8/28, 3:20pm ET: Assorted Week 1 thoughts -- Thursday games
I will most likely not have many plays on the Thursday games. Part of that can be traced to my refusal to play any game with an FCS team, but part of it is also just that I don't see the angles that I am looking for. Here are some thoughts on the 4 FBS-FBS games.
UCF at UCONN (UCF -23/75)
How many of you are saying "oh man UCF is gonna win by a MILLION. There's gonna be SO MANY POINTS IN THIS GAME."
Well, for starters, you're right. UCONN not only ranked 126th in defensive S&P last year, but they're also near the bottom of the country in returning production on defense. They will get eviscerated by McKenzie Milton and there's really nothing they can do about it, other than play with tempo the other way (which they apparently want to do) and score too. My question is, the implied score of this game is 49-26 based on the spread and total. What part of that doesn't look right to you? It's actually really close to the projections I have, and what I see from others. UCF won at home 49-24 last year, and with Drew Lock, Heupel won in Storrs 52-12 last year. Maybe UCF just goes for the jugular throughout, but that doesn't make a lot of sense logically, and they're playing in the Heupel offense for the first time too, which is more likely to create struggles than consistent excellence. The tempo of this game could get you there, but the numbers already appropriately (to me) reflect the type of game you're going to see in Storrs. Pass.
New Mexico State at Minnesota (-20.5/46.5)
A 3-touchdown underdog in a game with a total of 46? WOOHOO! What a fun game this should be.
Look, I've talked about this already. This number is probably a little too high. We all watched New Mexico State get 0 first downs in the first half at home last week. And Minnesota's defense isn't as good as Wyoming's, that's for certain. But really it comes down to this: what adjustment to a rating do you give for a short week unorthodox travel spot? S&P had this rated at 10.5 if played without the weird spot, and the market was already 17.5 before the Wyoming disaster. Throw in that New Mexico State's defense (the way they can hang in this game) was on the field for almost 80 plays 3 days ago, and I'm just not sure I wanna get that contrarian here. I see the case that can be made, and I understand that true freshman walk-on QB's probably shouldn't be 20-point favorites, but for now, it's a pass.
Northwestern at Purdue (-1.5/51.5)
I am writing about this game as part of a group effort for the Action Network, and have already said I am betting the over at 51.5. The good news is, it's zig-zagging all over the place, and there are 51's now available. There were 50.5's Saturday night. There is currently no threat of inclement weather, so that won't affect the moves you see over the next couple days. I'll link to my full explanation when it's available (most likely Thursday morning). I have no opinion on the side, as it continues to vacillate in the 1's and 2's.
Wake Forest at Tulane (-6/55)
My advice here is to absolutely not be fooled by reports of extremely large sharp action on Tulane (which have already been sort-of dis-proven because Wake money hit the market this afternoon finally and we're back to 6 for now, and limits haven't even gone up yet).
There is one massive unknown that hangs over everything, which is Wake's QB play. True freshman Sam Hartman has been named the starter because the expected starter out of spring Kendall Hinton is suspended. Hartman's back-up is also questionable with a quad injury, so tough to know if Hartman was even the guy they wanted to roll with here anyway. There are other injury concerns for both sides here, with Wake's 2nd leading receiver most likely out, and Tulane's #1 and #4 returning receivers questionable with injury as well. Although that might lead you to think the under was a great idea, Wake's pace ratings via some metrics were off-the-charts last year, and Tulane's defense is one of the worst units in the country. There's not a lot to like about any of this, but I will be fascinated to watch. Again, Tulane may appear sharp because of Willie Fritz and a fun option-y offense and the new QB for Wake and the stuff you hear (and they're a home dog, which always riles people up), but I would just remind you that Tulane's defense ranked 108th in S&P last year, and ranks 123rd (almost dead last) in returning production on that side. They face a team in Wake that returns their entire offensive line and leading rusher. With the uncertainty at QB for Wake I can't really back them either as a favorite. So guess what? It's all good. Just pass.