Kramer: A bettor's guide to college football Week 1

By Adam Kramer  (VSiN.com) 

September 2, 2022 08:32 AM
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Nick Saban has a new contract. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

In what has become a yearly ritual, Alabama’s board of trustees approved a new deal for Saban that runs through February 2030. Over the course of that deal, he will make an average of $11.7 million per year. (Well, at least until this deal is torn up and a new one is put in place 18 months from now.)

Earlier this offseason, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart signed a contract that would pay him an average of $11.2 million per season. Saban, who is now 70 years old, is once again the highest paid coach in the sport. And he’s still an absolute bargain.

I have written this column, or something like it, over the years. Those words came long before the coaching market flipped on its axis. Saban was a steal at $4 million, $7 million, $10 million and certainly now.

At Alabama, Saban has a record of 178-25 and an astonishing 103-16 mark in the SEC during his time in Tuscaloosa. Since his debut season in 2007, the Crimson Tide have won 12-or-more games in 11 of 14 years, which is remarkable.

Saban’s teams have appeared in the national championship in nine of his 15 seasons, winning six titles. This stat, more than any other, is hard to wrap your head around.

This year, it’s possible Saban adds to this number. Alabama is the favorite to win the College Football Playoff at + 175. His team is also -145 to win the SEC.

He’s produced Heisman winners, and enough trophies to fill up the constantly evolving football complex. But all the accolades seem to pale in comparison to the impact he’s had on the school.

Enrollment rates and other non-football metrics are what really highlight Saban’s value. He isn’t just the greatest college football coach to ever pace a sideline or yell red-faced at an official: He’s one of the best business decisions in the history of collegiate athletics.

Alabama will open the season against Utah State on Saturday. The Aggies were a quality team and story in 2021, winning 11 games. Saban’s team is a massive 39.5-point favorite.

The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations

1. I loved Nebraska heading into this season. I talked about it here and everywhere. Scott Frost losing as a double-digit favorite to Northwestern, however, is a seismic blow to his job security and the direction of that program. There’s no other way to shake it; that was a Week 0 disaster (again). My bad.

2. Let’s give it up for UConn, and I am not saying this ironically. The Huskies easily covered against Utah State in Week 0 as nearly a four-touchdown ‘dog, looking somewhat competent under Jim Mora Jr. There is still plenty of work to do, but the quality of play was noticeably better. I’m genuinely interested to see how things progress from here.

3. Kedon Slovis (70-1 to win the Heisman), has officially been named the starting QB at Pittsburgh. This isn’t shocking, of course, but it is significant. Slovis has delivered some moments over the last three years, including a 30-touchdown season in 2019. There have been glimpses, although I am curious to see what we get from him at Pitt. Amid the transfer madness, it feels like he was disregarded along the way.

4. Jim Harbaugh announced that Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy will each start a game before he makes a decision on the permanent starter. Normally, these types of QB battles spell trouble. But in this instance, given the different styles and promise for both, I understand why he would try it. McCarthy is 90-1 to win the Heisman; McNamara is 150-1. It does feel like this decision hurts the Heisman potential of each, though.

5. In other QB news, Haynes King has reportedly been named the starting QB at Texas A&M to begin the year. This competition could have gone a variety of ways, although beating out both Max Johnson and true freshman Conner Weigman is noteworthy. King was the starter to begin last year before he was injured in Week 2. There is a ton to like here with his game, and I am curious to see how it translates. He’s now 55-1 to win the Heisman, which isn’t bad value for the starting QB on a team that will start the year in the top five.

6. It's going to be a LONG year for Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were absolutely clobbered by Vanderbilt at home as a 8.5-point underdog, and it's probably not going to get much better. Amid so much change and turnover, the late-night chase games will probably be rough watches for a while.

