The Hawkeyes shouldn't endure as harsh of an offensive learning curve as usual with quarterback Nate Stanley back after an impressive end to his sophomore season. No venue in the nation will be louder than Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Saturday night when Scott Frost makes his coaching debut at his alma mater. It's going to make for the type of environment that could easily overwhelm an Akron team without much going for it in the first place. This game between two of the worst teams in the nation should really test the axiom that bettors will gamble on anything at the beginning of the season.
Neither the Illini nor the Zips should lay more than two touchdowns against any team. Texas has been dogged for an entire year over losing to Maryland in coach Tom Herman's debut last season, so a spirited effort is guaranteed.
And with a devastating defense and seemingly-improved offense, buy signs are on Texas going into the season. Fiery new Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith will have his team motivated for a trip into the Horseshoe, likely enough to slip within this gargantuan spread.
Smith is seemingly more prepared for the moment than thrust-into-action interim Ohio State coach Ryan Day, which might not be a negligible advantage with this many points. The Nittany Lions haven't shown much mercy for outmatched opponents lately, going against the spread when favored by more than two touchdowns over the last two seasons.
The Bobcats come into the season power-rated as one of the five worst teams in FBS. There's truly no right side in this game. Ole Miss plus-3 vs. Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta'amu comes into the season as one of the nation's most underrated players after throwing for nearly 10 yards per attempt in five starts last season.
Partially by extension, his team comes into the season looking similarly undervalued. If Florida Atlantic gets off to a slow start like it did last season — going straight-up and against the spread — then a blowout loss is possible.
But if the Owls play more like they finished the season — winning 10 straight while going against the spread — then there might be an upset alert come the fourth quarter. The latter scenario feels more likely, with almost everyone back on defense. This line leapt up a couple points after the Tar Heels announced the suspension of 13 players, but it's difficult to quantify their impact in the preseason.
California over-achieved last season, which included eking out a season-opening win at North Carolina that could have gone either way. Expect another closely-contested game this year. The Roadrunners have been more than frisky under coach Frank Wilson in non-conference play, going against the spread.
Meanwhile, Herman Edwards' return to the sidelines as Arizona State's coach still feels like an risky experiment that could backfire. Coach Chip Kelly's arrival at UCLA is being conspicuously overlooked, as the consensus is he'll need more time to realize the program's potential. But Kelly has overachieved in arguably every college season he's coached, and has a great chance for a strong first impression against a vulnerable team traveling across three time zones.
With the avalanche of Heisman Trophy future bets on quarterback Khalil Tate as one indicator, Arizona appears to be coming into the season overvalued. But there will be better spots to take advantage of that knowledge than against a defense that may struggle to matchup with Tate athletically, and in a game where the Wildcats have a sharp coaching edge with Kevin Sumlin over the Cougars' embattled Kalani Sitake.
Despite the big number, this line is not over-inflated by either statistical or talent measurements. The green Trojans also seem unlikely to pull starters too early considering they'll want to get them as many reps as possible. This line has shot up as much as six points, with the excitement on the Ducks behind now-healthy junior quarterback Justin Herbert unceasing. The Falcons don't figure to have much of a chance, but there's no reason to pay this high of a premium.
LSU takes a lot of heat for having an anemic offense but it was actually more efficient than Miami last year with 5. Turnover margin is a notoriously fickle statistic, and Miami can't count on being in the top five for another year, especially against a team with a more talented roster like the Tigers. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino runs an offense similar to a few that have given Alabama trouble recently— and that was with a proven set of players in the secondary.
The Crimson Tide have widespread inexperience in the defensive backfield going into this season, which Cardinals quarterback Jawon Pass — a one-time Alabama recruiting target — could attack to keep the score respectable.
There might only be four or five teams in the nation better than Auburn. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Huskies look like one of them. The only minor pauses on this game are missing out on the best number — Washington was plus-3 for most of the offseason — and the not-so-neutral location that will draw far more Auburn fans. West Virginia minus vs. Stock couldn't possibly be any higher on West Virginia coming into the season, which is a surefire sign to sell.
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