The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas posted college football win totals, conference futures, Games of the Year and College Football Playoff props on Sunday, inspiring Stadium’s staff to share their initial thoughts on college football’s opening odds for the 2019 season.
1. If you had to make one over bet with the SuperBook numbers, who would you play?
Alex Symonds, Stadium Senior Producer: While I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t get a 5.5 at the SuperBook, I will gladly take Wake Forest over 6 wins (-130) as my favorite over on the board. The Demon Deacons are the 33rd most experienced team in FBS per Phil Steele, and Dave Clawson has a pair of quality quarterbacks in Jamie Newman and Sam Hartman. Rice, Louisville and Elon are all layups, and getting North Carolina, Florida State and a down Duke team all at home is a plus.
Dan Vasta, Stadium “Stats Guru”: I like Michigan State over 8 wins (-130). Coming off of last season’s injury-riddled campaign, I look for them to be one of the most improved offenses in the Big Ten. You know the defense is going to shine as Joe Bachie and Kenny Willekes dominate against their suspect schedule. The Spartans should get to eight wins by early November and will have a chance to reach double-digit victories come Thanksgiving. Look for Sparty to have an opportunity to play in a New Year’s Six bowl this year.
Andy Wittry, Stadium College Sports Writer: I’d go Virginia over 8 wins (+120). The Cavaliers went 7-5 during the regular season last year, and with a 2019 schedule that doesn’t feature Clemson, Syracuse or Wake Forest, you could argue that Virginia doesn’t have to play three of the ACC’s four best teams. Dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins is back, and his player bio on Virginia’s roster is quick to mention that he and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray were the only players with 2,600+ passing yards and 900+ rushing yards last season. If Virginia’s defense can continue to play at a top-30 level, the ‘Hoos could crack the nine-win mark and win the ACC Coastal.
Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: I don’t love playing overs for a team’s win total because one injury could derail a bet, but I still think there’s value in Baylor over 7.5 wins (-110). Matt Rhule is a great coach, and quarterback Charlie Brewer seems primed to have a breakout season in his third year leading the offense. The schedule is what really makes Baylor attractive to bet on this season with a non-conference slate of Stephen F. Austin, UTSA and Rice. Baylor plays five of their nine Big 12 games at home, including the three toughest tests against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas.
2. If you had to make one under bet with the SuperBook numbers, who would you play?
AS: Let me preface this by telling you that I love Les Miles. The white hat, the crazy fourth down calls, the grass eating — I love all of it. But I don’t love what he inherited at Kansas, so I’m betting Kansas under 3 wins (-110). Running back Pooka Williams is talented, but will sit the season opener after an offseason arrest. Considering that he’s the Jayhawks’ only offensive weapon, expect defenses to stack the box when he returns. With a road game against Boston College and nine Big 12 matchups, I just don’t see Miles and company reaching three wins.
DV: My pick is Penn State under 8.5 wins (-120). The Nittany Lions should play five top-40 teams this season, and I could see them losing every single one. Penn State has a talented roster, but losing running back Miles Sanders and quarterback Trace McSorley is going to hurt. Their Big Ten schedule is tough, with their West opponents checking in as Iowa and Minnesota — both of which are on the road.
AW: My pick is South Carolina under 5.5 wins (even). The Gamecocks arguably have the toughest schedule in the country with games against Alabama, at Georgia, Florida, at Texas A&M and Clemson, not to mention the rest of the usual SEC East slate — Kentucky, at Missouri, at Tennessee and Vanderbilt. If losses occur early in SEC play, South Carolina’s season could go south in a hurry.
NJ: Kentucky was one of the biggest surprises last year, as they won nine regular season games and capped it off with a bowl win on New Year’s Day against Penn State. That being said, I think last year was an outlier and Kentucky under 6.5 wins (even) is worth a bet. The Wildcats lose a ton of production in running back Benny Snell Jr. and pass rusher Josh Allen, and they have to face Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina in September. Kentucky beat all three of those teams last year, but they’ll be looking for revenge in 2019.
3. Which team has the most attractive odds to win their respective conference?
AS: I’m going to spread the wealth with two conference title picks because I just can’t help myself. Iowa State (+800) to win the Big 12 is my first play. Quarterback Brock Purdy is a future star, and the Cyclones could very well be 5-0 in Big 12 play going into Norman off a bye on Nov. 9. For my second pick, I like FIU (+800) to win the Conference USA. Butch Davis is recruiting some real ones for the Panthers and has the country’s 17th most experienced team (per Phil Steele). Their schedule scares me, but this number is full of value.
DV: Boise State (even) to win the Mountain West. The Broncos are still dominant at home and have a chance to run the table in conference play. They are also one of my favorites to represent the Group of Five in a New Year’s Six bowl game thanks to a stout defense and an offense that should improve throughout the season. There may not be any Top 25 programs in the Mountain West outside of Boise State this season, so give them a serious look at even odds.
