tweet:
@OSUCoachMeyer Your Gator Card got yanked a long time ago. It's a lifetime ban. We don't give those back.— Brian Edwards Sports (@vegasbedwards) August 25, 2019
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.