College football Week 1 betting: Battle of Miami, Temple-Akron, Kent State getting 36.5 and more

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It seems like we might’ve undervalued Hawaii in our Week 0 debut column. That won’t be an issue this week and we crank up our predictions for the first full week of college football action.

Jon Greenberg: So … Week 0 was more of a Week -3 for me. I went 1-3, winning Jacksonville State + 1 and losing Vanderbilt -17, Ohio-San Diego State over 49 and Notre Dame-Navy over 50.5. The only bet that was truly bad was the OU-SD St. over. Vandy was up 21 early in the fourth quarter before Hawaii scored two unanswered touchdowns and the over (which I got at 49) in Ireland was hampered, just slightly, by Navy scoring only a late, meaningless field goal in a 42-3 loss. 

Zac went 1-1, losing Vanderbilt and winning Jacksonville State.

Now it’s onto Week 1, the last college football Saturday before the NFL season begins.

Let’s start by examining the Mid-American Conference’s “buy games” and see if there’s any value.

  • Kent State (+36.5) at UCF
  • Central Michigan (14.5) at Michigan State
  • Miami (Ohio, +17) at Miami (Fla.)
  • Bowling Green (+9.5) at Liberty
  • Ball State (+26.5) at Kentucky
  • Akron (+10) at Temple
  • Buffalo (+27.5) at Wisconsin
  • Toledo (+9.5) at Illinois

Sadly, no Ohio University line here because they’re hosting Long Island University, a I-AA program. (No, I won’t use FCS or FBS.) Who knew LIU had a football team at all? I only know that place as an NEC basketball school.

So who is pulling an upset and who is getting smoked? I defer to your knowledge.

Zac Jackson: I recently spent several days in Philadelphia for the Browns-Eagles joint practices and the excitement around the city for Akron-Temple was indescribable. Take the over 55 in such a wild environment. The Zips are going to be much better, at least offensively. What does “much better” actually mean? Their season win total is four, and that sounds about right given that Akron has won five games, total, in the last four seasons. The last time the Zips won more than four games was 2017. 

About 12 miles east of my home city, Kent State has a chance to be the nation’s worst I-A team. The Flashes had a really good run under Sean Lewis, who couldn’t wait to get out and is now the offensive coordinator for some guy named Deion Sanders. Kent State is a tough place to win. The budget is low, the facilities aren’t even as nice as some high school football facilities around Northeast Ohio and it takes a patient, long-term plan to build a competitive team. The transfer portal giveth and this year the transfer portal really taketh from Kent. I hear good things about new Kent State coach Kenni Burns, but I know he’s at least a year away from having a competitive team.

The Week 1 line of 37 underscores that. I don’t necessarily think that UCF covers that, but it won’t be pretty. Next week, the Flashes go to Arkansas. Last year’s Kent State team hung with Georgia in one of its three brutal bye games, but that team is long gone.

Generally, I stay away from MAC teams in Week 1. They’re mostly playing buy games and smart MAC coaches are treating them as scrimmages. Coaches of the high-budget home teams are often looking for late touchdowns to keep the big spenders happy and the depth difference often shows up. Hardcore searchers might explore a Kent State team total under, and though I wouldn’t be surprised if a really good Toledo team wins at Illinois, I’m passing on both of those.

A MAC team has defeated a Big Ten team in 16 straight seasons. That’s a heck of a streak even though it’s not a real flattering one for the Big Ten. Perhaps the best thing Northwestern football has going for it at the moment is that no MAC team is on this year’s schedule.

Greenberg: That’s an amazing MAC-Big Ten fact. The conference should hire planes to fly that stat on a banner over all the crossover matchups this season.

While you were toiling away as a fledgling Browns media guy in the fall of 2000, I was on the front lines, covering Ohio University’s upset win over Minnesota at the Metrodome. Current Titans executive Chad Brinker threw, ran for and caught a touchdown pass in the Bobcats’ victory. After the game, I heard a disgruntled Gophers fan say, “Who are we going to lose to next week, the Girl Scouts?” My, how things have changed.

I find myself tempted to wager on the Battle of Miami. Can the Redhawks usurp the Hurricanes at home? I’m guessing the home crowd isn’t going to be super hyped up for this one. But Miami University — the school from Oxford, Ohio — will be. It helps that their quarterback Brett Gabbert (who might be Blaine’s older brother) is close to getting tenure. You know a guy has been in college for a long time when he tells reporters“This is the best I’ve felt in four or five years.” If the spread were 20 or more, this would be a gimme. But +17 is dicey, even though Miami (Ohio) did play well against Power Five schools last year, losing to Kentucky and Cincinnati by a total of 10 points and beating hapless Northwestern. What would Big Ben Do? 

What about that other football powerhouse from the state of Ohio? The Buckeyes are favored by a whopping 30.5 points at Indiana State. Oh wait, check that. At Indiana University, which I believe is still in the Big Ten. Would you take Ohio State giving 30 points in a conference opener on the road?

Jackson: I have no idea how to decipher this one. I know Ohio State is loaded with former four and five-star recruits and has Marvin Harrison Jr., who might be the best college wide receiver prospect in 25 years. But a Buckeyes team that went through the whole offseason without picking one quarterback and lost both offensive tackles to the NFL is a 30-point favorite in a road conference game. So, is this a bad line? Or is Indiana truly that bad? I’m guessing it’s more the latter. 

Games start Thursday and go through Monday night, so true junkies get five straight nights of adrenaline and gradually finding out which previously hyped players transferred for the third or fourth time. Pace yourselves, people. That means you, too, Jon. You deserved your 1-3 last week because you overdid it.

Here’s my card

Thursday night: Georgia Tech +7.5 vs. Louisville

Friday night: Hawaii +3.5 over Stanford (2-unit play)

Saturday: Akron-Temple over 55 and Fresno State +3.5 (and money line) at Purdue

I like going against first-year coaches in their first games, as you can see. I just can’t see Purdue having better players than a Fresno State team that brings back most of its defense. Hawaii out-gained Vanderbilt last week and is miles better than it was a year ago. Stanford might one day become the ACC power we all envisioned it might be, but right now Stanford is really, really bad.

Add those to my two pending futures from last week’s column, Ohio +105 to win the MAC East and Buffalo under 6.5 wins -140.

You keep track of this stuff, Jon. I have better things to do.

Greenberg: I shudder at the thought of what your “better things to do” are, but I’m guessing it involves Swensons.

Akron-Temple over 55 is a true degenerate’s bet. It reminds me of the kind of the game I would bet in high school and have to track on Headline News all day. You know you’re an OG gambler when you see the words “Headline News” and immediately flash back to those prehistoric days following the bottom-line ticket in the 1990s. I bet gamblers knew more about the world back then just by osmosis. Shout-out to Jerome Jurenovich, Headline Sporrrrtttsss.

I’ll take that game, but I’m going with Temple -10. Did you know Kurt Warner’s son E.J. is the Owls’ quarterback? I didn’t until like two minutes ago.

To punish myself for last week’s largesse to the gambling gods, I’ll go with…

A three-team card this week

Thursday: Nebraska +7 at Minnesota. If he can get some competent football players to come there, Matt Rhule is going to be very popular in Lincoln … until he leaves for a better job.

Saturday: Temple -10 (see above) and TCU -20.5 over Colorado. I imagine much of the college football establishment are big Sonny Dykes fans this week.

Before we wrap up, any big Ohio high school games this week? Just kidding, they’re all big games, even among the Division VI schools. Which one is on your radar?

Jackson: None this week. Not with Miami vs. Miami to watch on Friday night.

In two weeks when St. Edward plays Massillon, I’ll be there. I’ll see if I can find you a prop sheet.

(Top photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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