College football cheat sheet: Betting tips on the biggest games and more

by Ricardo Gutierrez - Doug Kezirian gives his final tips and picks for Week 1 of the college football slate.

College football cheat sheet: Betting tips on the biggest games and more C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes open the season as big favorites over Notre Dame. Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire Sep 1, 2022 Doug KezirianESPN Close ESPN Sports Betting Analyst Host of Daily Wager Behind The Bets podcast host The college football season began in earnest this weekend and what an opening night to greet gamblers. Thursday's two main games (Penn State over Purdue and No. 17 Pitt over West Virginia ) came down to the final seconds and each involved point-spread decisions of a half-point. That is the kind of excitement that has caused our nation to accept that "football is king." And it's important to recognize that philosophy no longer applies solely to the NFL. We soon will have both to occupy our weekends, challenge our handicapping and provide ample complaints for the following workweek. Until then, the Labor Day weekend belongs to the student-athletes. Note: Lines courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook. Prime-time beatdowns? It's rare to have two marquee, ranked matchups offer point spreads of at least 17 points. Bettors typically avoid such large lines, but sometimes blue blood programs in prime time are just too enticing. Bookmakers I spoke with expect No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (-17, 59) to deliver the game with Saturday's largest handle (total money wagered). Additionally, even though the side and total have been posted all summer, more than 90% of that action will likely come through in the hours right before kickoff. I have discussed this game with numerous oddsmakers and professional bettors. The consensus is that they are avoiding it. When the line was 15.5 earlier this summer, a sharp linemaker emphatically told me "the number is right." But it has now hit 17, and the Irish have also since suffered some key injuries. While there is incredible hype on the Buckeyes, led by Heisman betting favorite and quarterback C.J. Stroud (+200), one astute handicapper reminded me how much Ohio State got manhandled in the trenches last year by Michigan and even Oregon . A professional bettor simplified the discussion to me: "If Brian Kelly were still there, I'd be all over the Irish. But I have zero respect right now for what [Marcus] Freeman can do in this big spot." And that's exactly where I am. I, along with many in the betting world, question Notre Dame's top-five ranking. Their win total for this regular season is only 8.5, which tells you all you need to know. I am on Ohio State's team total over 38 and hopefully will avoid any stress involving a backdoor cover or the Buckeyes' questionable defense. New coordinator Jim Knowles may be the solution but it will likely take some time. College Pick 'Em Pick games every week and compete for prizes! Make Your Picks As for No. 11 Oregon and No. 3 Georgia (-17) in Atlanta, the spread feels a little too high. The defending champs lost 15 guys to the NFL draft, and while the program does reload with elite talent, I still find it hard to cover that number with an offense that can look awfully pedestrian at times. But I am not in a rush to back the Ducks because, let's face it, the SEC has dominated these types of nonconference matchups over the years. Based on my conversations with those on both sides of the counter, under 54 probably has some small value. Favorite plays Most of you do not have the luxury -- and I certainly use that term loosely -- to monitor football games on five televisions and attack the betting markets with multiple computer screens every single weekend. Simply, you have a life and I do not. Or kindlier, I can hide behind the charade that is "my job" to devote such time and energy. Regardless, this is about you -- and the burning desire that most normal, red-blooded Americans have to carve out some free time to watch the biggest game with a wager. Trust me, I get it. You are not alone. But I am also here to remind you that approach may not always produce a profit. That's the beauty of a college card. Every week we get 50-plus games. The sportsbooks have an advantage because they charge a vig, which is essentially a transaction fee, but we get to pick the wagers they must accept. So where is the "smart money?" Well, all I can do is relay what I hear and glean, but as we all should know by now, it's an inexact science and the Gambling Gods are evil. Just ask Purdue backers from Thursday. Texas State Bobcats (-1.5) at Nevada Wolf Pack Editor's Picks Stanford Steve and The Bear: Week 1 college football picks, bets and nuggets 2d Chris Fallica and Steve Coughlin College football Week 1: Scott Van Pelt's Winners 21h Scott Van Pelt 2 Related This is such an incredibly strange line move. The Wolf Pack opened as double-digits favorites a few months ago and are now underdogs. Respected bettors drove this line down, and then, even after many would perceive the value as gone, a very sharp syndicate released the Bobcats +3. Texas State is now favored in Reno. The Wolf Pack notched a win in Week 0 but it was far from glorious. They won the turnover battle, 5-0, but somehow were outgained and barely beat an awful New Mexico State team. Also, after losing key playmakers in the transfer portal, Nevada played two quarterbacks and they combined for just 78 yards passing. I certainly trust the sharp money that is fading the Wolf Pack and also bet under their season win total but I feel I am way late to the party of a 12-point line move. So I am taking under 51 because Nevada is committed to the run and is still quite mundane. I've spent way too much time pondering this Hawai'i football team. I laid the points with Vanderbilt last week, but I was still amazed at the Rainbow Warriors' lack of physicality on defense and overall ineptitude. But I am not sold on the Hilltoppers, who only led Austin Peay by a single point in the fourth quarter. Hawaii's defense is atrocious and WKU should sling it around. But I also think Hawai'i can do the same. We should see a track meet on the Big Island.