Has anybody recovered from Week 1 of the college football season? Saturday’s full frenzy delivered a whirlwind of upsets, polarizing quotes and storylines, and a whole bunch of firsts. It was our first glance at most teams, with several transfer quarterbacks leading them. It was our first significant sample of how the offseason rule changes would impact the game. And finally, it was our first chance to witness what Deion Sanders is building in Boulder, Colorado.
It was a lot to absorb. Particularly, the Colorado Buffaloes. By Tuesday, I usually have already taken inventory of the box scores, which helps keep my process grounded while I'm still working through the emotions of the previous week. Then I’m prepared to tackle the Week 2 odds on an even keel. After all, overreacting is a cardinal sin in sports betting.
This week is a little different. Every app I opened, Deion Sanders was staring back at me through his gold shades and cowboy hat. The Buffaloes broke into the Top 25. Shedeur Sanders is getting texts from Tom Brady after shredding TCU for 510 yards in his FBS debut. Sportsbooks are getting flooded with bets on the Buffaloes in every possible market from Pac-12 winner to even national champions. Shedeur Sanders' Heisman odds went from +12500 to +4000, while his star teammate, WR/DB Travis Hunter, moved from +15000 to +3500. These two joined USC QB Caleb Williams as BetMGM’s biggest liabilities for the award.
What is the golden rule of sports betting again? Ah, that’s right: Don’t overreact. But, in the case of Colorado, what even is an overreaction? We have literally been portaled into a new era of the sport. One where a team that carried a 3.5-game win-total projection can knock off last year’s national title runner-up in its first game and immediately captivate the entire nation. This is uncharted for us all, including the sharps, squares and sportsbooks.
Week 2 is always a challenge because of how difficult it is to decipher how much stock you should put into the opening results. It’s only one game, but it’s also 100% of the sample size for this year’s version of the team. Those versions change drastically year after year now due to player movement. Finding the proper balance is the key, but it’s also what keeps bettors like myself up at night.
As we turn the page this weekend, there are two specific games that grabbed my attention. They are both good examples of the mental obstacle course these potential overreactions can put you through. I bet each one differently, to show why every big reaction in the market isn’t necessarily an overreaction.
It’s not that I don’t believe, it’s more that I don’t believe this week. We went down this same road with Hawaii and paid the price. After spending all summer as 10-point underdogs to Stanford over the summer, the line moved hard in Hawaii’s direction once teams saw it hang close with Vanderbilt. It closed at +2.5 by kickoff, completing a 7.5-point swing. We were taught a hard lesson in overreacting when Stanford looked every bit of a 10-point favorite as it cruised to a 37-24 win.
What’s that have to do with Colorado? The Buffaloes were 9.5-point underdogs to Nebraska prior to their upset win over TCU. They have flipped to 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM, and I’m not convinced that the odds are finished climbing.
Trust me, I owe Deion Sanders an apology for not giving Colorado enough credit to start the season. I am thoroughly impressed with how the Buffaloes played smart and disciplined football against TCU. They still have the same concerns on defense that prevented many from buying into their instant success. Shedeur Sanders was able to engineer enough explosive plays to overcome the defense, but will that happen against a stingier Nebraska unit? TCU rushed for 262 yards (7.1 yards per rush) and ripped off five explosive runs against Colorado. Two end-zone interceptions prevented Sonny Dykes' offense from putting up 56 points on the Buffaloes. The Colorado defense deserves credit for making the plays, but teams will also learn from TCU’s approach moving forward.
Turnovers were the culprit behind another last-minute collapse for Nebraska. If Matt Rhule can clean that up, the Cornhuskers are live to pull the upset. Rhule won’t repeat TCU offensive coordinator Kendal Briles' mistake of veering away from a smash-mouth approach. The Huskers ran for 206 yards against Minnesota and outgained the Golden Gophers 5.27-3.64 on a per-play basis. Nebraska will look to bounce back from last week’s loss with a laser focus on protecting the football and winning time of possession. I’m betting it’s a successful formula. Monitor the line movement because it’s quite possible a better number becomes available later this week. The bet: Nebraska +3.5
Utah -7.5 at Baylor (-110)
No Cam Rising, no problem. The Utah Utes flexed their muscles in their home opener by beating down the Florida Gators, 24-11, with backup quarterback Bryson Barnes. While nothing has been confirmed, it’s looking more likely that Rising will be returning to face the Baylor Bears. That’s really bad news for a Baylor team coming off a nightmare loss to Texas State where it was a 27-point home favorite. The steady decline of Dave Aranda’s defense has carried into this season. That’s especially concerning because Baylor hired a new defensive coordinator to address the issue. If the Bears are getting blown off the ball by Texas State, the last team they want to see is Utah.
Baylor’s poor performance has caused Utah to move from 6- to 7.5-point favorites. It’s a significant move because it’s crossing the key number of 7, but I think it’s warranted. After watching Baylor get handled by Texas State, I’d say the market is going to have to catch up to Baylor’s floor while starting QB Blake Shapen is sidelined with an MCL injury. Utah should be able to push around Baylor in the trenches and control this game from start to finish. Considering Rising is a possibility to play, I don’t see this as an overreaction to support the Utes as a road favorite. The reality is I am not convinced Baylor has the players to keep this competitive. Utah is the better team upfront, and Barnes has proven he is perfectly capable of steering the ship if called upon. The bet: Utah -7.5
Stats provided by gameonpaper.com.