As it turns out, FanDuel was just getting warmed up with those first six lined games. By Tuesday night, it had released a plethora of Games of the Year numbers.
But before we get to those, FanDuel also added a line for the Monday night game of Week 1 on Sept. 6. Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss squad will take on Louisville as a seven-point favorite at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Kiffin probably has the SEC’s top returning quarterback in Matt Corral, who shredded SEC defenses last year for 3,337 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. However, he was intercepted 14 times, a number he has to bring down if the Rebels want to be in SEC West contention beyond October.
In Corral’s defense, he did throw 11 of those 14 picks in two games. Granted, those turnovers were the difference in a 53-48 loss at LSU and a 33-21 setback at Arkansas, but he had a 24/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the eight other games.
Corral is a dual-threat QB who also ran for 506 yards and four TDs with a 4.5 yards-per-carry average. He has a 37/18 career TD-INT ratio and seven career rushing scores.
Although Corral loses his two favorite targets in WR Elijah Moore, a second-round pick in the NFL Draft, and TE Kenny Yeboah, a duo that combined to snag 113 receptions for 1,717 yards and 14 TDs, he’ll still have plenty of options in Kiffin’s high-octane aerial attack.
Western Kentucky transfer WR Jahcour Pearson has landed in Oxford. Before opting out of last season after only two games for the Hilltoppers, he was one of the best wideouts in Conference USA in 2019.
Pearson, who will likely occupy the slot position where Moore thrived in 2020, had 76 receptions for 804 yards and seven TDs two years ago.
Kiffin added three WRs in his 2021 signing class, including four-star prospect Bralon Brown. The Rebels also signed a four-star TE in Hudson Wolfe.
Other holdovers from last year’s squad include WR Dontario Drummond, who had 25 catches for 417 yards and seven TDs. Jonathan Mingo had 27 receptions for 379 yards and three TDs last season, while Braylon Sanders had 14 grabs for 370 yards and four TDs.
Louisville is off a disappointing 4-7 campaign in the second season of Scott Satterfield’s tenure.
In Week 2, FanDuel has Texas as a four-point favorite at Arkansas. The Longhorns will be coming off a tough test at home for their opener against Louisiana. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished last year 10-1 with their only loss coming in a 30-27 setback vs. Coastal Carolina. They opened last season with a 31-14 win at 12th-ranked Iowa St.
Arkansas finished 3-7 last year, but it was robbed of a victory at Auburn due to a horrific officiating blunder. The Razorbacks suffered three of their seven defeats by seven combined points.
Texas A&M travels to Denver to face Colorado at Empower Field as a 13-point ‘chalk.’ Other Week 2 games include Iowa St. -4.5 vs. Iowa, Washington -2.5 at Michigan, Ohio St. -9 vs. Oregon, USC -14.5 vs. Stanford and Utah -6.5 at BYU.
After a stellar 2020 campaign, BYU is last in the FBS in returning production, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. On the flip side, after its appearance at the Big 12 Championship Game last year, the Cyclones are fourth in the country in returning production and retained head coach Matt Campbell for another year.
On that note, I should also mention how Louisiana kept Billy Napier on board after he spurned Auburn, denying the SEC school’s overtures before it hired Bryan Harsin away from Boise St.
In Week 3, Alabama will travel to The Swamp to face Florida as a 15-point road favorite. Although the Crimson Tide has won seven straight head-to-head meetings over the Gators, only one of those encounters has taken place in Gainesville. UF will be looking to avenge a 52-46 loss to the Crimson Tide at last year’s SEC Championship Game.
This will presumably be Alabama QB Bryce Young’s first career road start.
Also in Week 3, FanDuel has Oklahoma as an 18-point home favorite vs. Nebraska, while Oklahoma St. is a four-point road ‘chalk’ at Boise St. This is a return game for the Cowboys, who beat the Broncos 44-21 in Week 3 of the 2018 campaign in Stillwater. The Cornhuskers and Sooners will be colliding for the first time since 2010.
