FanDuel posts early spreads for college football

Alabama will be in revenge mode when it takes on Texas A&M on Oct. 8 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

FanDuel has released college football lines for Week Zero, Week 1 and a bunch of high-profile Games of the Year.

We’ll start with Nebraska vs. Northwestern on Aug. 27. These Big Ten rivals will collide at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. FanDuel has the Cornhuskers installed as 9.5-point favorites.

Scott Frost enters his fifth season as head coach still seeking to get his alma mater back to the postseason for the first time since 2016. He’s 2-2 in four head-to-head meetings against the Wildcats, who will be in a revenge spot after losing 56-7 in Lincoln last year.

On Thursday night in Week 1 (Sept. 1), Penn St. is a 2.5-point road favorite at Purdue and Pittsburgh is a six-point home ‘chalk’ vs. West Virginia.

The Boilermakers are 8-5 against the spread in 13 games as home underdogs during Jeff Brohm’s tenure that’s entering its sixth season in West Lafayette. They finished last year by defeating Tennessee 48-45 in a thrilling — albeit controversial — Music City Bowl in Nashville as 7.5-point underdogs.

Purdue went 9-4 straight up and 8-5 ATS last year, while Penn St. struggled to a 7-6 record both SU and ATS. Nevertheless, James Franklin inked a contract extension to remain at PSU despite rumors that he might land somewhere else.

Pitt is still waiting on a decision from Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison, the third-year sophomore wide receiver who recently entered the transfer portal while leaving open the option of returning to the Panthers. Pat Narduzzi’s squad won the ACC title last year (as 60/1 longshots), but it lost the only QB to go in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Southern Cal transfer Kedon Slovis is poised to replace Kenny Pickett under center for Pitt, which finished 11-3 SU and 10-4 ATS last year. In 27 career games across three seasons, Slovis has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 7,576 yards with a 58/24 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

On Friday night (Sept. 2), TCU will get the Sonny Dykes Era cranking in one of America’s premier college towns. The Horned Frogs are listed as 9.5-point road favorites against Colorado in Boulder.

Saturday’s slate is loaded with attractive matchups. In Billy Napier’s Swamp debut, Florida is listed as a 1.5-point home favorite vs. Utah. This will be the first time UF has hosted a Pac-12 opponent since Wilber Marshall nearly decapitated Sean Salisbury on a game-sealing sack in a 17-9 win over USC in 1982. (Marshall had four sacks that day, and I remember…because I was there!)

What should Gator fans expect out of Napier’s first team? Well, like I often say, teams that go from getting mediocre quarterback play to elite production out of that position can turn things around quickly. Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson had a 25/19 combined TD-INT ratio in 2021.

Jones has transferred to Arizona St., while Richardson is poised to become the full-time starter. The third-year sophomore has 60/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, and his name is in the Top 10 of just about every 2023 NFL mock draft.

Richardson looked great in second-half appearances vs. FAU and at USF last year, but a hamstring injury on a long TD run against the Bulls sidelined him for the next four weeks. He made an electric return in the second half of a 49-42 loss at LSU, guiding the Gators to four consecutive TD drives.

However, Richardson struggled with turnovers in the first half of a loss at Georgia after getting his first career starting nod. He left that game with an injury and didn’t play again until the regular-season finale. Richardson’s play was the catalyst in a home win over FSU, but then he missed the bowl game with yet another injury.

Utah will come to Gainesville as a preseason Top-10 team. The Utes return QB Cameron Rising, who had a 20/5 TD-INT ratio, 499 rushing yards, six rushing TDs and a 6.7 yards-per-carry average last season. Rising helped Kyle Whittingham’s 2021 team to its first Pac-12 title, a Rose Bowl appearance and the program’s second double-digit win total in the last three years.

Two other notable openers on Saturday are Ohio St. (-13.5) vs. Notre Dame and Georgia (-16.5) vs. Oregon (in Atlanta). The Buckeyes bring back QB CJ Stroud, who is the +200 ‘chalk’ to win the Heisman Trophy at FanDuel.

Ohio St. won a 48-45 thriller over Utah in last year’s Rose Bowl to finish the season with an 11-2 record. Stroud lost his two favorite WRs, who were both first-round selections in the NFL Draft.

Georgia is looking to repeat after winning its first national title in more than four decades. The Bulldogs lost 15 players who were selected in the NFL Draft, but they still have loads of talent and starting QB Stetson Bennett.

Oregon has a new head coach in former UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. Auburn’s former three-year starting QB Bo Nix has moved to the Northwest for a fresh start. In 34 career starts, Nix has connected on 59.4 percent of his throws for 7,251 passing yards and a 39/16 TD-INT ratio. He also brings a scrambling dynamic to the Ducks (see video below), as he’s produced 869 career rushing yards and 18 TDs.

