Line Movement College Football Week 1 Early Movers:
By Scott Rickenbach
Coming at you from the summer desert heat of Las Vegas but looking forward to the upcoming football season. It is June 4th, 2018 and that means we are only a little over a month away from NFL Training Camps opening up followed by the Preseason NFL campaign kicking off in two months from now. Now that we are only a little over 2 and ½ months from the College Football Season kicking off, it is certainly not too early to talk about some early season line movement that happened within the past 2 weeks – some of which I found to be quite intriguing. This all took place when lines first popped up at South Point sports book here in Las Vegas two weeks ago and the moves began. Some highlights:
Aug 30th – New Mexico State @ Minnesota – The Gophers opened up at -15 and moved to -20 as a home favorite over New Mexico State. Current offshore line is in the 17 to 18 range. This tells us that the line is likely right where it should be now as the markets over-reacted to what might have been a bit of a low opener and the line has now settled back in right in the middle of the original variance after getting pushed a little too high.
Aug 30th – Wake Forest @ Tulane – Wake Forest opened up at -13 and dropped into single digits at -9 as a road favorite at Tulane. The line on the Demon Deacons is predominately an 8 now offshore but there is some 7.5 popping up. This begs the question of whether or not the original number was truly that far off? If this one drops to a 7 I would say the “buy sign” may be blinking bright for grabbing the undervalued Demon Deacons.
Aug 31st – Syracuse @ Western Michigan – The Orange opened up as just a 1-point choice but sky-rocketed up to a 6-point favorite as road chalk at Western Michigan. It has held in the 5.5 to 6-point range offshore. Can the Orange really be trusted to truly pound a team on the road? If this one gets up to 7 the Broncos might be an enticing home dog option here. Key word is “might” but the point is I would keep an eye on this one.
Sept 1st – Florida Atlantic @ Oklahoma – The Sooners opened up at a -17 and then reached the 3-TD mark quickly at -21 the same morning as home favorite over Florida Atlantic. Off shores also have this one at -21 right now but some shops opened it up offshore as high as a -24. In other words, we’re currently right between the 17 and 24 meaning this one could be another match-up where both sides of the variance have already been exploited and the middle ground proves to be “spot on”. The Owls covered often last season and I like to fade teams off a huge ATS season as a general rule but how will the Sooners do without Baker Mayfield? This one might be one just to sit back and watch – an important thing to do early in the season.
Sept 1st – Michigan @ Notre Dame – The Irish opened up as a 7-point favorite and got driven down to 1 as a home favorite versus Michigan. This was certainly one of the more intriguing early line moves and the intrigue is continuing to build as the Wolverines are now a 2-point choice offshore. I know the Fighting Irish only won 4 games in 2016 but last season (10 wins) was certainly more than just “a step” in the right direction. Also, Michigan dropped off to 8 wins in Jim Harbaugh’s 3rd season at the helm. That 3rd season is usually a strong one for college coaches so that is truly concerning. I am not finalizing my decision just yet but this match-up and line movement is one to watch closely as the season approaches.
Sept 1st – Louisville vs Alabama (@ Orlando, Florida) – Alabama, the notorious powerhouse, opened up as a 20-point favorite and then rose to a 25-point choice in this match-up with Louisville taking place in Orlando, Florida. What is particularly interesting here is that the offshores did have the Crimson Tide as high as 28.5 points during the day as the betting markets took a liking to Alabama in this spot. Of course, the Tide are often easy to like because they dominate annually but this is an awful big spread! Have the Cardinals really fallen that far? This line has stayed “settled” around 25.5 points and will be one to watch as game day approaches.
Sept 1st – Akron @ Nebraska – The Huskers opened up as an 18-point favorite (some offshores had them as low as a 17-point open) as a host to Akron and the line quickly jumped up to a -23. This is another one of those that likely has been exploited early on both sides of the variance as it now settled in at the 20.5 to 21-point range. This “middle ground” is likely where it should be.
Sept 3rd – Virginia Tech @ Florida State – The Seminoles opened up as a pick’em in this match-up but then quickly rose to a -4 in their home match-up with Virginia Tech for week one. Offshores had the Seminoles as high as -6.5 in this one before it settled back into the 5.5 range. The markets seem to think Willie Taggart will immediately enjoy success as he replaces Jimbo Fisher down at FSU but the Hokies are entering their 3rd season under coach Justin Fuente. Virginia Tech went 9-4 under Fuente last season and, as noted above, a 3rd season is oftentimes a top season for coaches in their tenure with a program. It is at this point that a head coach has often been able to “build the program” and “mold it” for a top performance. While it is true that the Seminoles underachieved (big time) last season, are they really ready to just come out and blow away a respectable program in Week 1? This is another one I will be watching closely in terms of movement and value.