Taphorn’s Twelve Pack: College Football Preseason
This write-up will normally feature twelve weekly betting lines (The Twelve Pack). Four bets will focus on bets I like, four will focus on lines I’d stay away from and four will be prop bets based on player statistics or other betting lines that may pop up. With a limited college football preseason schedule, I went with two six-packs. Six bets for week zero and six preseason props I find worthwhile.
Three Bets I Like
1. Under 68.5 Hawaii vs UCLA
Week one games usually give teams a chance to shake off the rust from the offseason. Chip Kelly is known for his offensive acumen and has Dorian Thompson-Robinson back at quarterback, but Hawaii had a sneaky good defensive backfield a season ago.
The run defense was suspect at times, but 10 starters back on the defensive side of the ball should help in that area. Offensively Hawaii ranked in the bottom third of the nation in scoring so I wouldn’t expect the Rainbow Warriors to contribute a large number on their half of the scoreboard.
2. Fresno State -27.5 vs UConn
UConn didn’t play football in 2020, and honestly didn’t seem to be playing the two years prior either. The Huskies won three games in 2018 and 2019 combined. Of those three games two were against FCS opponents and one was against UMass, who went 1-11 in 2019.
Throw in a 3,000-mile trip across the country after a 652-day layoff from competition and this matchup isn’t going to bode well for Randy Edsall’s team.
3. San Jose State -21.5 vs Southern Utah
San Jose State won the Mountain West for the first time in program history a season ago. The Aztecs went undefeated in the regular season before dropping their bowl game. On the flip side, Southern Utah plays at the FCS level and finished their spring season at 1-5.
With the FCS season ending in April, Southern Utah won’t have the advantage of a full offseason to prepare and recover all the same. The combination of a shortened break and the prior year disparity, San Jose State should dominate this early match up.
Three Bets I Don’t Like
1. Nebraska -7 at Illinois
There are so many factors at play here that make me want to stay away from the Huskers. Scott Frost and staff are currently under fire for their use of analysts on their staff. Some speculate that Nebraska may be looking for a reason to get out of Frost’s contract that runs through 2026, but for now they’re just rumors.
Aside from the off-the-field noise, Illinois beat Nebraska by three scores in Lincoln a year ago, during a year that ended with Lovie Smith being fired as the head coach. Bret Bielema takes over and has a career .660 winning percentage against the Big Ten. Beware of the home underdog even in week zero!
2. UTEP -8.5 at New Mexico State
It’s really hard to take a team that has a season win total of three wins to win by more than a touchdown on the road. Even if they’re playing against New Mexico State whose win total is set at one and a half for the year. UTEP had a breakthrough season in 2020 going 3-5 after winning 2 combined games in the previous three seasons.
NMSU technically didn’t play in 2020 but went 1-1 in their two games against FCS teams in the spring. Let’s just avoid any interest in a game between two teams that are projected to have poor outings in 2021.
3. San Jose State vs Southern Utah over 55.5
Early season blowouts can get out of hand. San Jose State should handle Southern Utah with ease, but there likely won’t be many points. The Aztecs scored less than 30 points per game a year ago and replace their top two pass catchers.
The defense was top 15 nationally and returns plenty of starters. San Jose State could have an offensive explosion and come close to this number on their own, but it’s one to stay away from.
Six College Football Preseason Props
1. USC Pac 12 South Division Winner +200
USC represented the South in the conference championship game a season ago and suffered their only loss of the year to Oregon. The conference schedule is favorable with no Oregon or Washington and the road slate only has one big challenge in Arizona State.
2. UCF to reach AAC Conference Championship Game +100
Not much juice here, but Gus Malzahn seems to be a perfect fit in Orlando. Cincinnati looks to have a stranglehold on the conference outright and could challenge for a playoff bid, but Malzahn and Dillon Gabriel should have the Knights in a good position by the season’s end.
3. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns over 9.5 wins +105
Billy Napier spurned higher profile jobs to come back in search of a third straight double-digit win season. Louisiana has challenges at Texas and Liberty but avoids Coastal Carolina in conference play. Even if the Ragin’ Cajuns drop both of the above road games they should hit the over on this one.
4. Florida Gators under 9 wins -125
The Gators fell hard at the end of last season losing three straight to finish 2020. Kyle Trask and the top three pass catchers from a year ago are gone. Emory Jones takes over but has mostly been used in designed packages in his first two seasons. Drawing Alabama and LSU from the SEC West, Georgia in Jacksonville and road games against Kentucky and Missouri sets up for a difficult schedule.
5. Breece Hall Heisman Trophy Winner +2200
Back-to-back seasons without a quarterback winning the award would be blasphemy. Hall had 1,700+ yards and 23 touchdowns on 25 touches per game a season ago. I would expect that to be the baseline for this season’s stats and for Iowa State to challenge Oklahoma for the Big 12 title and a playoff berth.
6. Clemson to miss the College Football Playoff +425
This hasn’t happened since the inaugural season of the CFP. The ACC has lacked a true challenger for a while now, and while that’s great for Clemson’s win/loss record it could be the reason they’re eventually left out of the playoff. If the Tigers lose to Georgia week one it may be an uphill climb the remainder of the season with Clemson needing help from the outside to be selected.