The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas posted college football win totals, conference futures, Games of the Year and College Football Playoff props on Sunday, so let’s take a look at these numbers and identify the teams to bet on early this season.
Why I’m buying: The Utes are not a big-name program (even within their own conference), so there’s still value to bet on them in 2019. This year sets up perfectly with quarterback Tyler Huntley and running Zack Moss back in the lineup after injuries shortened their 2018 season. The Utes also boast a strong defense led by one of the best d-lines in the country. Utah is very fortunate to avoid Oregon and Stanford from the Pac-12 North.
How to bet on them: Utah’s win total is set at 9, which is the correct number, so pass on that unless you can find it lower — like 8.5 wins — somewhere before Week 1. I plan on betting on Utah early in the season before people start to realize that they’re a College Football Playoff contender.
You can start in Week 1 by looking at the Utes to cover a six-point spread at BYU on the Thursday before the full slate begins. Their Week 4 game at USC is another opportunity, where Utah opened as a two-point underdog in the SuperBook’s Games of the Year lines. But ultimately, I think the best way to bet on the Utes is by backing them to win the Pac-12, which opened at 3/1 odds. That’s because I expect them to win the division and likely be favored against the Pac-12 North representative by the time the conference title game is played.
Why I’m buying: It feels like I’m falling into a trap set by the “Joe Publics” who want to back Nebraska this season, but I think there are enough factors to like the Cornhuskers in 2019. The main narrative is that Scott Frost is in his second year with the program. Remember that the Huskers legend famously took over a winless UCF program after the 2015 season and led them to an undefeated year in 2017 before departing for his alma mater. Will he be responsible for a similar turnaround in 2019? The Nebraska faithful hope so.
After playing at Michigan and at Ohio State last year, the schedule for Nebraska is much more forgiving this season. They still play Ohio State, but it’s in Lincoln at the end of September. Their toughest Big Ten West competition, Wisconsin and Iowa, have to make the trip to them, so Nebraska’s most challenging matchups will be at home.
How to bet on them: Instead of tying yourself to a high number with Nebraska’s 8.5 win total, I’d recommend betting on them on a per-game basis to start off the season. I can see them covering an early point spread when they head to Colorado in a Week 2 revenge game from last year. I’d also bet on Nebraska as home underdogs when they host Ohio State. The line for that game opened with Ohio State as a six-point favorite, but don’t be surprised if the spread is lower by kickoff.
Why I’m buying: Baylor was a strong program for most of this decade before a sexual assault scandal hit the football team and university. But after two years of rebuilding in Waco with Head Coach Matt Rhule, Baylor is ready to take another step closer to becoming a consistent Big 12 contender like they were under the disgraced Art Briles. It’s possible that this is the last year to find value to cash in on the Bears before the national media catches up.
Quarterback Charlie Brewer seems primed to have a breakout season in his third year leading the offense, but the schedule is what really makes Baylor attractive to bet on this season. The Bears have a non-conference schedule featuring Stephen F. Austin, UTSA and Rice, and play five of their nine Big 12 games at home, including their three toughest tests against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas.
How to bet on them: It might be difficult to bet on Baylor during the first month of the season because they’ll likely be large favorites in non-conference games. I think betting their win total over 7.5 is the way to attack because their Big 12 schedule is backloaded.
Baylor has a real chance to be 7-2 before their Oklahoma game on Nov. 16 — they’d just need to win either that game or their showdown against Texas the week after to go over their win total. If they fail in both matchups, they can still hit over 7.5 wins in their regular season finale against lowly Kansas.
Why I’m buying: Missouri can’t ask for a more favorable schedule this season. After opening the season at Wyoming as 14.5-point favorites, they won’t have to leave their campus until an Oct. 19 game at Vanderbilt. The long stretch in Missouri includes five matchups at home with a bye week coming after they open their conference schedule against South Carolina. The Tigers are also fortunate to play the SEC West’s two weakest teams in Ole Miss and Arkansas.
A lot will be made of Missouri losing an NFL-caliber quarterback in Drew Lock, but Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant is taking over for this season. Bryant should have a chip on his shoulder and be motivated to succeed after being replaced by Trevor Lawrence at Clemson last year.
How to bet on them: As of right now, Missouri will be serving a bowl ban this season, so the opportunities to bet on them are limited. They’re expected to be a favorite in most of their games, so taking them over 8.5 wins is the way to go here.