You might have missed it, but the college football season has begun. It was great. The very first play of the season was a 75-yard touchdown run by Austin Peay’s C.J. Evans Jr. Central Arkansas would go on to win the game with the Bears covering -4.5 and the Under 46.5 cashing.
It wasn’t the prettiest college football game, but it was college football, and there’s more coming soon.
The first FBS games of the season will take place Thursday night, with more to follow on Saturday. While it won’t be the same kind of opening weekend we’re used to — no Power Five schools will play until Sept. 10 — it’s still college football, and if it’s college football, that means there are odds we can bet on.
So let’s all gather around the screen and take a gander at the opening lines for this week’s action, all courtesy of William Hill Sportsbook.
Thursday, Sept. 3
Southern Miss (-15) vs. South Alabama, Total 53.5: Southern Miss is coming off a 7-6 season and is more than a two-touchdown favorite against a South Alabama squad that hasn’t finished with a winning record in any season in its history. Granted, South Alabama didn’t become a Sun Belt member until 2012, and there was that 6-6 year in 2013, but the program has struggled to get a foothold with a 9-27 record the last three years. However, they’ve been much better ATS going 7-5 last year and 18-17-1 since 2017, including a mark of 14-13 as an underdog. Southern Miss was 6-7 ATS last year, but it was 5-3 as a favorite and has gone 13-10 when favored during the previous three years. A trend you might want to pay attention to is that the Under has gone 18-14-1 when Southern Miss is favored ever since Jay Hopson became coach in 2016.
Saturday, Sept. 5
Texas State (+20.5) vs. SMU, Total 66.5: Being a road favorite is a new phenomenon for SMU. When this game starts, it will only be the ninth time since SMU left C-USA for the AAC that it is favored on the road. The Mustangs won 10 games in a season for the first time since 1984 last year, and that stat alone tells you why its favored on the road here. Still, being a nearly three-touchdown road favorite in the opening week is kind of crazy, isn’t it? Granted, Texas State hasn’t won more than three games in a season since 2014, so it makes sense. Also, you should know that the Bobcats were only 3-8-1 ATS last year as well. They’re only 1-6 ATS as home underdogs under Jake Spavital.
Army (-5) vs. Middle Tennessee, Total 54.5: Army has been perfectly average against the spread in the Jeff Monken era. Since Monken took over in 2014, the Knights have gone 36-37-3 ATS. That changes when they’re favored, though. As favorites, they’re 17-22-2, and as home favorites, they’re 10-15-1. On the flip side, Middle Tennessee is 87-87-1 ATS under Brent Stockstill, and that record drops to 37-47 ATS as an underdog, and 24-33 as a road dog.
Memphis (-19) vs. Arkansas State, Total 71.5: Memphis won the AAC last season, but it begins 2020 without coach Mike Norvell, who left to take over at Florida State. The Tigers also have some key players to replace, including running back Kenneth Gainwell, who recently announced he was opting out of the 2020 season. That’s not keeping the Tigers from being heavy favorites here, however, and they probably should be. The Tigers have gone 30-11 the last three seasons while Arkansas State has gone 23-15. While it’s hard to know how things will look under new coach Ryan Silverfield, the Tigers were very good at home under Norvell. They’ve gone 17-11-1 ATS at home since 2016. Compare that to the Red Wolves, who are only 10-14 ATS as an underdog under Blake Anderson, and 11-18 ATS in nonconference games.
Monday, Sept. 7
Navy (-1) vs. BYU, Total 53: Two option offenses in one weekend? We all must’ve been good little college football fans this offseason! This is a difficult game to get a read on because Navy has to replace Malcolm Perry, who might have been the greatest QB in program history. Plus, does a truncated offseason hurt the option offense more or the team that has to prepare for it? I don’t know! What I do know is that I’ve always liked Unders in games involving option offenses, and the fact the Under is 15-7 when BYU has been an underdog under Kalani Sitake is interesting as well. Maybe that’s something to consider for your Labor Day degeneracy?