The first weekend of college football was definitely worth the wait. The small slate provided bettors everything from a big moneyline underdog winner to blowouts, late-night sweats, and a Hawaii game soaring over the total. Hopefully, you started the season by adding a few units to your bankroll, and even if you didn't, there were still some takeaways to carry into the season.
A few games in Week 0 saw significant line movement, with two jumping by at least seven points from open to close. Vanderbilt soared to -9.5 favorites before hammering Hawaii by 53 points in an easy cover. However, New Mexico State bettors who were late to the party paid the price. After opening as +14.5 point underdogs, the Aggies closed +7 in an 11-point loss, showing how critical it is to get the best price possible.
Week 0 can be a valuable teacher. So as we gear up for a full schedule of games in Week 1, let's ensure we aren't waiting until gameday and ending up with the worst of the number. Clemson doesn't take on Georgia Tech until next Monday night, but here's why I recommend locking up a bet on the big favorite right now.
Clemson (-21.5) at Georgia Tech
I won't use Clemson's 10-3 record to minimize last year's concerning season because the Tigers fell very short of expectations. They were 5-8 ATS, and their struggles against this same Georgia Tech team were the first clear signs something was very wrong with the offense. So the best way for Dabo Swinney to show last season was an outlier is to get back to dominating teams like Georgia Tech. This game is the perfect opportunity to get returning QB D.J. Uiagalelei some confidence behind an offensive line returning 80% of its starters. The Yellow Jackets' secondary was the worst in the nation last season, allowing 9.8 yards per pass attempt (tied for last among FBS teams). Clemson getting out to a huge lead will also allow Swinney to get freshman Cade Klubnik valuable reps in case Uiagalelei struggles at some point in the season.
Don't expect Dabo Swinney to change his stripes
Swinney never needed incentives to bully lesser teams. The Tigers finished top three in margin of victory from 2018-20, beating teams by an average of 31.3, 30.4, and 23.3 points. Before last season, bettors wouldn't blink at banking on Dabo to run it up. If your position is that last year was more of an outlier, getting Clemson at the current number is valuable. It's fair to point out how Clemson struggled in last year's 14-8 win, but the Tigers obliterated Georgia Tech the previous two seasons by a combined score of 125-21. The massive talent gap is no secret, and it's more likely to show on the field with Swinney motivated to get the season off to a strong start.
The defense is where Clemson holds its most significant advantages. The Tigers return eight starters on a unit that finished third nationally, holding opponents to only 4.44 yards per play. The Tigers' entire defensive line is back and will manhandle Georgia Tech in the trenches. Georgia Tech lost four of five starters on its offensive line and is implementing a new offensive system. The Yellow Jackets also lost their only playmaker on offense, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, who's now a potential Heisman candidate at Alabama. Clemson is a brutal matchup for this offense, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Yellow Jackets don't see the end zone at all.
Take the Tigers, and don't look back
I expect Clemson to run it up big against one of the weakest teams in the conference. The Tigers' defense held five teams to 10 points or fewer last season, including Georgia Tech, and they have the talent to be even better this year. The total on the game is 48.5, implying a 35-13.5 score, but that gives too much credit to the Yellow Jackets' offense. Clemson averaged 36.4 points last year while winning its final five games of the regular season, so getting to 35 isn't a big ask against one of the worst defenses in the country. Georgia Tech's total under isn't a bad idea either, but I think there is more value in betting Clemson to win by a wide margin. I see this closer to a 38-3 game, so let's lock it up before it hits the next key number of 24.
Stats provided by cfbstats and teamrankings.com.