The second week of the college football season arguably offers the most attractive and intriguing board of the year.
Week 1 is unsurprisingly the biggest crapshoot. Roster turnover and potential coaching changes may lead to talent and scheme discrepancies, and programs can develop entirely new identities. Some bettors, however, still take the dull-witted approach of projecting team performance based on what happened the year prior.
In Week 2, some bettors suddenly think they've got it all figured out by looking at one game and applying it to project, again, one game.
This isn't merely a zigzag theory or going against the grain for the sake of it. Here are some questionable opening odds for Week 2 involving teams that may have over- or underachieved in Week 1, producing single-game results that don't tell the full tale.
Projections take into account S&P+ rankings, situations such as schedule spot and travel, and some (not much) of what we saw in Week 1. All odds are taken from BetOnline and may differ by sportsbook.
Projected Line: Miami (OH) -4.5
Opening Line: Miami (OH) -2.5
Last week, we noted how NFL teams playing the second of back-to-back road games to start a season have fared in the last six years (spoiler: not great!).
Cincinnati falls into this situation, though the Bearcats won't rack up too much mileage - they're traveling back to their home state to face Miami (Ohio) following a West Coast trip in Week 1.
The RedHawks' string of unlucky bounces from last season bled into the season opener against Marshall. Like clockwork, Miami, which dropped four games by five points or fewer last year, lost 35-28 to the Thundering Herd on Saturday, despite outgaining Marshall and only marginal discrepancies in the Herd's favor on third-down conversion rates and time of possession.
Cincinnati played spoiler in Chip Kelly's debut at UCLA, stinging the Bruins with a 26-17 victory as 14.5-point road dogs. The Bearcats managed the upset despite totaling just 304 yards and the Bruins made an early quarterback change after Wilton Speight went down with an injury.
The RedHawks are consistently a play away. I like them anywhere under a field goal.
Projected Line: Michigan -28.5
Opening Line: Michigan -25.5
I went back to watch Friday's Western Michigan-Syracuse game, and it was clear that the Broncos' defense couldn't handle two elements of the Orange's offense: tempo and a mobile quarterback.
Given Michigan's offensive identity over the last three years under Jim Harbaugh, it feels weird to type this, but he now has both those things - at least in some capacity.
Michigan showed a no-huddle versus Notre Dame and it was clear that quarterback Shea Patterson was more comfortable on the run outside the tackles. He may have to get used to that, too, considering how porous the Michigan offensive line was in the 24-17 loss.
Western Michigan created 621 yards of total offense against Syracuse, though the Wolverines' defense is a different animal. Or it's supposed to be, anyway. Notre Dame had the perfect game plan on offense and Michigan couldn't contain a dual-threat quarterback in Brandon Wimbush (go figure). The Fighting Irish also used their big receivers and tight ends to create mismatches against a Michigan secondary that was projected to be a top unit in 2018.
The Broncos don't have the size at receiver to do that, so it'll be up to the Wolverines to limit the chunk yards that Western Michigan can rack up with its speed. Quarterback Jon Wassink posted a gaudy 10.5 yards per attempt in the opener, but I doubt he'll have time to let the routes develop against Michigan's front seven.
On the road against Power 5 teams last season (USC and Michigan State), Wassink finished with a passer rating of 66.5 and 60.1, respectively - the worst two games of the season by a wide margin. Playing on the road in the Big House versus a ticked-off Don Brown defense while coming off a home loss isn't ideal for anyone, let alone a MAC quarterback who desperately needs to get some sort of ground game going (good luck).
Still, Michigan performed about as badly as possible in front of millions of viewers. The Wolverines couldn't get off the field on third down. The second Notre Dame touchdown would have been an interception about 75 percent of the time. Michigan's holder botched a snap on a field-goal attempt. Patterson had negative time in the pocket. The red-zone offense was a nightmare. The officials were still picking up flags in South Bend as church got out Sunday morning.
Harbaugh-coached teams have historically had some trouble keeping their foot on inferior opponents' throats, especially at home (see: Air Force and Cincinnati in '17, UNLV in '15). Patterson's debut was underwhelming from a game-plan perspective as well as a performance standpoint after being lauded for what he could bring to Michigan's inept 2017 offense. Harbaugh clearly wanted him to get settled early with quick throws and the ground game, and only took the leash off and opened up vertical concepts once Michigan went down two scores. With the pressure on Michigan once again, boos rained down on the head coach.
Considering the team was so unprepared for a prime-time road game, I'm not sure Michigan is legitimate, but this situation against the Broncos still seems favorable for the Wolverines. Western Michigan will need every bit of that 24-hour rest advantage, too - the defense was on the field for 92 Syracuse plays without time to catch a breath.
Anything under four touchdowns is worth a look.
Projected Line: Michigan State -9.5
Opening Line: Michigan State -5
Michigan State was lucky - yes, lucky - to walk out of East Lansing with a win over Utah State as a 23.5-point favorite Friday. It was a typical Sparty-on-Friday-as-a-huge-favorite performance. One of the most experienced teams in the country, with an NFL-ready quarterback in Brian Lewerke, got caught looking past an improved Aggies team. Utah State's tempo took the defense by surprise, but the Spartans should be properly prepared to see plenty of that from Arizona State.
The Sun Devils did put on quite the show for those who stayed up late, posting a 49-7 win over UTSA in Herm Edwards' debut. I'm enamored by ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins' maturation. He no longer demonstrates wild-card tendencies on a weekly basis and he's doing the little things - knowing when to throw the ball away and taking what defenses give him - that help avoid putting the offense in less-than-ideal situations. And after finishing as a bottom-10 defense for no longer than a century, the Sun Devils were a garbage-time touchdown away from a shutout Saturday.
Then again, UTSA's offensive creativity - or lack thereof - offered the perfect opportunity for Arizona State to pad its stats while it can. The Spartans' front seven might struggle with ASU's offensive line, but Lewerke and his receivers have the upper hand against a secondary that was barely tested in Week 1.
Getting Michigan State under 10, let alone a touchdown, seems generous.
Projected Line: PK
Opening Line: Houston -3.5
The number opened at -3.5 and immediately jumped to Houston -7. Might Khalil Tate's dud of a season opener against BYU have something to do with it?
Arizona's Heisman hopeful barely surpassed 200 yards in Saturday's loss, already putting him behind the 8-ball for December's ceremony. BYU went the obvious route and played a multi-defender spy on the dual-threat Tate, limiting him to 14 yards on the ground. Through the air, he was 17-for-34 with 194 yards.
Houston's coming off a rout of Rice, which means nothing because it's, well, Rice. There's value to be found in backing a quick-paced Arizona team that just needs to avoid Ed Oliver on the Cougars' defensive line.
Arizona as an underdog in any sort of capacity is enticing.