Week 1 isn’t fully in the books, as we still have Notre Dame vs. Florida State and Louisville vs. Ole Miss left to go, but we’ve learned a lot already.
The big storylines are always important, but the smaller ones may be more profitable for bettors in the long run. How much does it matter that D.J. Uiagalelei struggled against Georgia, given that Clemson won’t see another defense remotely close to that in ACC play? UCLA had already played a game to work out the kinks. How much did that impact the result against LSU?
While the high-profile games get the notoriety and the above-the-fold coverage, oddsmakers are going to adjust very quickly to those games and those teams. Similarly, teams like Vanderbilt and Washington that lost to FCS foes will get punished appropriately.
One of my favorite things to do on Sunday morning is to take a look at results in games where the spread was close, but the final score was not. Was there a mispricing of that game in the marketplace or did turnover luck or variance simply lead to an unexpected result?
Consider these three examples and let’s see if we can find some teams to back or fade that the books may not react quickly enough to adjust.
South Alabama 31 (-2), Southern Miss 7
This one tops the list in Week 1, partially because it was one of my favorite bets of the week. South Alabama upgraded in several key areas for this season with the hires of head coach Kane Wommack and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. Most chefs still need good ingredients to make a quality dish and Wommack is fortunate to have Power 5 starter Jake Bentley of South Carolina and Utah fame.
The Jaguars won 31-7. They forced four turnovers and scored 31 unanswered points. Bentley was an efficient 17-of-22 for 269 yards. Five of those catches were for 168 yards from NFL prospect Jalen Tolbert. The fact that Bentley and Tolbert already have a rapport is exciting for those looking to back South Alabama.
Maybe Southern Miss is just really bad, but South Alabama, a team that most would have power-rated in the bottom 25, is the right kind of under-the-radar team to cash some tickets if the improvements are legit.
Texas Tech 38 (+ 2), Houston 21
As far as Power 5 schools go, Texas Tech is not one at the tip of anybody’s tongue. Since Patrick Mahomes left to terrorize NFL defenses, the Red Raiders haven’t gotten a lot of buzz. The interesting thing about this game is that heavy money came in on Houston to make the Cougars a favorite and Dana Holgorsen’s team laid a big egg.
The resilience shown by the Red Raiders was impressive in this one. Houston had a tremendous first half. After a long 16-play, 75-yard drive to open the scoring, the Cougars recovered an onside kick and took advantage of a tired defense to take a 14-0 lead eight plays later.
Texas Tech had a great scripted drive with its first possession, but fumbled at the 2-yard line. The Red Raiders trailed 21-7 at half after another long scoring drive from Houston right before intermission.
After picking up 200 yards of offense in the first half, Houston was held to just 43 yards in the second half. The Cougars crossed midfield once -- to the Texas Tech 49-yard line. Houston QB Clayton Tune threw four picks, including three in the second half; one was returned for a touchdown.
Again, maybe this game says more about the opponent, but you have to give Texas Tech a ton of credit for 31 unanswered points in the second half and some stellar defensive adjustments. Oregon transfer Tyler Shough also played well and the Red Raiders rushed for over five yards per carry.
Matt Wells may just have Texas Tech going in the right direction, while it appears that Dana Holgorsen is not doing the same in H-Town.
Syracuse 29 (+ 2), Ohio 9
This line danced around a bit, as Syracuse was favored by two in the middle of the week and wound up closing a consensus 2-point underdog. The Orange won pretty comfortably, as Ohio failed to find the end zone and settled for three field goals in front of the home crowd.
Was this game a ringing endorsement for Syracuse football? No, not really. The Orange only managed 100 passing yards, but did rush for 283 yards with 6.4 yards per carry, so they dominated in the trenches. The Orange outgained the Bobcats 383-349, but Ohio did have 12 more pass attempts in virtually the same number of offensive plays.
This game may not say much about Syracuse, but it seems to say something about the loser. Ohio was dealt a tough blow when longtime head coach Frank Solich retired prior to the season. The Bobcats have not gotten the same play from Kurtis Rourke that they received from his brother, Nathan, and Tyler Tettleton is not walking through that door either.
While we correctly hold ACC teams on a higher pedestal than MAC teams, Syracuse has been an ACC team in name only. The fact that the Bobcats got worked so badly in the trenches by an Orange team that rushed for 3.2 yards per carry last season and 3.7 YPC in 2019 looks to be a bad sign, even against MAC competition.
It is early in the season and everybody is trying to figure out what the future holds for these teams. The higher-profile teams will get more attention from the sportsbooks, so you should look for opportunities to take advantage of the teams that won’t be front and center.