College football Week 0 picks from Steve Makinen

August 24, 2023 02:32 PM

Steve Makinen is our main numbers guy here at VSiN and his weekly best bets are a “greatest hits” compilation of system matches, betting trends analysis, and his proprietary power ratings, which can only be found right here at Follow up with Steve’s weekly content, which is linked in the explanations for his picks.

College Football Odds | College Football Betting Splits | College Football Power Ratings

(odds as of August 24, 12:45 p.m. PT)

San Jose State at USC

When I was studying the DraftKings betting splits data for college football last season, one of the things that stood out is that you rarely wanted to be on the side of an 80%+ majority handle or bet volume. For this week, the public’s favorite betting team is USC, and why not - they have the returning Heisman Trophy winner, they are the favorites in the Pac 12 Conference, and they have 17 starters returning. Sounds like a pretty solid situation, right? 

On the surface, yes. Does that mean the Trojans are ready to lay 30+ points to a respectable Mountain West team that is off a 7-5 season and has its starting QB as well as eight other offensive starters back? When we last left USC, they were blowing a huge lead in the Cotton Bowl to Tulane. Not a huge surprise, considering they allowed 29.2 PPG last year. Why would anyone think they can run away from an offensively-capable Spartans’ squad. USC wins, but not by this big a margin, and I think anywhere of 28 or more is safe.

Play San Jose State (+30.5)

Hawaii at Vanderbilt

As I look at the Power 5 teams playing this weekend, the one playing the worst opponent by far is Vanderbilt. Hawaii was terrible last season and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of reason for optimism in 2023. The Warriors were 3-10 and scored fewer than 20 PPG. There is a good reason they are a 17.5-point underdog to Vandy, a team they lost by 53 points to a year ago.

The Commodores were one win away from a bowl game last year at 5-7, and bring back 15 starters for this fall, including QB AJ Swann, who had a respectable 10-2 TD-Int ratio last year. In their final three games last year, HC Clark Lea’s team pulled massive upsets of both Kentucky & Florida. There are truly some things to be excited about heading into this season, and this team has a good chance to get off to a very strong start based upon the first-half schedule. I don’t see Vanderbilt wasting that chance. The number has solidified at 17.5 but I’m good with it at least another point to point-and-a-half.

Play Vanderbilt (-17.5)

UTEP at Jacksonville State

One of the CFB Betting Concepts I published for Week 0/1 recently showed that non-conference games between Group of 5 opponents involving home underdogs have been explosive, particularly when not expected to be. In fact, since 2013, when totals on these games involving home dogs (or pick ‘ems) are 64 or less, the result has been 22 OVERs, 6 UNDERs (78.6%). This is technically a conference game, but UTEP and Jacksonville State have never played before, so I think the system still applies.

I feel like we have a potentially overlooked game in terms of offensive potential and the total sits at just 53. There is also a near 60% majority handle of bettors liking the UNDER. I like that combo. Both of these teams are bringing back more on the offensive side of the ball than on defense. The Miners have a senior QB in Gavin Hardison. The Gamecocks are coached by offensive mind Rich Rodriguez and scored 36.2 PPG last year, with nine starters back in that group. System matches returning personnel. I’ll go with it, and feel that it might not even be close to 53 at the end.

Play OVER 53 in UTEP-Jacksonville State

For more system matches and key trends, check out the Week 0 College Football Analytics Report.

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