There’s absolutely no good reason to analyze college football point spreads for games that will take place in December, in June. Then again, there’s no reason not to, either.
The Golden Nugget once again released their point spreads for their Games of the Year, this time upping the ante by including 111 total games. They’ve done this for the past five years, although the buzz generated has increased dramatically over the past few summers.
This is no longer an exercise for the degenerates (although they love you guys, too). It’s now an orchestration that draws attention from major outlets. Although injuries, depth charts and other real-time items will be decided before any of these games are played, the masterminds at the top of these Vegas castles have spoken. And they are masterminds.
Many of these point spreads have already moved—some much more than others—with early bets coming in. There’s a lot to assess with so many games, although there are some fascinating trends worth noting. I’m not telling you to bash your piggy bank and jet to Sin City, unless, of course, you really want to.
Here are some initial impressions of the opening lines.
Let’s Talk About the Games Everyone’s Talkin’ About
Although there are many intriguing lines on the card, the November 3rd matchups are certainly college football’s main event. LSU opened as a two-point favorite over Alabama, while USC opened as a six-point favorite over Oregon. Both favorites will get these games at home.
Considering that home teams are typically given anymore from three to 4.5 points (depending on the setting) for playing in their building, this seems about right. The USC line feels maybe a point larger than I would have made it, and I probably would have opened LSU at minus-three. Again, we’re going off of what we know now.
I could certainly see the USC/Oregon line staying where it is come game week, although I would be surprised if the LSU/Alabama line stays as such. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s presence, whether it turns out to be a success or not, will likely swing this point spread one way or the other.
Vegas Loves Them Some Oklahoma State
Despite the fact that Oklahoma State will lose Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, they still have plenty of faith in the Pokes. Oklahoma State opened as a 9.5-point favorite against Arizona on September 8th, a 3.5-point favorite against Texas on September 29th, a nine-point favorite over TCU on October 27th and a 6.5-point favorite over West Virginia on November 10th.
It’s especially surprising given the fact that Mike Gundy named true freshman Wes Lunt the starter heading into next season. There’s no reason to think that Lunt won’t eventually be good; it’s just a matter of when.
He played in a similar offensive system in high school and appears to have the tools to succeed early at OK State. Still, he’ll be thrown into the mix right away and won’t have Justin Blackmon to throw to. The oddsmakers don’t believe there will be much of a drop off, however, which is telling to a degree.
Notre Dame is Once Again a Tough Team to Handicap
There are a handful of teams that are viewed differently by the fine Vegas folks, and Notre Dame is at the top of that list. They are a public team, which means they will be bet regardless of how good their team is, what the matchup is like or where they’re playing. This makes life on the oddsmakers difficult, and they have to consider more than just the game when setting the line.
Despite their questions at quarterback (and these are major questions), Notre Dame opened as a 13.5-point favorite against Navy in Week 1, a three-point dog at Michigan State on September 15th, a one-point favorite against Michigan on September 22nd, a 9.5-point favorite against Miami (playing in Chicago) on October 6th, a five-point favorite against Stanford on October 13th, a 10-point favorite at home against BYU on October 20th and a 12-point dog against Oklahoma.
There were also other games later in the season posted, and Vegas is taking plenty of Notre Dame action, again, because they are Notre Dame. The Golden Nugget clearly likes this team and are making lines that stretch beyond protecting themselves against public betting. That’s not the first time we’ve seen that happen, though.
A Few Head-Scratchin’ Spreads
Here are a few more games that jumped off the page for various reasons.
September 8th—Nebraska (-6.5) at UCLA: Only 6.5 points? That doesn’t seem like enough, regardless of what you think about Taylor Martinez’s "improvement" in the offseason. Jim Mora will likely get the Bruins rolling at some point, but I don’t know if that will be the second week of his first season. Hard not to like the Cornhuskers here.
September 22nd—Kansas State (+16) at Oklahoma: The Sooners absolutely blasted K-State in Manhattan last season, although things could be different in 2012. OU Wide receiver Ryan Broyles caught 14 passes for 171 yards in that game, and he's no longer there. We saw Landry Jones struggle without him, and depth at WR is a concern right now. Despite the fact that Oklahoma will be coming off their bye, give me Bill Snyder, Collin Klein and nearly two touchdowns and a field goal.
October 4th—USC (-16) at Utah: Another 16-point underdog, although the home team will be getting more than two scores here. I love USC, think they’re going to be very good and difficult to beat this season, but Utah is an underrated team. They’ll get the Trojans at home, under the lights and off a bye. Strange setting that could breed strange results.