In Week 4, Florida is a 15.5-point home favorite vs. Tennessee. The Gators are 15-1 against the Volunteers since 2005, with UT’s lone win coming when Josh Dobbs rallied UT from a 21-0 deficit to win 38-28 in 2016. The Vols haven’t won at The Swamp since Casey Clausen led them to a 24-10 win over Ron Zook’s UF team.
Wisconsin and Notre Dame will collide at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sept. 25. FanDuel has the Badgers installed as 3.5-point favorites. Finally, UCLA is a seven-point favorite at Stanford in Week 4.
Moving to Week 5, LSU is a four-point home ‘chalk’ vs. Auburn. Ed Orgeron’s team will be in revenge mode after getting spanked by a 48-11 count on The Plains last year.
At this time last year, I was saying on radio shows across the country that I felt like Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati squad would be the nation’s premier Group of Five team in 2020. That proved to be correct.
Once again this upcoming year, the Bearcats are expected to be the country’s top Group of Five contender (with apologies to Napier’s Louisiana squad, which ranks No. 1 in returning production and has added eight total transfers, five of which are from Power Five programs). In fact, if UC goes undefeated with wins at Indiana and at Notre Dame, it could very well be in the mix for a College Football Playoff berth.
Cincinnati plays at Indiana in Week 3, and then the Bearcats have an open date with two weeks to prepare for their trip to South Bend. FanDuel has Notre Dame listed as a three-point home favorite (with an even-money price), while UC is +3 with a -122 price tag. NBC will have the Oct. 2 telecast at 2:30 p.m. ET.
As previously noted, Brian Kelly’s squad will be in The Windy City for a 60-minute dogfight against Wisconsin while the Bearcats are chilling on the couch watching the Badgers and Fighting Irish beat each other up.
Cincinnati finished 9-1 last season, suffering its lone defeat when it allowed a fourth-quarter lead to get away in the final seconds of a 24-21 Peach Bowl loss to Georgia. Seven of the Bearcats’ nine wins came by double-digit margins.
Fickell’s squad returns QB Desmond Ritter, who completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 2,296 yards with a 19/6 TD-INT ratio in 2020. Ritter also ran for 592 yards and 12 TDs, averaging 6.0 YPC.
Other Week 5 games at FanDuel include Wisconsin -9.5 vs. Michigan and TCU -1.5 vs. Texas.
In Week 6, Georgia is a 10.5-point ‘chalk’ at Auburn and Alabama is a 13-point road favorite at Texas A&M. Nick Saban still hasn’t ever lost to one of his former assistants, but Jimbo Fisher will be attempting to change that on Oct. 9.
Auburn has lost four consecutive games to UGA, including a 27-6 defeat in Athens last year.
Other Week 6 games include Boise St. -3.5 at BYU, USC -4.5 vs. Utah, Oklahoma -12.5 vs. Texas and Iowa -3 vs. Penn St.
The Friday night game in Week 7 will see Oregon host California as a 15.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Then on Oct. 15, LSU is a 1.5-point home favorite vs. Florida. The Gators will be trying to avoid a third straight loss to the Tigers, who won 37-34 at The Swamp last season and 42-28 in Baton Rouge in 2019.
Miami is a three-point underdog at North Carolina. The Tar Heels demolished the Hurricanes 62-26 in South Florida last season. Finally, Cincinnati is a 13-point home favorite vs. UCF and its new head coach Gus Malzahn.
In Week 8, Malzahn’s bunch will host Memphis as a 7.5-point home favorite. Also, Clemson is -17.5 at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame is -3 (+100) vs. USC (+3, -122), Michigan is -9.5 vs. Northwestern, Ohio St. is -11 at Indiana and Iowa St. is -10.5 vs. Oklahoma St.
The Hoosiers will be looking for revenge after dropping a 42-35 decision to the Buckeyes at The ‘Shoe last year. IU is No. 24 in the country in returning production, per ESPN’s Connelly.
IU QB Michael Penix is back after throwing for 1,645 yards with a 14/4 TD-INT ratio in six games last season. Penix also ran for a pair of TDs. He has a 25/8 career TD-INT ratio and four career rushing scores.
After losing 44-28 in Jacksonville last season, Georgia is listed as an eight-point favorite vs. Florida on Oct. 30. Other Week 9 games include Clemson -27 vs. FSU, Michigan -6.5 at Michigan St., Ohio St. -11.5 vs. Penn St. and Texas -7.5 at Baylor.
In Week 10, Alabama will host LSU as a 24-point home favorite. Texas A&M is -8.5 vs. Auburn, Clemson is -21.5 at Louisville, Notre Dame is -23 vs. Navy, Iowa St. is -9 vs. Texas and Oregon is -2.5 at Washington. The Cyclones will be seeking a third consecutive victory over the Longhorns.
FanDuel has spreads for the following Week 11 games: Florida -9.5 at Missouri, Oklahoma -21 at Baylor, Penn St. -7 vs. Michigan, UGA -21 at Tennessee and Miami -12.5 at FSU. For the Thursday night game on Nov. 11, North Carolina will be at Heinz Field for a cold-weather game at Pitt as a 4.5-point road favorite.
The Week 12 slate includes Wisconsin -13 vs. Nebraska, Oklahoma -8 vs. Iowa St., Texas -1 at West Virginia and USC -5.5 vs. UCLA.
FanDuel has lines for eight games on Rivalry Weekend. The Gators are 17-point home favorites vs. the Seminoles, who are 0-2 vs. Dan Mullen with 41-14 and 40-17 losses in Tallahassee and Gainesville, respectively.
Alabama is -18.5 at Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide has lost back-to-back games at Jordan-Hare Stadium and will be looking for its first win on The Plains since 2015.
The rest of the Week 13 games consist of Iowa -5.5 at Nebraska, Washington -13 vs. Washington St., Ohio St. -10 at Michigan, Oklahoma -12.5 at Oklahoma St., Oregon -17 vs. Oregon St. and Arizona St. -23.5 vs. Arizona.
The Buckeyes have won eight games in a row over the Wolverines, who haven’t tasted victory over their bitter rivals since a 40-34 home win in 2011. Ohio St. is 15-1 vs. Michigan since 2004.
Oregon had won 11 of its last 12 games against Oregon St. until the Ducks lost 41-38 in Corvallis last year. The Beavers are seventh in the country in returning production.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–I mentioned how Louisiana and Cincinnati will be two of the nation’s best Group of Five teams. However, I left out Liberty, which finished last year 10-1 straight up and 9-2 against the spread. Hugh Freeze’s Flames won 38-21 at Syracuse, 38-35 at Virginia Tech and handed Coastal Carolina its lone defeat by a 37-34 score in overtime at the Cure Bowl in Orlando. The Flames’ only loss was a 15-14 setback at North Carolina St. Liberty is sixth in the nation in returning production. QB Malik Willis completed 64.0 percent of his passes last year for 2,040 yards with a 20/4 TD-INT ratio. The transfer from Auburn also ran for 807 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 6.7 YPC.
–Liberty’s schedule includes another trip to the Carrier Dome to face Syracuse, which will host the Flames on Oct. 24 (Friday). Freeze’s team also plays at UAB (10/2) and at Ole Miss on Nov. 6. The scene at The Grove will be a wild one, especially if the former Rebels HC comes to town with an undefeated record. (Ole Miss plays at Auburn the week before, while Liberty hosts one of the worst teams in the country in UMass) Liberty has an open date after playing at Ole Miss before finishing the year with home games vs. Louisiana and Army.
–Louisiana’s only chances of making noise in non-conference play are the opener at Texas and the game at Libery. The Ragin’ Cajuns host Ohio and Nicholls for their other non-conference games, and they don’t have to face Coastal Carolina unless it’s in the Sun Belt Championship Game on Dec. 4.
–Speaking of the Chanticleers, they host Kansas in their lone game against a Power Five foe. Coastal Carolina does play at Buffalo in Week 3. QB Grayson McCall returns after a banner freshman campaign. McCall completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 2,488 yards with a 26/3 TD-INT ratio. The dual-threat signal caller also ran for 569 yards and seven TDs with a 5.1 YPC average.
–FanDuel has Willis with 150/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy.