Calling this an “Opening Line Report” is a bit misleading in Week 1 of the college football schedule. Many of these spreads have been taking action for some time now.
But, for the sake of argument and for those who haven’t looked at a NCAAF spread since the BCS title game, we break down a few of the “opening lines” for the kickoff to the college season and get the low down on the odds from Las Vegas linesmaker Peter Korner.
Week 1 is the toughest set of odds to cook up, according to Korner, due to the fact oddsmakers have very little to go on for the 2013 season. Spreads and totals are based more on last year’s success, returning starters and coaches’ game plans.
“We really have no idea,” Korner, founder of the Nevada-based odds service The Sports Club, tell Covers. “We put out our numbers, everyone else puts out theirs and we go from there. Week 1 and 2 are the toughest because we don’t have much to go on to gauge these teams.”
Rice Owls at Texas A&M Aggies (-27, N/A)
As of this writing, I imagine Johnny Manziel in a musty interrogation room with a searing light in his face, getting grilled by the NCAA fuzz. Oddsmakers - at least the ones hanging lines on this Week 1 opener - expect the Heisman winner to be on the field Saturday.
Korner sent out Texas A&M at -28 and most books followed suit with similar numbers. The Aggies are acting like Manziel will be taking snaps but if for some reason Autograph Gate turns “Johnny Football” into “Johnny Sideline”, Korner predicts this spread could swing as many as 10 points in the other direction.
“I expect him to be penalized in some way,” he says. “If he is out, I think he’s worth at least 10 points. He’s the team’s leading passer and rusher. That’s huge. It’s a big drop off and we’ve never really seen the guys in behind him. Texas A&M would still be a big favorite, though.”
USC Trojans at Hawaii Warriors (+21.5, 53.5)
Opening the season in Hawaii is more an extension of summer vacation than Week 1 of the schedule. The Trojans, for the first time in a long time, aren’t among the BCS favorites and some people may be selling Southern Cal short.
Korner sent out a suggested line of USC -23 for this Thursday night “Degenerate Special” (11 p.m. ET kickoff) and books trimmed that spread as low as -21.5. The Trojans will be without RB Silas Redd, who won’t make the trip due to a bum knee, but Korner thinks there is plenty of firepower on the USC depth chart.
“They should win big with their bench on the field,” Korner says of Southern Cal. “There will be plenty of scoring. We had the total much higher at 58.”
Southern Cal and Hawaii have played four times since 2003, topping the number in the first three meetings before staying under the 62-point total with a 49-10 USC win last season.
Georgia Bulldogs at Clemson Tigers (+2, 72)
This SEC-versus-ACC showdown is the crown jewel of the Saturday slate, pitting the No. 5 Bulldogs against the No. 8 Tigers.
Korner and his stable of oddsmakers submitted spreads of either Clemson -1 or Pick’em, eventually sending out the home side as a slight fave. The betting public is buying up the SEC representative, moving this spread to UGA -2.
“The spread isn’t going to matter in this game,” says Korner. “Whether it’s Clemson -1 or Georgia, I don’t think it will come into play. Whoever wins will cover. Georgia is the better team and would be a favorite on a neutral field but I’m not going to make them the favorite just because they’re from the SEC. 'SEC Bias', I don’t know what that means.”
Check out all the NCAAF Week 1 spreads and totals on our live odds page.