8/29, 630pm ET: Friday Week 1 Thoughts
I wanted to just throw down some of my thoughts on the Friday games, including the ones that I have no interest in playing whatsoever, so that you can kind of see my thought processes, and decide on your course of action. Here we go.
Syracuse at Western Michigan (Cuse -6/65.5)
We begin, though, with a play I'm adding for Friday, that will appear on the app shortly. I'm playing this game over 65.5. There's a 65.5 at Bovada and a few other places still, although I'm not sure those are likely to last. The difference between 65.5 and 66 is not ultimately a deal-breaker here, but you always want to get the best number possible.
Anyway as for this game, some brief thoughts: I don't trust this Western Michigan coaching staff whatsoever, no matter how much prep time they get or what the circumstances are. By all accounts they would properly rated as "awful" in all aspects. It's quite likely the program is heading back to pre-Fleck levels, and this is the group that will usher that in over the next 2-3 years. That being said, they were MUCH better last season with Jon Wassink at quarterback, and when they were forced to switch to Reece Goddard, the impact of that change alone torpedoed all their metrics basically for the season. In reality, this team with Wassink put up 31 on USC, then 37, 49, and 55 before the Buffalo insane 7-OT game. There is a LOT of production coming back, but returning production doesn't capture it perfectly because Goddard isn't there anymore, and the runningback corps was deep but injured last season. I think this team can score a lot, and against Syracuse, doing so should be pretty easy. Syracuse was 99th in defensive S&P+ last year, kept their coordinator, and hasn't recruited very well on that side. Meanwhile Syracuse under Dino Babers is what you think they are -- uptempo to the absolute max, and Eric Dungey's been running the offense that way for a while now. When healthy, he's incredibly dynamic, and he's facing a poorly-coached WMU defense that's just 112th in returning defensive production.
Points will be plentiful here, and considering the high # of possessions we're likely to get, and ideal weather conditions, I think 65.5 is a little low. As for the game, I trust neither coaching staff to be at all competent with adjustments, but I trust Western Michigan even less. Pass.
Utah State at Michigan State (-23.5/50.5)
I spent a lot of time after seeing initial projections of trying to find some angles here, and every time I was sort-of thwarted. I try to have an internal monologue at all times, and will go so far as to talk to myself out loud about all the games, to try to really hammer out where I think edges are, and what my projections may be missing. Basically, I'm my own worst critic. That was on display with great aplomb when thinking about this game.
I would actually lean Utah State here, but the stupidity of fading the #1 team in returning production this season in Week 1 at their place is not lost on me. Utah State's leading tackler and arguably best defensive player also broke his hand in practice and is going to miss about a month. When a team is breaking in a new DC and their best player is out, that raises red flags to me. Michigan State's unlikely to really blow the doors off here, their offense just isn't good enough to do so, nor are they even generally interested in running it up in most of these spots. All in all, a well set spread and total that made me have 100 arguments with myself. Pass.
Army at Duke (-13.5/45)
I pretty much avoid service academies until late in the year in single-game markets, if I play them at all, because I have such a hard time figuring out what they're going to be. Duke returns an insane amount of production on both sides and Cutcliffe had all offseason to get them ready for the option, which they see against Georgia Tech most years anyway. No surprises, but also a very low possession-total here, numbers seem right enough to me. Pass.
Western Kentucky at Wisconsin (-36/51)
My least favorite team in FBS this year against a team I'm dying to fade in the right spot. What a gross combination. This number is starting to get into absurd, probably-need-to-consider WKU territory, because Wisconsin is sneaky missing a very high amount of production that they were supposed to have right now (both starting WR's, starting TE, 2 defensive lineman in the rotation). The problem is, WKU isn't even close to the team that's going to take advantage of those weaknesses. Maybe Drew Eckels is this magically awesome quarterback, but I think it's more likely the Hilltoppers put up a very minuscule number of points here. Wisconsin has mighty New Mexico at home on deck, so there's no look-ahead, and a much better-than-WKU Utah State team came into Madison Week 1 last year, and held their own for a half before completely getting their doors blown off in the 3rd quarter and losing 59-10. A similar but perhaps more depressing fate may await Western Kentucky here. Pass.
San Diego State at Stanford (-14/48.5)
I see the case for San Diego State here: in a low-possession game with 2 slow-tempo teams, where mistakes are maximized, the Aztecs come in fully healthy with a game-plan that frustrated Stanford immensely last season. The Cardinal are missing their starting center, starting corner, and several positive special teams contributors with injuries. That's generally enough to cover 14. My problem here is that I'm not sure this Aztec team is particularly good compared to past ones. Their returning production is middle-of-the-pack, and we just assume Juwan Washington becomes the next Rashaad Penny (who was the next Donnell Pumphrey). Power ratings among many have this number lower, but I give the Stanford coaching staff a lot of credit in general, and I have to believe there are adjustments to be made from the game plan last year that can create some more favorable situations. In reality, when people grabbed the 14.5's over the weekend, they were probably right, and now there aren't any more at offshores, and Bookmaker even has it 13.5. No biggy. Pass.
Colorado vs Colorado State (CU -7.5/65)
As I've said already, I'm on Colorado State +7.5 here. There are even +7.5 -105's at some places to be had. The Rams have to be all-in here after getting thoroughly embarrassed in all phases in a horrible spot against Hawaii. New coordinators, unhealthy coach, new skill position players at all positions...I mean, the recipe was there for drama if Hawaii could move the ball, and we found out Cole McDonald is not awful (and maybe found out why Dru Brown transferred? Who knows.) This was under a touchdown, and now it isn't, when really all that happened was an unsurprising lack of preparedness on Colorado State's part. There is still some concern about where Mike Bobo will be during this game -- up in the booth or on the field -- and as of yesterday that had not been determined. I think the best thing that could have happened to a team like CSU -- near-bottom in the country in all areas of returning production -- was just to GET REPS. The faster a rapport can be developed between all involved, the faster this team can get back to being at least an average Colorado State group. Meanwhile for Colorado in Game 1, they have a lot of the same issues. Montez is back, but that's about it -- 113th in returning offensive production, 111th in returning defensive production, and the defense was awful last year anyway. The talent gap between these teams isn't significant enough on a neutral field to create a spread more than a touchdown, in my opinion, even in a game where points may be less important because scoring may be off the charts. Slight overreaction to the Hawaii game, just taking what I think is a valuable number. Happy to fade Colorado here with what they're bringing back.