It’s only April—going on May—but don’t let that take away from the excitement of seeing point spreads for college football’s opening weekend.
It’s remarkably early, so much so that such disclaimers shouldn’t even be necessary. But what’s most important is that we’re getting closer to the real thing. These numbers are here, they are real and they are spectacular.
The offshore sportsbook 5Dimes.eu was first to post these games, listing more than 15 matchups from the opening weekend and adding to them over the last few days. These lines—which have been up for less than a week—have already seen some movement in some instances. Keep in mind that the betting limits on these games are minuscule compared to what they will be come fall. Thus, all movement must be kept in perspective.
Still, here are some of the notable games listed (h/t Kegs ‘n Eggs).
|Aug. 28||Wake Forest (-7.5) at UL-Monroe|
|Aug. 28||Mississippi (-8.5) vs. Boise State*|
|Aug. 28||Texas A&M at South Carolina (-9)|
|Aug. 28||Temple at Vanderbilt (-21)|
|Aug. 29||BYU (-14) at Connecticut|
|Aug. 30||Colorado State (Pick 'em) vs. Colorado*|
|Aug. 30||Penn State (-3.5) vs. Central Florida*|
|Aug. 30||Ohio State (-17.5) at Navy|
|Aug. 30||Rice at Notre Dame (-21)|
|Aug. 30||West Virginia vs. Alabama (-22.5)*|
|Aug. 30||Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (-17)*|
|Aug. 30||LSU (-3) vs. Wisconsin*|
|Aug. 30||Arkansas at Auburn (-21.5)|
|Aug. 30||Clemson at Georgia (-7)|
|Aug. 30||Fresno State at USC (-17.5)|
|Aug. 31||Utah State at Tennessee (-6.5)|
|Sept. 1||Miami at Louisville (-3.5)|
|* means neutral site|
As for what these numbers mean—beyond a dance in your cubicle, living room or office—here are some thoughts and observations on the initial offerings and what they tell us about Week 1 and beyond.
Alabama’s Historic Chalk Run Lives on (Well, Yeah)
The fact that Alabama is favored against West Virginia in Week 1—playing in Atlanta—should come as no surprise. And while 22.5 points may seem robust, the Crimson Tide has been, on average, roughly a three-touchdown favorite over the past few seasons with Nick Saban.
Also, if you watched West Virginia frequently last year, the line becomes less and less surprising.
What’s even more significant about this number, however, is what it means from a historical sense: This will mark the 55th consecutive game in which Alabama has been favored over its opponent. In that time, despite battling enormous numbers, Alabama has covered 31 times.
Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans were favored in 58 consecutive games between 2003 and 2007, a streak Alabama will reach in Week 4 of the 2014 season against Florida. It will get to 58, obviously, but how much longer can it last?
Nick Saban’s team travels to Ole Miss in Week 6—where it’s incredibly likely it will be favored again. Other “potential” streak-stopping games include a trip to LSU on November 8 and the Iron Bowl to close out the year.
Aaron Kessler, an oddsmaker at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, doesn’t believe there will be much drama regarding the streak this season, though.
“Alabama will be favored in every game this year,” Kessler said. “Period.”
West Virginia, you’re up first.
Auburn-Arkansas Tells Us Plenty About Both Teams
Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn have spent the offseason sharing passionate thoughts on opposite ends of the tempo spectrum. They’ll spend Week 1 testing such philosophical football differences against one another—a gift from the scheduling gods.
There will be at least three touchdowns between them, though, at least according to the sportsbooks.
Auburn has been pegged a massive 21.5-point favorite by 5Dimes. Only twice all last season were the Tigers a favorite of this magnitude or higher, and those games came against Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic.
With Nick Marshall back at quarterback, a roster that will return many pieces and a little added demolition incentive courtesy of this offseason, the number isn’t off. In fact, we can expect much more of this.
Obviously the Tigers won’t be enormous favorites against the quality SEC opponents on the schedule, but the respect will be there. Following a 12-2 year against the spread, it will have to be.
And for Arkansas… expect more of the other part of this equation. Alex Collins is a wonderful running back, but there are questions all over the roster, and the schedule is torturous. It’s possible the Hogs will only be favored in three games all year: against Nicholls State, Northern Illinois and UAB.
Outside of that, all bets are off. (Well, they're on, but you get what I’m saying.)
All Value in Florida State is Now Lost
For a brief moment, there was value in the Seminoles.
5Dimes opened FSU as only an 11.5-point favorite over Oklahoma State, and it stayed that way for a cup of coffee. Since then, the line has been bet up accordingly and now sits at 17. And it likely won’t stop there.
Again, based on the small betting limits, this large move doesn’t provide anything definitive just yet. But it does forecast a sign of things to come for the defending champions. The lines—starting with the Pokes—will be mammoth, and there’s a possibility that Florida State will not be a single-digit favorite in any game it plays all year. Forget about being an underdog.
“FSU is as public as public can be right now,” said Kessler on the Seminoles, implying they’re getting plenty of action from bettors. “Last year they got backed constantly, and they kept winning. The public will continue to bet them until that changes.”
The Seminoles averaged out to a 28-point favorite over the entire season with Jameis Winston playing quarterback. Even with such robust handicaps, they still covered 11-of-14 games. With a favorable ACC slate on deck, there will be little value in a team that the books couldn't handicap high enough last year.
While 17 against Oklahoma State may seem like a lot, Mike Gundy’s team is doing extreme makeovers on both sides. And, as it sits, we probably won’t be stopping at two touchdowns and a field goal.
Texas A&M’s New Role as Underdog Starts Early
It’s strange seeing Texas A&M as nearly a nine-point underdog. That’s not to say the line isn’t appropriate, given the questions surrounding the defense and at quarterback, but it’s also not a role we saw them in often when Johnny Manziel was navigating the ship.
Opening on the road against South Carolina is not the dream position for Sumlin and his team. Whether it’s Kyle Allen or Kenny Hill under center, starting in a hostile environment such as this won’t be easy. Then there’s the A&M defense, which will be tasked in slowing down human wrecking ball Mike Davis out of the gate.
Good luck with that.
There’s enough talent on the roster and potential at the QB position to suggest A&M won’t be a big underdog for long. But with road trips to Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn to follow—plus home games against Ole Miss, LSU and Missouri—the trend will likely continue.
Last season, the Aggies were an underdog only three times. That could potentially double in 2014, and it starts out of the gate.
Pencil LSU-Wisconsin into Your Calendar Now
Week 1’s prime-time game has been given a point spread that accurately encompasses what should be a magnificent matchup between LSU and Wisconsin. Also, the tailgating food in Houston—site of this neutral showdown—has been deemed a 47.5-point favorite over any other location. Fried, cajun magnificence.
LSU, even with uncertainty at quarterback and huge holes to fill at wide receiver, has been made a field-goal favorite against Wisconsin. The Badgers have holes of their own—including some glaring ones in the front seven on defense—although they, like the Tigers, should start the season in the top 15.
You could make the argument that either team should be favored here. LSU will certainly bring in more bets based off of name value and conference, although Wisconsin was the better team against the spread a season ago. Even though the Badgers failed to cover the final three games, they still finished 9-3-1 against the spread.
We’ll learn a lot about both teams out of the gate, that much is clear. And hopefully we’ll be there to experience one of the greatest tailgating buffets of all time.
Adam Kramer is the College Football National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand.