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College Football Betting Brief: Week 1

Week 1

by Matt Midlikowski (@midlikowski)

Condensed, boiled down, and compact. In a nutshell, The Betting Brief takes a look at a handful of games and breaks them down using the most relevant macro stats and storylines.

#17 Wisconsin Badgers (-12) at USF Bulls (over/under 57.5)

Raymond James Stadium – August 30, 7pm [ESPN]

Wisconsin comes off an 8-5 season, failing to hit at least 10 wins for the first time since 2013. The Badgers will be a factor in the Big Ten West behind Jonathan Taylor who has 4,171 rushing yards in just two seasons. Junior QB Jack Coan won the starting job over true freshman Graham Mertz. The four-star Mertz was offered by Alabama and Ohio State amongst others, so Coan getting the nod suggests he earned it, and perhaps UW can improve on their 157 passing yards per game from 2018. WR Quintez Cephus was recently reinstated to the team after being acquitted of sexual assault. He adds another playmaking option to an experienced WR corps that is talented, even if under-utilized.

USF came out of the gates and won their first seven games, before losing their final six, including their bowl game. During that fast start, the Bulls averaged 36 points per game on offense, but only 17 during the losing streak as QB Blake Barnett missed time due to injury. Bennett is back healthy and provides a boost with his legs, adding 308 rushing yards and eight scores to his 12 touchdown passes. Kerwin Bell comes on as the new Offensive Coordinator and his DII Valdosta State offense averaged 52 points per game last season. RB Jordan Cronkrite (1,121-9) and WR Randall St. Felix (679-4) give the offense some pop, but USF needs a few more playmakers to emerge, and UW brings the 29th ranked total defense.

Key Stat

– Wisconsin averaged 273 rushing yards as a team in 2018 and they will face a USF run defense that ranked 122nd (of 130) and allowed 243 yards on average.

– Taylor went for 205 yards during the Pinstripe Bowl against a Miami defense that ranked 2nd in run-stopping at the time. The Bulls aren’t close to what Miami was on defense.

Trend Watch

– Wisconsin is 13-4 against the spread in their last 17 road games.

– USF is 0-5 ATS in their last five at Raymond James Stadium.

– The under has hit five times in the last six Wisconsin games overall.

Pick: Lay the points and take the Badgers. Consider the under as well with UW winning 33-17.

#25 Northwestern Wildcats at #23 Stanford Cardinal (-6.5) (over/under 47.5)

Stanford Stadium – August 31, 4pm [FOX]

Northwestern was surprise winner of the Big Ten West, going 8-1 in conference before falling to Ohio State in the championship game. Most of a defense that allowed 23.2 points per game returns, but there are a lot of questions on offense. QB Clayton Thorson is gone, with Hunter Johnson stepping in. Johnson split time with T.J. Green throughout camp, leaving some uncertainty that there is a preferred signal-caller. An offensive line that was maligned in 2018 lost three starters, so do not expect that group to be dramatically better right away. Isaiah Bowser (866-6) returns as the lead ball carrier, but neither he nor backfield mate John Moten were able to do anything more than 4.4 yards per carry. The Wildcats won last year, but the offense was just 108th in yards per game, and averaged a pedestrian 24.2 points per game.

Stanford capped off a 9-4 season with a bowl loss but their chances to improve on that win total are good as NFL prospect K.J. Costello returns at QB. Costello threw for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns, piloting the Cardinal to 28.4 points per game. Bryce Love and JJ Arcega-Whiteside will be tough to replace, but reliable target TE Colby Parkinson (485-7) returns, and Costello is the best player on the field come Saturday. Playmakers will have to define themselves if Stanford is going to contend in the Pac-12, but they are no worse off than their Week 1 opponent in that regard.

Key Stat

– Stanford ranked 25th in passing at 273 yards per game while Northwestern had the 106th ranked pass defense, allowing 261 yards per contest.

Trend Watch

– Northwestern has just one ATS win in their last five non-conference games.

– The over is 7-3 is the last ten Stanford games overall.

Pick: I’m good with Stanford unless the line gets beyond seven. Costello is just a bit too much and Stanford wins 28-20. That total would pay the over but just barely.