By Bruce Marshall  () 

As the opening games of the 2019 College Football season come into closer focus, it’s time to examine the top fve questions/issues on the minds of bettors.

1. There are an inordinate number of double-digit spread games in the opening week. Should bettors shy away from those games?

In a word, no. Value can still be found in big-spread games. The following Aug. 29-Sept. 2 games merit attention.

• Tulsa at Michigan State (-22½): The Spartans are only 6-11 laying double-digit prices the past four years and they also failed to cover their past seven laying 20 points or more.

• Toledo at Kentucky (-12): It has been dangerous to back the Wildcats laying any points at home, where they have dropped 10 straight as chalk, whatever the price.

• Duke vs. Alabama (-34) in Atlanta: The Tide covered in 10 of the past 11 openers for Nick Saban but Duke is 25-12-1 against the spread (ATS) as an underdog for coach David Cutcliffe since 2014.

• Georgia Southern at LSU (-28): Note that LSU has dropped its past six ATS at Baton Rouge versus non-SEC foes.

• Louisiana Tech at Texas (-21): The Bulldogs are 16-6-1 ATS as underdogs for coach Skip Holtz since 2014.

• Fresno State at Southern California (-13½): The Bulldogs are 12-1-2 ATS away from home since coach Jeff Tedford arrived in 2017. Meanwhile, USC is just 3-10 ATS in its past 13 outside of the Pac-12.

2. Which coaches are on the hottest seats entering 2019? How might that relate to point-spread performance?

Clay Helton, USC

The good news for the beleaguered Helton? He was not touched in the recent Lori Laughlin scandal at the school. The bad news? No mulligan from the demanding fan and alumni base that was beating the war drums loudly last fall as the Trojans sunk to .&0 and their frst losing season since Iaul Aackett recorded the same mark in 2000.

Chris Ash, Rutgers

Rutgers isn’t Ohio Ltate% from where :sh arrived in 2016, but even the Scarlet Knights have standards. And regressing to 1-11 in 2018 after making mild progress in 2017 (to 4-8) is not the sort of trajectory that keeps a coach employed for very long. Ash has one more season to forge a turnaround in New Brunswick.

Willie Taggart, Florida State

It would have cost in the neighborhood of $21 million to buy out Taggart after his massivelydisappointing debut season% which ended ?LN’s nation’s&longest bowl streak that began in *21 . But there were plenty of boosters who wanted to see the buyout triggered after the Seminoles regressed to the middle of the ACC pack.

Randy Edsall, Connecticut

Safe to say this back-to-the-future scenario has not worked as envisioned with UConn, as “Edsall 2.0” has not fared too well for the Huskies. One of the worst defenses in memory would sabotage a 2018 campaign that would have been winless if not for a 56-49 win over FCS Rhode Island. And now UConn football is in limbo with the basketball move to the Big East next year.

Others on the Hot Seat

Kalani Sitake, BYU; Lovie Smith, Illinois; Mike Bobo, Colorado State; Bob Davie, New Mexico; Tony Sanchez, UNLV. 

3. Which new coaches might make the greatest impact versus the spread?

Scott Satterfeld, Louisville

The Cards could hardly be worse than their 1-11 spread mark last fall. Figure that to improve, maybe signifcantly% for new coach Latterfeld% who turned Appalachian State into a consistent winner, standing 13-3-1 in his past 17 on the board for the Mounties. Pe’ll fnd out soon if Latterfeld has made an impact% as Louisville will be a near three-touchdown underdog in its Labor Day night opener against Notre Dame.

Matt Wells, Texas Tech

The Red Raiders usually ended up around .500 for Kliff Kingsbury. That would be a downgrade for new coach Wells, who went 9-3-1 ATS last season at Utah State.

Jake Spavital, Texas State

The Bobcats almost disappeared from radar while on the watch of Everett Withers. Enter Spavital, a young offensive wiz and devotee of the spread, which could put a lot more bite into the Bobcats’ offense. MLN is getting nearly fve touchdowns in its opener at Texas A&M.

4. Which teams are potentially underrated entering the season?

Air Force

Troy Calhoun has surprised before, might have an overdue playmaker at quarterback !=onald Hammond III) and the Force has more returning starters than usual (seven) on a defense that ranked as one of the nation’s leaders versus the rush a year ago.


While many wonder how the Blue Devils fare after QB =aniel Cones was taken in the frst round of the G?E Draft, remember that successor Quentin Harris is a ffth&year senior marinated in the <utcliffe offense and who has fared well in past opportunities (including a 2-0 record last season". <utcliffe’s teams are rarely caught short at QB and continue to excel as an underdog.


Florida International, Hawaii, Houston, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas State, UAB, Wake Forest, Wyoming.

5. Which teams are potentially overrated entering the season?

Clemson and Alabama

This is relative and in regard to the point spreads only, but both the Tigers and Crimson Tide have been so-so as heavy chalk in recent years and will be forced to lay some balloon-like numbers this fall.


While the hype for QB Justin Herbert might be custifed% remember the =ucks were only .&- in a watered-down Pac-12 last season and were helped by a marshmallow-soft non-conference slate with all games played at friendly Autzen Stadium.

Penn State

The post-spring transfer of QB Tommy Stevens to Mississippi State was a blow for coach James Franklin, who was already proceeding minus veteran star Trace McSorley.


Arizona, Auburn, Florida State, Michigan, Nebraska, TCU, South Florida, USC Virginia Tech.

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