Even though there were a handful of college football games last weekend, the season gets further underway this week as a few teams from the ACC and Big 12 see action. The SEC doesn’t begin their season until September 26. For bettors, there are a few gems to consider examining for hidden opportunities.
With the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences postponing any football for the fall, the chances of a Group of Five team crashing the College Football Playoff increases, at least theoretically. But with fewer opportunities to defeat Power Five teams, it might end up being a wash. It will be important for any Group of Five team, not just the conference leaders, to pull an upset or two when given the limited opportunity to strengthen their case.
Georgia Tech (3-9) at Florida State (6-7) (FSU -12.5 ) (58.0 over/under)
It will be an interesting year, to say the least, to be a first-year head coach in college football. After the dismal failure of the Willie Taggert era at Florida State, former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell takes over the reins in Tallahassee.
Georgia Tech had a miserable season in Geoff Collins’ first year with the Rambling Wreck and will need to improve to be competitive. Without any non-conference games to fine-tune things, Novell and the Seminoles could have a tough start.
Clemson (14-1) at Wake Forest (8-5) (Clemson -33) (60.0 over/under)
Last season, on its way to the national championship game loss to LSU, Clemson drilled Wake Forest by a score of 52-3. That completed a six-game stretch for the Tigers where they scored 45 or more points.
The question will be, with some serious attrition to the NFL, can Clemson continue that kind of play into 2020? Wake Forest began last season playing excellent defense, but didn’t sustain it through to the end. A 33 point spread seems a bit high this early in the season.
Duke (5-7) at Notre Dame (11-2) (ND -20.0) (54.5 over/under)
This is a historic game, marking the first time in well over a century of football that the Fighting Irish will be playing a conference game. Among all of the changes made to the 2020 season due to Covid-19, one of the most significant is that Notre Dame will be competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
They are already members in all other sports, but they have remained independent in football. Duke is coming off an uncharacteristically poor season under David Cutcliffe and will pose an excellent challenge to the Irish. That 20 point spread could be a little high if Duke rebounds with a team more like past Cutcliffe squads.
Big 12 Games
Louisiana-Lafayette (11-3) at Iowa State (7-6) (ULL -11.5) (over/under 56.5)
Although Sun Belt member Louisiana-Lafayette isn’t the favorite in the conference, a statement win over a Big 12 team could help favorite Appalachian State make a case for inclusion in the playoffs.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will be a difficult test for the Cyclones, especially in an opening game of the 2020 campaign. That double-digit line looks like a juicy opportunity to take a chance on a team that the oddsmakers may be overlooking.
UTEP (1-11) at Texas (8-5) (Texas -43.0) (over/under 58.0)
In his fourth season at Texas, head coach Tom Herman needs to get to his second Big 12 championship game, or his seat will continue to get a little warmer. The patsy Miners will give the Longhorns the perfect opportunity to set up the rest of the season with an opening game blowout.
This will be the only non-conference chance for the Longhorns to work out the kinks before league play, and the pressure is on Herman, so I don’t expect him to take his foot off the gas, even if Texas has a sizeable lead late in the game.