AP Photo/Gregory Bull
Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 | 2 a.m.
This year’s opening Thursday and Friday nights of college football are missing the marquee matchup often included in past years' slates.
That’s not going to stop gamblers. Sports bettors feel as if they’ve waited long enough for football, and will certainly be lined up at wagering windows for the next two nights.
It should go without saying, but here’s the annual warning that patience is essential. There will be a lot of college football to bet on over the next five months, and no reason to burn off big portions of a bankroll prematurely.
Talking Points is happy it heeded such advice last week. The blog, for the first time, is picking every widely lined college game between Football Bowl Subdivision opponents this year and labeling them with three confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses.
Both of last week’s picks were labeled guesses, and both lost. So Talking Points enters Week 1 with an 0-2 record.
Read below for picks on the Thursday and Friday games. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side. Picks are separated into conferences, with the home team taking precedence in non-conference games, and ranked in rough order of confidence. Picks for Saturday’s games will be posted on Friday.
Army plus-12 at Duke, over/under: 45.5. Army is in store to face some regression after exploding for 10 wins last year by going 5-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less — including a narrow 21-16 upset at Duke that the experienced Blue Devils haven’t forgotten. Lean: Duke minus-12.
New Mexico State plus-22 at Minnesota, over/under: 45. The Aggies set the bar high for worst season-debut performance last week, getting outgained by 315 yards and 3 yards per play in a 29-7 loss to Wyoming as 4.5-point underdogs. But it’s important not to overreact to one game — New Mexico State at least looked competitive coming into the year — and it’s tough to lay more than three touchdowns with Minnesota freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad, who didn’t even start in high school. Lean: New Mexico State plus-22.
Western Kentucky plus-37.5 at Wisconsin, over/under: 52.5. Wisconsin is stacked and easily the best team playing over the first two days, but this is a ransom of points to pay so early. The Badgers have only come into a game as this big of a favorite against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent once in the last five years — and that was in 2013 against UMass, who was new to the upper level. Guess: Western Kentucky plus-37.5
Northwestern pick'em at Purdue, over/under: 45.5. It’s a bummer that the first Power 5 conference game of the season features two of Talking Points’ bet-against teams. They also look fairly evenly matched, so this becomes a numbers play on the home team. Guess: Purdue pick'em.
Utah State plus-23.5 at Michigan State, over/under: 50.5. Utah State has gotten blown out against an early-season, highly ranked opponent for two straight years, and gone only 11-14 straight-up, 10-15 against the spread in non-conference play overall under coach Matt Wells. That’s surely not predictive, but there’s not much else to go off of here. Guess: Michigan State minus-23.5.
San Diego State plus-14.5 at Stanford, over/under: 49. The perception that Heisman favorite Stanford running back Bryce Love is unable to be slowed will be put to the test immediately, as San Diego State returns virtually everyone up front from a strong rush defense a year ago. The Aztecs have beaten three straight Pac-12 teams, including Stanford last year. Play: San Diego State plus-14.5.
Colorado State plus-8 vs. Colorado in Denver, over/under: 65.5. Colorado State eventually got going in a 43-34 loss to Hawaii on Saturday — it was just far too late. The Rams’ poor performance as 14-point favorites caused this spread to jump two points, including past the key number of 7, which feels like an overreach against a rival with an uninspiring season outlook. Lean: Colorado State plus-8.
American Athletic Conference
Central Florida minus-24 at Connecticut, over/under: 71.5. Don’t pay an over-inflated price on the Knights based on last year’s undefeated season. There’s no guarantee they’ll pick up right where they left off while breaking in different offensive and defensive schemes under a new coaching staff, making the three points added to this line since it opened a deal breaker. Lean: Connecticut plus-24.
Wake Forest minus-6 at Tulane, over/under: 55.5. Discipline is key to defend Tulane’s triple option, and Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson’s teams typically have a lot of it. Guess: Wake Forest minus-6.
Syracuse minus-6 at Western Michigan, over/under: 65.5. Syracuse has far and away the best player in the game, senior quarterback Eric Dungey, but any statistical-based system puts this game at closer to a coin-flip. Guess: Western Michigan plus-6.