College football betting: Key takeaways from Week 0

There is nothing like spending your entire day watching college football. Saturday's seven-game lineup gave us thirsty fans just enough of a taste to get the juices flowing until the full experience hits Saturday. The good news is that we don’t have to wait too long, as the schedule resumes early with an 11-game Thursday night slate, including a high-profile, out-of-conference rematch between the Florida Gators and Utah Utes. With Utah QB Cam Rising’s injury status still up in the air, bettors should be cautious before rushing into Week 1. Let’s fully absorb what transpired this past Saturday.

College football rolls out a pro-style running clock

There was a lot of focus on the new rule changes leading up to the week, and specifically how they would impact totals. As expected, we aren’t going to have any definitive answers after a seven-game sample. We saw more unders (4-3 FBS, 3-0 FCS), but it appeared to be driven by team identities more than the rule changes. Overall, the schedule featured more slower-tempo teams, plus there is natural rust that comes with the first games of the season. The new clock rules did shave off a handful of plays from last year’s average, but I expect there could be a greater impact once the entire FBS population has a few games under its belt. Heading into Week 1, I don’t expect any major market adjustments based on these seven games.

The Sam Hartman Show

There are some games where you win your wager, despite getting some aspects of the game wrong. It was nice to hit my first college football bet of the season on the under 50.5, but even I didn’t expect the Notre Dame offense to have that level of success. QB Sam Hartman’s debut was everything Irish fans had hoped for after enduring last season’s offensive limitations. Hartman completed 19 of 23 passes for an impressive 10.9 yards per attempt, along with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Navy was completely overmatched on defense, allowing Notre Dame to drive more than 70 yards on average during its six touchdown drives. The Heisman talk will only get louder as Hartman faces the Tennessee State Tigers in South Bend as a massive favorite Saturday.

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 26: USC quarterback Caleb Williams looks for wide receiver Dorian Singer for a 13-yard touchdown pass play in the first quarter against San Jose State during the season opener at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
USC quarterback Caleb Williams looks for a receiver in the first quarter against San Jose State at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Same old story in Southern California

Three things stood out after watching USC cruise to a 56-28 win over San Jose State. Unfortunately for Lincoln Riley, it looked a lot like last season. USC QB Caleb Williams has a legit chance to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner, but his offensive line has to protect him. Secondly, WR Zachariah Branch could be in for a monster season. Branch accounted for two touchdowns: a 25-yard grab from Williams and an electric 96-yard kickoff return. The Trojans offense is loaded with weapons, and they might need every single one of them. Lastly, and most importantly, Alex Grinch’s defense doesn’t look like it has solved the issues that plagued it last season. It allowed 14 points before halftime to San Jose State, including a long touchdown pass on a busted coverage with only eight seconds left in the second quarter. USC failed to cover as 31.5 points favorites and is laying an even bigger number (-38) this week against Nevada. The over 66.5 was a winning wager for us in Week Zero, and I’d be more inclined to play the total again before I trust USC to cover this number.

Hawaii remains hot for bettors

The Rainbow Warriors’ comeback came up just short on the scoreboard, but it was a win for bettors who held a +17.5 ticket. After being outscored 168-37 in its first three games in 2022, Timmy Chang’s team made steady progress and flew under the radar as a profitable team to back down the stretch. It went 5-1 ATS in the final six games, and its 3-9 record wasn’t indicative of how competitively it finished the season.

The momentum continued Saturday night as Hawaii gave Vanderbilt fans a pretty big scare in a 35-28 loss. Hawaii outgained the Commodores 391-302, but two costly turnovers proved to be too much to overcome in trying to pull off the road upset. Some questioned whether the market was too high on Hawaii after losing at home to the Commodores 63-10 last year. Hawaii now heads back to Honolulu for a Week 1 home matchup with Stanford. After opening as a 10.5-point underdog over the summer, Hawaii has shortened to +4 currently at BetMGM. I haven’t bet on it yet, but it could be another solid spot for Hawaii as an underdog.

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