The Brian Kelly Era at LSU will begin on Sunday night (Sept. 4) in The Big Easy, where the Tigers will take on a Florida St. program that’s limped to an 8-13 record in two seasons under Mike Norvell. (The Seminoles also forfeited a pair of home games vs. Clemson and Virginia just hours before kickoff in 2020.)

Myles Brennan is hoping to win the starting QB job after two injury-marred seasons. He’ll have stiff competition, however, from Arizona St. transfer Jayden Daniels.

Norvell inherited a mess from Willie Taggart, but the situation certainly hasn’t improved on his watch. Then on National Signing Day, FSU lost the nation’s top recruit, Travis Hunter, to Jackson St. Deion Sanders, the Jackson St. HC who is arguably the greatest football player to ever wear garnet and gold, pulled a recruiting coup and simultaneously gave his alma mater an open-handed pimpslap.

In the Week 1 finale on Monday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Clemson is listed as a 19.5-point favorite vs. Ga. Tech. The Tigers, who are -150 favorites to win the ACC and have 9/1 odds to win the College Football Playoff, have won seven in a row over the Yellow Jackets and have prevailed in 11 straight ACC openers. Ga. Tech has limped to an abysmal 3-9 record in each of Geoff Collins’s three seasons at the helm.

In Week 2, all eyes will be on Austin, TX., where Steve Sarkisian will take aim at his former team when Alabama comes to town. FanDuel has the Crimson Tide listed as a 15-point road favorite.

Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman winner who has +400 odds to become just the second player in college football history (Ohio St.’s Archie Griffin in 1974 and ’75) to win the award twice, won’t have his top two targets from last year (WRs Jameson Williams and John Metchie). This will likely be the first taste of the big stage (we aren’t counting a Week 1 home game vs. ULM) for QB Quinn Ewers, who skipped his senior year of high school at Dallas Southlake Carroll to collect NIL money at Ohio St. With Stroud entrenched as the starter for the Buckeyes, Ewers bolted Columbus in hopes of earning the starting gig at Texas.

Other intriguing Week 2 games include Iowa (-6, -105) vs. Iowa St. (+6, -115), Florida (-4, -105) vs. Kentucky (+4, -115), Tennessee (-4) at Pittsburgh, BYU (-2.5, -115) vs. Baylor (+2.5, -105), Wisconsin (-14.5) vs. Washington St. and USC (-11.5) at Stanford.

The Volunteers will be looking to avenge a 41-34 home loss to the Panthers last season. UT’s Hendon Hooker is back after enjoying a banner campaign. Hooker completed 68.0 percent of his passes for 2,945 yards with an incredible 31/3 TD-INT ratio. He also ran for 616 yards and five TDs.

There are seven lined games in Week 3. Nebraska had a golden opportunity to spring an upset in Norman last year, but its special-teams units were an unmitigated disaster in a 23-16 loss. The Cornhuskers will have a shot at redemption as 4.5-point home underdogs against the Sooners.

Brent Venables is finally a HC after a long and distinguished tenure as Dabo Swinney’s DC at Clemson. He takes over for Lincoln Riley, who bolted OU for the USC gig. Venables has added 11 players from the transfer portal, including new starting QB Dillon Gabriel.

Gabriel sustained a season-ending shoulder injury on the final play of UCF’s Week 3 loss at Louisville on Sept. 17. In 26 games for the Knights, Gabriel completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 8,037 yards with a stellar 70/14 TD-INT ratio. He also has 372 career rushing yards and eight TDs.

Auburn will be looking to avenge a 28-20 loss at Penn St. last season when it hosts the Nittany Lions. FanDuel has PSU as a one-point road ‘chalk.’

It’s certainly been an interesting offseason for Bryan Harsin ahead of the second year of his tenure. Without going into too many details, we’ll just call it “Auburn being Auburn” as a group of donors did their best to get Harsin fired.

Now that he’s weathered that thunderstorm, he needs to decide between TJ Finley and Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada to replace Nix as his starting signal caller.

Jimbo Fisher is another SEC coach who will have a QB decision to make in August. His choices are Hayes King or Max Johnson, who guided LSU to a game-winning drive in the final minute to beat the Aggies in the Tigers’ regular-season finale in Baton Rouge this past year. Johnson, along with his four-star younger brother who is an incoming freshman tight end, is now in College Station.