The Buffet: The Five Best Games of the Weekend

1. No. 2 Ohio State (-17, 58.5) vs. No. 5 Notre Dame

It’s a big number, and it’s gotten larger in the last seven days. Yes, the most exciting game of Week 1 has a spread north of two touchdowns. If you have read the previews on this very website up until now, you know how I feel about the Buckeyes. And the more I hear about the defense, specifically the defensive line, the more excited I get. For Notre Dame, I’m curious to see what we get with the offense. Sophomore Tyler Buchner, a former four-star recruit, has talent. Still, this will be a challenging environment to thrive in early on. While the Notre Dame offense will have its work cut out, the defense must find a way to slow down Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud. Godspeed.

2. No. 3 Georgia (-17, 52) vs. No. 11 Oregon

This is the proper time to play Georgia. Really, it is. And Oregon, at least on paper, is the right kind of team to make this game weird. Defensively, the Ducks should have one of the top 10 units in America. The issue, however, is scoring points, and Georgia, despite losing 15 players to the draft, has some incredible depth on that side. Still, I’m curious what we get from Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett. He won a national championship, although he struggled during a large part of that game. Does Oregon have the pieces to frustrate the QB once again? And can the Ducks find enough on offense to keep up? Not going to lie, the under is looking juicy. Oh, and Bo Nix is a great deal of fun to watch. I am curious to see what we get from the former Auburn QB.

3. No. 19 Arkansas (-6, 52) vs. No. 23 Cincinnati

I have had this game circled for over a year now. Yes, I wish Cincinnati still had many of the pieces it had last season. The losses of CB Sauce Gardner, WR Alec Pierce, QB Desmond Ridder, RB Jerome Ford and others are massive. In fact, it’s hard to overstate just how different this team will look. Arkansas, meanwhile, must find production on offense now that WR Treylon Burks is in the NFL. QB K.J. Jefferson returns, and I am excited to see what he could become. Arkansas also had success at home last year, covering the spread in six of nine games. The Bearcats will deliver a game effort, as usual. It just might not be enough.

4. No. 7 Utah (-2.5, 51) at Florida

It’s not the biggest game of the weekend, although it certainly feels like the most intriguing. Utah will make the long, warm trek to Gainesville, which is plenty fascinating. And although the Utes have garnered plenty of playoff buzz since nearly upending Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, the line is only 2.5. (It finally moved after sitting at -2 for months.) Florida, at this point in the rebuild, is a difficult team to figure out. New head coach Billy Napier has done an excellent job recruiting, although the Gators have some pop potential with Anthony Richardson at QB. I have struggled to establish an opinion on this game all offseason, although I think I ended up here. QB Cam Rising and RB Tavion Thomas are exceptional players. Florida might just have its hands full, even at home.

5. LSU (-3, 51.5) vs. Florida State

On the topic of perplexing football teams, here we have a perplexing football game. After a dreadful start last year, Florida State put it together. (At least somewhat.) The Seminoles closed out the year 5-3, but even the losses were far more competitive. They also opened Week 0 with a dominating win over Duquesne. Well, yeah. LSU fired its coach, hired Brian Kelly and went into the transfer portal to find its new starting QB. That QB, Jayden Daniels, is an interesting player. As a true freshman at ASU, he looked like he was going to become one of the faces of the sport. He hasn’t been bad, although he hasn't developed as much as we thought he would by now. I'm curious what a new program and staff will do for him. I’m torn on how to play this one, although I expect a much better version of Florida State than most.

Last Call: Parting Shots on Other Games of Note

Penn State (-3, 54.5) at Purdue: This is NOT an ideal place to start the season for Penn State. Purdue’s offense should be solid, which could present matchup issues. Look out.

Oregon State (-3, 57) vs. Boise State: The Beavers have gotten so much better, but Boise State returns a ton and should be tough on the road. Big total, although I still like the over.

Houston (-4.5, 61.5) at UTSA: Dana Holgorsen could bring Houston to a major bowl, although getting past UTSA here is a must if he intends to do so. This line has dropped some in recent days; I'm curious to see where it goes from here.

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