Week 1 of college football is a weird beast, as it actually stretches over two weekends, from August 25 to September 3. But it’s football, and you can bet on it, so how can one possibly complain? Covers checks in on the NCAA football betting action and line movement for a handful of college football odds, with insights from a trio of Las Vegas-based oddsmakers: John Murray, director at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook; Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US; and Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at the South Point.
Miami Hurricanes vs. Louisiana State Tigers – Open: +2.5; Move: +3
This ACC-SEC clash is one of the last in Week 1, with a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff on Sept. 2. However, it’s already a concerning contest for the Superbook, even though the line has only advanced a half-point toward favored Miami in a neutral-site game, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Hurricanes won their first 10 games of the 2017-18 season and were firmly in the College Football Playoff hunt. But a big upset loss at Pittsburgh, followed by a 38-3 home beatdown at the hands of Clemson, relegated Miami to the Orange Bowl, where it lost to Wisconsin 34-24 as a 6.5-point favorite to finish 10-3 SU and 5-8 ATS.
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LSU won six of its final seven regular-season games last year, cashing six times as well, to land a spot in the Citrus Bowl against Notre Dame. The Tigers then lost 21-17 as a 2-point chalk to finish 9-4 SU, 7-5-1 ATS.
“It’s an isolated game on a Sunday night. I think there’s a good chance that’ll be the most heavily bet game that weekend,” Murray said. “Miami opened -2.5, now it’s -3. We’ve already taken some big bets on the Hurricanes. I know there will be an accumulation of public bets on Miami. The public loves short favorites, and Miami is coming off a successful season. They got off to a great start last year.
“We’re gonna need LSU, but unfortunately, we don’t think much of LSU this year.”
Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Open: -6; Move: -4; Move: -3; Move: -2; Move: Pick; Move: -1; Move: Pick; Move: +1; Move: +2
The South Point opened this annual rivalry game earlier than most, as part of its big Week 1 release on May 21. The Michigan money immediately rolled in, taking the Wolverines from 6-point road underdogs to a pick ‘em in about 30 minutes. Michigan went to -2 earlier this month, so the number has moved a massive 8 points for this Sept. 1 matchup.
Jim Harbaugh’s squad is coming off an 8-5 SU/5-7-1 ATS campaign, including SU losses in its last three games: at Wisconsin, home against Ohio State and in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina. In that matchup, the Wolverines were 9-point favorites and tumbled 26-19.
Notre Dame was in the College Football Playoff hunt until losing two of its last three regular-season games. The Fighting Irish pulled it back together in the Citrus Bowl, beating LSU 21-17 as a 2-point ‘dog to finish 10-3 SU/8-5 ATS.
“I had Notre Dame rated higher than (most), and I had Michigan rated lower than most,” Andrews said of how he arrived at the initial line of Notre Dame -6. “I was surprised it moved that much. Anytime I make a number, naturally I think it’s pretty good. I know the lines are not perfect, but that moved way more than I expected. We’ll see. They still have to play the game.”
William Hill US posted the game a pick ‘em on May 30 and has since moved toward the Maize and Blue.
“Michigan-Notre Dame is the game with the most money on it,” Bogdanovich said. “We’re up to Michigan -2, and the biggest dollars we have are on Michigan.”
Louisville Cardinals vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – Open: -26; Move: -25.5; Move: 24.5
Alabama is coming off yet another national championship season, despite not reaching the SEC title game after losing to Auburn in the regular-season finale. The Crimson Tide capped a 13-1 SU year (6-8 ATS) with a 26-23 victory over SEC rival Georgia laying 3.5 points in the CFP championship game.
Louisville lost star quarterback Lamar Jackson to the NFL, so the Cardinals have a big gap to fill at that position, contributing to the massive pointspread in this game. The Cards went 8-5 SU last year (5-8 ATS), including a 31-27 loss to Mississippi State as a 7-point chalk in the Taxslayer Bowl.
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“A lot of money came in on Louisville. They took 26, took 25.5, and we went down to 24.5,” Murray said of action for this 8 p.m. ET meeting on Sept. 1 in Orlando. “My guess is we’ll see a lot of Alabama money coming in that week, because Alabama is a very public side. A lot of parlays on that Saturday are gonna close with Alabama. We need Alabama now, but by the time that game actually starts, I think we’re gonna need Louisville.”
A few more games of note:
• Akron at Nebraska – Scott Frost led Central Florida to a perfect 13-0 record last season, and the former Cornhuskers QB then took the reins at his alma mater. The Huskers opened hefty 21-point faves for this Sept. 1 matchup and are up to 22.5 at William Hill US. “So there’s a few bucks on Nebraska. We’ll see if Scott Frost is the real deal or not,” Bogdanovich said.
• Army at Duke – In an Aug. 31 contest, the Blue Devils are up to a nearly two-touchdown favorite at the Superbook. “We’ve seen a lot of money on Duke. A lot at -11, -12, and now we’re up to 13,” Murray said.
• Houston at Rice – “Houston was one of our biggest moves, from -23 to -25,” Bogdanovich said of the Sept. 1 game. “We gook a few dollars on the Cougars.”
• Southern Methodist at North Texas – The Mean Green are on the move at the Superbook, with bettors liking the home favorite in another Sept. 1 tilt. “A lot of money at -2.5 and -3, so we pushed it up to -4 on North Texas,” Murray said.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.