Texas A&M will host Miami in Week 3 as a nine-point home favorite. The Hurricanes sent Manny Diaz packing after a forgettable three-year tenure to bring back an alum and former assistant in Mario Cristobal, who has assembled an outstanding staff and convinced the university to make a real financial commitment to the program.

Cristobal inherits a promising young QB in Tyler VanDyke, a third-year sophomore who completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,931 yards with a 25/6 TD-INT ratio in 10 games last year. The Hurricanes have added 11 transfers, including 10 from other Power Five programs. The ‘Canes have a season win total of 8.5 (‘over’ -135, ‘under’ +115) and +700 odds to win the ACC.

Other Week 3 games include Ole Miss (-10) at Ga. Tech, Notre Dame (-17.5) vs. California, Michigan St. (-3) at Washington and Oregon (-6.5) vs. BYU.

We’d remiss if we didn’t point out Justin Wilcox’s success as an underdog during his tenure in Berkeley. The Golden Bears have compiled a 14-5 spread record in 19 games as road ‘dogs, and they’re 8-3 ATS as home puppies for a 22-8 ATS mark in 30 spots as ‘dogs.

Week 4 gets started in Blacksburg on Thursday night when Va. Tech hosts West Virginia as a 2.5-point home underdog. Neal Brown is entering a crucial fourth season in Morgantown, where he’s gone 17-18 overall and 11-15 in Big 12 action.

Brent Pry is replacing Justin Fuente as the new HC of the Hokies. Pry, who was a grad assistant at Va. Tech from 1995-97, is a first-time HC who had been on Penn St.’s staff since 2014.

On Sept. 24, key games include Ohio St. (-16) vs. Wisconsin, Texas A&M (-7.5, -105 price) vs. Arkansas (in Arlington, TX.) and Clemson (-10) at Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons are returning nine starters from their offense that averaged 41.0 points per game last season. QB Sam Hartman is back after throwing for 4,228 yards with a 39/14 TD-INT ratio in 14 games. He also had 363 rushing yards and 11 TDs in 2021.

Hartman is poised to break Riley Skinner’s program record for career passing yards in September. Skinner threw for 9,762 yards from 2006-09. Hartman has 9,266 career passing yards and a 72/29 TD-INT ratio. He also has 16 career rushing TDs.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–As I noted above, UF is a 1.5-point home favorite vs. Utah in Week 1. That number was originally the Gators -2.5 last week. William Hill has that contest listed as a pick ’em. Here are some other UF lines:

–Florida’s season win total at FanDuel is 7.5 flat (-110 either way). The Gators are in a terrible situation when they travel to Texas A&M on Nov. 5. Napier’s squad will be coming off the annual Georgia game in Jacksonville the previous week, while the Aggies will be playing at home for a second straight weekend after hosting Ole Miss. This is only the fourth UF-A&M meeting since the Aggies entered the SEC in 2012. Florida won the first by beating Johnny Manziel at Kyle Field, but A&M has won back-to-back nail-biters by five combined points in 2017 and 2020.

–I think there are two longshot Heisman sleepers that are worth a really small investment. I believe UF’s Richardson is worth a shot at 60/1 and Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec is 80/1 at FanDuel. Jurkovec does lose four starters from the offensive line, but he has one of the nation’s best targets in WR Zay Flowers. BC’s win total is 6.5 (‘under’ -120, ‘over’ +100). The Eagles’ non-conference slate consists of home games against Rutgers and Maine and road assignments at UConn and at Notre Dame. From the ACC Coastal, they draw a home game vs. Duke and a road game at Va. Tech. If there’s ever an ideal year to visit Blacksburg, this could be that season.

— Who will Pry turn to at QB for the Hokies? The leading candidate coming out of spring practice is Marshall transfer Grant Wells, who played 23 games for the Thundering Herd over the past two seasons. Wells has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 5,626 career yards, with a 34/22 TD-INT ratio. Wells threw only 16 TDs compared to 13 interceptions in 2021. He has 231 career rushing yards and nine TDs. Another possibility is South Carolina transfer Jason Brown, who played in seven games for the Gamecocks last year. He connected on 55.6 percent of his throws for 721 yards with an 8/6 TD-INT ratio.

–Some returning starters intel from Brad Powers:

–How about the job Todd Graham did in gutting that Hawaii roster with his nonsense!

–There’s also this gem from Powers:

–Alabama is a double-digit favorite in all six of its Games of the Year, including a 26-point home ‘chalk’ vs. Auburn in the Iron Bowl. William Hill has a number for a seventh ‘Bama game, listing the Crimson Tide at -32 for the opener vs. Utah St.

–The Egg Bowl spread is Ole Miss -7 vs. Mississippi St.

–Check back later this week as I break down more Games of the Year from FanDuel.

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