CFB: Intriguing bets from early lines on season’s marquee games

May 20, 2021
NCAA Football: Georgia Spring Game
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Georgia-Clemson, Notre Dame-Florida State are among the juiciest offerings from FanDuel’s early slate.

The release of early lines on the biggest games of the season represents one of those familiar rest stops along college football’s offseason journey. FanDuel has continued its marketing assault on the sports gambling sector this year by jumping ahead of the Golden Nugget to release early lines even sooner than usual on the calendar.

For entertainment purposes only, here are five intriguing plays from the smattering of FD offerings (in chronological order):

Georgia (+3) vs. Clemson – Sept. 4

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Labor Day weekend sets up some fantastic matchups this year, and this clash between the Bulldogs and Tigers tops them all.

I realize Clemson’s recruiting remains lights out, but I’m starting to wonder if the program is entering the downside of a stellar run. The reality is that Dabo Swinney’s team doesn’t have any true peers inside the ACC to keep the Tigers sharp. Meanwhile, although there’s no shame in losing in the College Football Playoff, Clemson’s last two postseason appearances ended in resounding defeats. Keep in mind, too, that opponents have compiled years upon years of intelligence on the schemes of coordinators Brent Venables and Tony Elliott now.

For its part, Georgia probably has the second-best collection of talent in the nation behind Alabama. Inserting JT Daniels at quarterback elevated its offense to another level in the second half of the 2020 season, and that should carry over this fall.

This seems to like Georgia’s time. I’ll take UGA outright.

Notre Dame at Florida State (+9) – Sept. 5

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Mike Norvell’s first season at the helm in Tallahassee wasn’t pretty. Signs of strife with holdovers from the previous coaching regimes emerged early on, and the chaos of the pandemic didn’t give the new staff a chance to set much of a tone. To top it all off, FSU had no stability at the quarterback position.

Against that backdrop, the Seminoles look to me like a top candidate to be one of the most improved teams in the country in 2021. Frankly, there’s not much place else to go but up, and the roster is far from barren.

The Fighting Irish quietly saw nine players from the 2020 squad selected in April’s NFL draft That group included QB Ian Book, who is being replaced this year by Wisconsin graduate transfer Jack Coan – not an inspiring trade. It could take a few games for Brian Kelly’s team to find its footing. Also, playing in the Florida heat in early September probably won’t sit well with the boys from South Bend.

(I’d also take the Noles +27 at Clemson, +11.5 vs. Miami and +17 at Florida.)

Washington (-2.5) at Michigan – Sept. 11

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington
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The Huskies of the much-maligned Pac-12 giving points in a trip to the Big House? This line is stank.

It already feels as though Jim Harbaugh missed his window with the Wolverines. Dropping this game would confirm many fears around Ann Arbor about the direction of the program.

However, this Washington team appears pretty salty. We only saw UW play four games last year, but the Huskies have a promising young QB in Dylan Morris and proven commodities all over both sides of the ball.

Miami, FL (+3) at North Carolina – Oct. 16

NCAA Football: Cheez-It Bowl-Oklahoma State vs Miami
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I actually touched on this matchup recently in a recent piece on conference odds. North Carolina may have the superior team here, although I don’t think that is a given. The situation still sets up very well for Miami.

As I noted previously:

That is UNC’s seventh straight game before its first open date of the season, and the Heels face six conference opponents in that stretch. Miami will be fresh after coming off an open date the week before.

In fact, the Hurricanes will have 16 days to prepare between a Thursday night game versus Virginia on Sept. 30 and the trip to Chapel Hill. That gives defensive maestro Manny Diaz plenty of time to cook up a game plan to put the clamps down on QB Sam Howell and the rest of the UNC offense.

Take the three and don’t look back.

Oklahoma State (+10.5) at Iowa State – Oct. 23

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State
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On the one hand, Iowa State will have revenge on the brain when the Cowboys visit Ames. The Cyclones have lost two straight to OSU, including a 24-21 squeaker last year.

On the other, taking double digits with Mike Gundy’s teams generally feels like a solid proposition. (Against teams not named Oklahoma, of course.)

OSU has a revenge game of its own the week before at Texas, so ISU could catch the Pokes in a flat spot in their second straight road game. All things being equal, though, this is a game that OSU can keep within 10.