College Football: Game of the Year Betting Picks
It's hard to believe, but we are now less than a month away from the start of the 2019 college football season. On August 24th, all the action will kick off when Miami goes up against Florida at Camping World Stadium -- and that's just one of many big-time matchups on tap this year.
As we've become accustomed to in recent years, playoff contenders have scheduled fellow powerhouses with the hopes of securing a win that will catapult them into the final four come the end of the season. The same can be said for some in-conference clashes between familiar foes.
Which ones are most appealing not just for on-the-field intrigue but for early betting value? As you can see, the season is starting to sneak up on us, so let's cut to the chase and key in on five "game of the year" lines to bet on now (rather than later) over at FanDuel Sportsbook.
LSU -3 (+110)
If you live outside the state of Florida, this is the true premier early-season matchup. Both LSU and Texas are among the top 10 in the preseason rankings with the Tigers edging out the Longhorns by two spots.
The line is as tight as you would expect for two powerhouse programs, and not long ago the Tigers were favored by only 2.5 on the road against the Tom Herman-led Longhorns. But even with more movement in their favor they are still a good bet to win by more than a field goal.
LSU is third in predicted margin of victory (17.82), according to The Power Rank's Ed Feng, while Texas is all the way down at 42nd with a 5.01 mark. Plus, the 10-win 'Horns overachieved by quite a bit last year, earning just 8.3 second-order wins, per Football Outsiders. They are also expected to start eight new faces on defense compared to just three for LSU, who also happens to return eight on offense.
According to Killer Sports, the Tigers are 5-2 straight up and 4-3 against the spread as road favorites under coach Ed Orgeron. The 'Horns have only been home 'dogs twice under Herman, and though they've covered in both, LSU's experience edge should prove too much for the young 'Horns.
Syracuse +20 (-110)
Everyone and their brother will point to the Clemson/Texas A&M matchup in Week 2, but that one is pretty accurately priced. If you are in search of value over flash, wait a week and bet against -- yes, against -- the Tigers.
Syracuse isn't a team to sleep on in the ACC, boasting the third-best odds (+2000) to capture the conference crown and drawing an over/under of 7.5 wins with the over checking in as the favorite. They are only 56th in Bill Connelly's projected S&P+, but they bring back 13 total starters and sit 12th on The Power Rank's preseason rankings. That's only 11 spots back of Clemson, who has a predicted margin of 27.58 to 'Cuse's 10.72. If you do the simple math, the Orange are in line to cover even before factoring in venue and the fatigue that could emerge from the A&M game.
Somewhat shockingly, 'Cuse is 2-1 against the spread with one straight-up win at home in the last three matchups between the two. In each of the last two, they got 20-plus points and ended up covering by 19 and 25, respectively. Upset or no upset, this is their chance to improve those numbers and compete on their home turf.
Notre Dame +11.5 (-110)
If Clemson/Syracuse isn't enough to wet your whistle, don't worry -- the very next week we're blessed with Notre Dame/Georgia in a showdown down in Athens. If all goes as planned, it will be both clubs' first true test of the year as both set their eyes on a potential playoff bid.
The Bulldogs and Irish are 4th and 10th in the preseason rankings, but the numbers suggest an even narrower gap between the two. Notre Dame enters the year sixth in predicted margin of victory, a single spot behind UGA.
It might sound risky betting against a Bulldogs team returning both quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D'Andre Swift along with six defenders, not to mention a 16-3 home record under Kirby Smart. However, they're a not-so-great 9-10 against the spread and have dropped the only one in which they were favored by double digits.
On the other side, Ian Book, working behind what projects to be a top-10 line, looks the part and figures to have a big year. Can he overcome a strong Georgia defense? For what it's worth, Brian Kelly's Irish are 1-3 straight up but 3-1 against the spread as 'dogs of seven or more (2-1 when getting 11.5 or more) on the road.
Oregon +5.5 (-110)
The Oregon Ducks' offensive line might make Notre Dame's look merely average. Their entire line remains together, including three four-year starters in Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson and Calvin Throckmorton. Throckmorton is considered a top-five linemen in the country, while sophomore Penei Sewell was honorable mention for the very same list.
Quarterback Justin Herbert probably made the right decision in returning to school, especially behind this type of line. As he looks to improve his draft stock, his Ducks are third in odds to win the Pac 12 and have an expected win total of 8.5 (the over is favored).
Their conference odds are longer than those of Utah and Washington, but they boast a top-eight Heisman hopeful and position themselves 20th (8.10) in predicted margin of victory. Washington's 30th (6.61) and trails in recruiting impact despite an edge in S&P+ (15th) and defensive S&P+ (16th).
Last year, Oregon got the best of Washington in Autzen, but they lost two of five on the road (against the spread, too). In fact, recent Ducks teams haven't been a good road team no matter the line, yet they've found success in Seattle, where they've taken three of the last four with and without the points.
This Pac 12 tilt, like many games, will likely be decided by the quarterback play. Will Jacob Eason, the Georgia transfer, perform well in his new environment, or will Herbert make a case for himself as a Heisman contender? Side with Herbert and the points here.
Michigan -2.5 (-110)
Speaking of in-conference rivalries, it doesn't get any better than Ohio State versus Michigan. It's not even August, and Jim Harbaugh has already taken jabs at the departed Urban Meyer. The significance of it might be overblown with Meyer no longer in Columbus, but it speaks to the nature of this rivalry and what it means every year. This year should be no different as the Big Ten reps are first and second in conference title odds, the Buckeyes leading the way at +110.
The minuscule line is no surprise, at least at this juncture. We will undoubtedly see that move as the contest nears, based on the success -- or lack thereof -- of the two squads. But either way the Wolverines look like a slam dunk to win and cover at the Big House.
Michigan has more returning starters on offense and is one spot behind Ohio State in The Power Rank's predicted rankings. The gap is less than 1.5 there, and it's only two spots in projected S&P+. Building off last year's ninth-ranked defense, the Wolverines are projected 13th in that same category. Five-star safety Dax Hill is expected to make a major impact early on as he joins forces with Lavert Hill in what could be an elite Big Blue secondary.
Against Justin Fields or Gunnar Hoak (the starter's job is reportedly up in the air), good play on the back end could turn the tide for Harbaugh and Co.
In Ann Arbor, Harbaugh is 24-4 and 15-13 against the spread. His Wolverines have gone 3-1 when favored by 10 or fewer and 2-2 with the points against the Buckeyes since 2015. The Buckeyes have been favored in all but one matchup in that span, and they've won all four. By a field goal or two scores, this is the year Michigan gets on the board with a win.