AW: Wisconsin (+1200) to win the Big Ten. This bet is banking on the Badgers’ 8-5 campaign in 2018 as being the exception to Wisconsin’s 10-plus-win rule. It won between 10 to 13 games from 2014 to 2017 and still has an all-time great running back in Jonathan Taylor. In mid-July, the Big Ten West feels pretty wide open, and that’s only reinforced when you see reigning division champion Northwestern with the second-worst odds among teams in the division to win the conference. The Badgers have a challenging cross-division draw with games against Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State (although the first two are at home), but might be as much of a proven commodity as any program with its odds to win a conference title.
NJ: A “bet on” team that I have targeted this offseason is Utah. I think going over nine wins for the Utes is a solid bet, but I see value at a juicier +300 number for Utah to win the Pac-12. They’re the best team in the Pac-12 South, and I predict they will play in the conference title game against Washington. If my prediction comes true, but I don’t feel good about Utah in that game, there will be an opportunity to hedge and lock-in a profit. But I still think that Utah should be the favorite to win the conference because they play in the Pac-12’s weaker division and have a very favorable path.
4. If you had to bet on one Game of the Year line that the SuperBook offered, which game and side would you take?
AS: I hoped Army-Michigan would be included in the Westgate release, but, sadly, I’ll have to wait until Week 2 to put my money down on the Black Knights. But I do have my eyes on another Sept. 7 kickoff — give me LSU (Pick ‘Em) at Texas under the lights. The Longhorns lost so much on defense from this past season and likely will be a “bet on” team for me late in the year once the new faces have grown up a bit, but Week 2 is a tad early to back Tom Herman’s squad. Also, good luck breaking in three new offensive line starters against the Bayou Bengals.
DV: I’m picking Michigan State (-2.5) vs. Penn State on Oct. 26. It’s become pretty obvious that I’m all in on Michigan State. I will gladly eat crow if the Nittany Lions come through, but MSU’s defense will be licking their chops in this one. Expect for the much-improved Spartans to cover the less-than-a-field-goal spread.
AW: I’ll take Alabama (-16) vs. LSU on Nov. 9. That’s a lot of points for Bama to give, but the Crimson Tide is certainly capable. LSU has only scored one touchdown (and 10 total points) in its last three games against Alabama and has been shut out in three of the last eight matchups. With this Week 11 showdown coming the week after the 2019 College Football Playoff rankings debut, this could be Nick Saban and Alabama’s chance to boost its resume with an emphatic win, so the Crimson Tide may be inclined to keep its foot on the gas even if it has a comfortable lead.
NJ: Nebraska is a team that is probably overvalued in some of the betting markets — like their win total being set at 8.5 with the over odds at (-160) — but there seems to be a quality opportunity to back Scott Frost’s team without having to pay the built-in tariff on the Cornhuskers. That’s why Nebraska (+6) vs. Ohio State on Sept. 28 is my pick. If Nebraska starts the season strong, this line will move before kickoff, so I think this is a good number to take for the Huskers, especially since they’ll have a massive home-field advantage in this one. I can also see Ohio State starting the season out slow as Ryan Day takes over for Urban Meyer, and quarterback Justin Fields gets acclimated to the program.
5. Outside of Clemson and Alabama, would you bet on a specific team to make the College Football Playoff?
AS: I have two value plays in the “make the CFP” market at the Westgate: give me Texas A&M (15/1) and Iowa State (20/1). Jimbo Fisher is building a machine in College Station, and if the Aggies can somehow go 1-1 against Clemson and Alabama, they’ll firmly be in the playoff mix down the stretch. With DC Mike Elko calling the defense, I’m not as worried about the substantial losses on that side of the ball. As for Iowa State, they have one of the few real defenses in the Big 12 with some horses up front in Mike Rose, JaQuan Bailey and Ray Lima. On offense, I’m a huge Brock Purdy fan, and he has all five starting offensive linemen back in front of him this season.
DV: Michigan (9/4) is my bet. The Maize and Blue have been knocking on the door for quite some time now, but Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been able to get over that hump. I thought last year was going to be the year, but their defense was ripped for over 100 combined points in the final two games of the season. I firmly believe DC Don Brown will get the defense back on track this season, and their schedule is manageable as they host their biggest rivals (Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State). Despite having lost seven straight to the Buckeyes, the Wolverines will finally take care of business against OSU and ultimately clinch their first College Football Playoff appearance.
AW: Oklahoma (7/2) is my bet to make the College Football Playoff. Betting on any team not named Clemson or Alabama to make football’s “Final Four” can be risky because at least one Power Five conference will be left out entirely, and given that Georgia has the third-best odds of making the playoff, there’s a chance the SEC could send two teams to the playoff, which would then leave two Power Five conferences out. Oklahoma has good value and the Sooners have already made the playoff three times, so if you’re bullish on the offensive union of Lincoln Riley and quarterback Jalen Hurts, plus the hiring of DC Alex Grinch, Oklahoma seems like a good pick.
NJ: These are really tough numbers to bet because it feels like there are only two open spots for the College Football Playoff given how dominant Clemson and Alabama are expected to be, but I think Utah (10/1) can get in. Betting on a Pac-12 team to make it is dangerous considering the conference has been shut out the last two years, but I believe Utah has a chance to go undefeated this season. They should be a favorite in at least 10 of their 12 regular season games and their road games at USC and Washington are winnable. I recommend staying away from this market in general, but don’t be surprised if Utah is a contender this season.