Jonathan Von Tobel analyzes the notable line moves for Week 2 of college football action.
The first full Saturday of the college football season started off with a bang when Colorado went into Fort Worth and grabbed an outright win as a 21-point underdog. There were a couple of other surprises along the way - Texas State beating Baylor as a 26-point underdog being the biggest upset of the night - but the vast majority of results were not shocking.
What was shocking was the amount of line moves which ended up being absolutely wrong. According to professional handicapper Brad Powers, games which moved three or more points off the opening Circa line were 20-24 against the opening line!
North Texas, Colorado State and Bowling Green were among some of the sides which saw the line move more than three points in their direction, but ended up not covering.
As we look toward Week 2 it's clear that those who shape the market were not deterred by the results of Saturday. On Sunday’s episode of College Lines Revealed the Circa openers were blitzed, and we saw plenty of line movement in the first hour when the numbers were hung on the board.
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Nebraska Cornhuskers at Colorado Buffaloes (-3, 58.5)
In the offseason Nebraska opened as an 8.5-point favorite in this contest, but after the Cornhuskers loss and Buffaloes’ victory that number was sure to be adjusted. The question was, by how much would the market adjust?
DraftKings was the first to market with a number on Saturday, and it opened the line at Colorado -1.5 before moving to -2.5 before the day ended. When Circa opened its numbers on Sunday morning they put up Colorado -5 which was quickly bet down to -2.5 which is the consensus number as of Sunday evening.
Two factors are at play here: Colorado is being upgraded by the market after a win at TCU, and Nebraska is being downgraded after an ugly loss to Minnesota. However, a 13.5-point adjustment - which is what the opening line of -5 was - is extreme, so it was not a shock to see the one who shape the market come in on Nebraska.
The other story here is the total. Nebraska and Colorado were on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to tempo this weekend. The Cornhuskers ran only 59 plays against Minnesota. Colorado ran 84 against TCU. That stark contrast in tempo would make this total intriguing, and the market came in hard on the opening number of 65.5 at Circa. The number would get to as low as 55 before bouncing back to the current total of 58.5 on the screen.
Iowa Hawkeyes (-4, 36.5) at Iowa State Cyclones
A quick glance at the boxscore for Iowa’s win over Utah State would make one believe that the same offensive issues are haunting the Hawkeyes. However, a deeper look would reveal an offense which was more successful than the final result would indicate.
Cade McNamara went 17-of-29 for 191 yards and averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt while Iowa averaged only 4.11 yards per play. But, McNamara was the victim of poor play from his receivers, and his adjusted completion percentage of 74.1% would be evidence to that theory. McNamara was aggressive as well, with an average depth of target of 9.9 yards downfield. Had he been able to connect on some of those dropped passes the offensive production would look much different for the Hawkeyes, and so would the perception of Iowa as a whole.
The bettors who sharpened the market on Sunday seemingly agreed with that sentiment. Circa opened this contest with Iowa as a 3-point favorite, but within 20 minutes the Hawkeyes were -4 and multiple other shops now have Iowa as 4.5-point favorites.
FanDuel was the first shop with the first to market with this contest, and its opening total of 39.5 ended up on the high side. Circa opened the total at 35.5, and it was initially bet down to 33.5 before buyback got it to 36.5 which is currently the consensus total on the board.
Texas Longhorns at Alabama Crimson Tide (-7.5, 56.5)
In the offseason Alabama opened as 7-point favorites at DraftKings for this meeting with Texas. Seeing as both teams opened the regular season as heavy favorites against Group of Five opponents there figured to be little adjustment to the line when it opened on Sunday, but bettors did see a small change.
Alabama -8 was the initial number hung by DraftKings when it reopened the number, and a few other shops hung 7.5 as their opener. DraftKings eventually adjusted to 7.5 and that is the consensus number with a few shops - such as Circa - sitting at a full touchdown without the hook.
So, why would a shop adjust a number despite no need to make a change to a team’s power rating? My theory is that we finally saw the results of Alabama’s quarterback competition when the Crimson Tide took the field on Saturday.
Jalen Milroe was great in his start against Middle Tennessee. He went 13-of-18 for 194 yards with three touchdown passes, and his athleticism was on display multiple times. If one was to make and adjustment on Alabama’s power rating it would be because of that, and even then the adjustment would be miniscule, such as a single point or a half-point, like we saw with the line on Sunday.
Texas A&M Aggies (-5.5, 49) at Miami Hurricanes
This was one of the most fascinating games to track during College Lines Revealed on Sunday. Caesars was one of the first shops to market for this contest, and it opened Texas A&M as 6-point favorites. When Circa joined the fray it opened the Aggies as only 3-point favorites. When the smoke cleared the market had met in the middle, and Texas A&M is a consensus 5-point favorite as of Sunday evening.
Oregon Ducks (-7, 66.5) at Texas Tech Red Raiders
There were quite a few who believed that Texas Tech could make a run similar to that of TCU last season, but a loss to Wyoming on Saturday as a 14-point favorite put a damper on those beliefs. The Red Raiders must now head back to Lubbock to host the Ducks who demolished Portland State at home by 74 points. Circa opened with Oregon laying seven points, but has since moved to a 6.5-point spread. There are a few shops which still sit at a full touchdown, should bettors reading this column believe Texas Tech deserves more respect.
UCLA Bruins (-13, 48.5) at San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State caught a break against Ohio last weekend when Kurtis Rourke went down early with an injury. However, the Aztecs’ flaws were on display on Saturday when it got by Idaho State despite laying 34.5 points. The market acted swiftly here, jumping on the -9 that opened at Circa and betting it until the number settled at -13 consensus. This would have made my card had the market not moved so quickly, as I am not a believer in Jalen Mayden and this anemic offense.
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Wisconsin Badgers (-4.5, 54.5) at Washington State Cougars
Do not be fooled by Washington State’s dominant performance against Colorado State on Saturday. The Rams’ secondary was atrocious. Seven starters on that defense dropped back into coverage at least 29 times, and only one of them posted a PFF coverage grade better than 67.1 - free safety Henry Blackburn. Starting corner Ayden Hector was abysmal in allowing 10 receptions on 10 targets for 126 yards, and fellow corner Dom Jones was almost as poor.
The betting market was burned as well in this game, as it was one of the many sides which saw lopsided action, but I would not come off the thought of playing against Washington State, especially with Wisconsin. The Badgers got off to a slow start against Buffalo, but their defense was tremendous in limiting the Bulls to 2-of-15 on third downs and 4.7 yards per pass attempt. Wisconsin will be a much stouter test for Cam Ward, who got away committing multiple turnover worthy plays against a lesser opponent. At 4.5 this is worth going along with the bettors who bumped the opening number from -3 to -5 at Circa.
UCF Knights (-2.5, 58) at Boise State Broncos
Boise State looked like every bit of the overvalued conference favorite I believed them to be. Taylen Green - who had a big issue with turnover worthy plays last season - consistently put the ball in danger against Washington, and Boise State was punished as a result. Dirk Koetter saved the Broncos’ bacon last season, but he is no longer there to call plays. It is likely Green continues to struggle with ball security, and that will put this offense behind consistently.
Those who shape the market seem to agree with the thought of playing against Boise State. The opening line for this contest was UCF -2 at Circa, and it was eventually bet up to -3 at that shop. There are still plenty of other books at 2.5 as of Sunday, and it is a number I already laid as I continue my quest to play against the Broncos consistently to start the season.