Welcome back to Spread Bet Saturday! To kickoff the new season, I figured I’d include my predictions for the marquee bowl games, particularly the College Football Playoff, as well. Here we go!
Week One Edition
Last Season: 72-59-2 (.549)
#11 Michigan (-5) over #17 Florida
Got to like Michigan, right? Florida’s whole team is practically suspended, and they have a quarterback making his first career start against a formidable Wolverines defense.
Appalachian State (+14.5) over #15 Georgia
We know Appalachian State is dangerous. Everyone remembers their historic upset over Michigan and they nearly upset a ranked Tennessee squad in Knoxville last season. They also have a respectable offense that finished 25th in the nation in yards per play last season. Georgia was just 84th.
And one last note: while over 60% of bettors are backing the ranked Bulldogs, there was a heavy line move earlier this week in which the spread dropped from -14.5 to -12. Translation: there is at least one sharp out there who put a massive amount of money on Appalachian State. Take the points.
#16 Louisville (-24.5) over Purdue
I like Louisville to start fast out of the gate. Purdue is bad: they finished just 107th in scoring offense last season. They won’t be able to keep up with Lamar Jackson, who feasted on poor opponents a year ago.
BYU (+14.5) over #13 LSU
The Tigers won’t have too much trouble winning this game, but I think BYU can hang around. The Cougars had the 17th best run-defense in the country last season; that should give them a chance to slow down running back Derrius Guice.
#22 West Virginia (+4) over #21 Virginia Tech
I’m touching on this Sunday game between two ranked opponents because there was little else to choose from on the Saturday slate. West Virginia had a much better offense than Virginia Tech last season in terms of yards per play, so I’ll take the points.
Game of the Week
#1 Alabama (-7) over #3 Florida State
Alabama tends to show up in season-openers. They’ve won their previous five week one games against power-five opponents by a margin of 25.2 points per game. But the Seminoles might be a different animal. With nine starters returning from a unit that ranked 25th in opponent yards per play last season, Florida State projects to be one of the better defensive teams in the country. Plus, there’s a lot to like about quarterback Deondre Francois–he has the potential to be great. Maybe he can be productive against an Alabama defense that is in relative transition, considering they lost many players, like defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, to the NFL.
Ultimately, however, the Crimson Tide have enough talent on offense with quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Bo Scarbrough to exploit the FSU defense. And the pressure will be too much to bear on Francois. Alabama had the best run-defense in the nation last season (by a mile). Without Dalvin Cook, don’t expect the Seminoles to get much going on the ground in this week one affair. That will put too much pressure on Francois, who had multiple games last season when he completed under 50% of his passes.
Alabama will roll, but it will be close for a while.
New Year’s Six Bowl Predictions
Peach: Oklahoma State over Penn State
The Cowboys should be terrific offensively with the likes of quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington. They should handle a Penn State team that many are overrating a bit entering the new season.
Fiesta: Michigan over Stanford
The Wolverines lost a few key players, but I trust Jim Harbaugh to keep Michigan moving in the right direction. Stanford should make a resurgence in what I expect to be a relatively weak Pac-12.
Orange: Clemson over Notre Dame
The defending champs are very talented defensively. That should help them overcome the loss of Deshaun Watson. Meanwhile, Notre Dame should bounce back after a 4-8 campaign in which seven of their defeats came by just one possession.
Cotton: Oklahoma over LSU
Baker Mayfield and the Sooners will miss out on the CFB despite winning the Big 12, but they’ll at least end the year with a win over a very good LSU team.
*Rose: 1) USC over 4) Ohio State
The Trojans will take advantage of a manageable schedule and go undefeated behind a Heisman campaign from quarterback Sam Darnold. They’ll advance past the Buckeyes, who I like defensively but question offensively, in the first semifinal.
*Sugar: 2) Alabama over 3) Florida State
So I guess we should all tune in to this Saturday’s tilt: it’s likely to be a playoff preview. Alabama won’t be quite as dominant defensively this season, but thanks to three consecutive top-ranked recruiting class from 2015-17, Jalen Hurts and the Crimson Tide will once again win the SEC. Florida State, on the other hand, will get even better defensively and reclaim the ACC from Clemson. I’m still not overly sold on their quarterback, though, and I think Dalvin Cook will be a hard man to replace in the backfield.
National Championship: Alabama over USC
In the rare event when Alabama is put to the test, it almost always comes against a dual-threat quarterback (i.e. Deshaun Watson, Johnny Manziel). Sam Darnold doesn’t quite have those same capabilities, so I think ‘Bama can contain him and win enough matchups in other areas to beat USC.
And say Alabama doesn’t play USC in the national title: what other teams have quarterbacks capable of beating the Crimson Tide? Ohio State? No, J.T. Barrett is too erratic. Florida State? Maybe. Clemson? They no longer have Watson. Sure, maybe Baker Mayfield could give the Sooners a chance, but Oklahoma is weak in too many other areas.
‘Bama will win yet another national title.