Week 4 CFB Early Line Movement Review and Analysis
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 9: Sam Hartman #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish drops back to pass against the NC State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 9, 2023 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Notre Dame won 45-24. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Wisconsin at Purdue (+6.5) | 54.5 - Opened (+7.5) | 48.5
This Friday night showdown features two new HCs who are coaching in their very first Big Ten conference games in Luke Fickell and Ryan Walters. The game line hopped on a rollercoaster, opening at +7.5 late Saturday night before dropping down to 4.5 at 11AM in Sunday morning trading. It then careened back up to -6.5 where it currently sits. Not to be outdone, the 48.5 point total gradually increased until hitting it’s zenith of 55.5 points around 10AM Sunday before settling in a TD higher at 54.5.
Purdue is coming off a disappointing 35-20 loss to Syracuse where two, first-half fumbles led directly to touchdowns, putting the Boilermakers in a 21-7 hole. Despite Hudson Card throwing for 323 yards with Purdue posting an 86% post-game win expectancy, their four turnovers spelled doom for an emboldened Syracuse offense that rolled up 271 rushing yards in the contest. Wisconsin lost 31-22 to an ultra-pass heavy Washington State squad thanks to a brutal three fumbles, including one that was returned for a touchdown to give Wazzu a 24-9 first half lead. The Badgers defense held up their end, allowing just 2.5 yards per rush and 333 total yards to the potent Cougars offense.
Turnovers have been a major issue for both teams in their recent losses, which is to be understood for two brand new coaching staffs in their first few games at a new school. Wisconsin will likely try to bludgeon the Boilermakers interior with Melusi and Braelon Allen, similar to how Syracuse did with Schrader and LeQuint Allen. On the other side, Purdue is averaging 122 rush YPG while Wisconsin is suffocating opponents to the tune of 93 YPG and 3.0 YPC. Surprisingly each team ranks top-30 nationally in plays per game, with Wisconsin ranking 23rd in plays per second as well, showing the influence of new OC Phil Longo.
I can’t see Purdue holding Wisconsin under 35 points, which means the Boilermakers are going to be handed a pass script similar to this weekend against Syracuse when Card was forced to put the ball in the air 46 times. Card’s Week 1 player prop against Fresno St. was lined at 283.5 passing yards, but that slipped to 252.5 last week vs. Cuse (Opened 236.5). Davis Brin went nuclear for 383 pass yards on 52 attempts versus the Badgers on Saturday, albeit with 5 interceptions. If Card gets an opening number in the 240 pass yards range again, i’ll likely take the Over passing yards plunge for a unit. I also think the game total Over is worth a look considering the efficiency of this quick-paced Wisconsin offense. I’ll be in attendance in West Lafayette with my NBC Sports Saturday AM Betting Q&A co-host Brad Thomas for this Friday evening game, so of course I’m rooting for points, as is customary.
Ohio State at Notre Dame (+3.5) | 54.5 - Opened (+8.5) | 63.5
The official Game of the Weekend will be broadcast at 7:30 PM on NBC, where I will once again be on the field LIVE in South Bend, Indiana to report on the sights and sounds of the event. With a game of this magnitude circled on the calendar since it’s announcement, this line has been out since May 6th, Opening at (+8.5) | 63.5, where it sat until it was reissued on Sunday morning at (+3.5) | 56.5. The total has continued its descent to the current 54.5, with the line creeping down to 3 for several hours on Sunday until it was bought back in early hours trading.
The Irish are a dominant 4-0 having run roughshod over their light opening season schedule that featured convincing victories against Navy, Tennessee State, NC State and Central Michigan. Sam Hartman is the most experienced QB in college football and will not be shaken by the magnitude of this contest, while RB Audric Estime leads the nation with 521 rushing yards (4 games). The Irish’s WR corps has been far more effective as well, with five pass catchers who have at least 120 receiving yards and a touchdown thus far. This ND team is a far cry from the version who lost to Marshall last year, averaging 43 PPG (9th) and 8.1 yards per play (5th) while charting in at 4th overall in EPA/play.
On the other side, we’re accustomed to Ohio State averaging 40 PPG on offense, like they are again this season. But the Buckeyes took some time to iron out the kinds, as QB Kyle McCord completed 20-of-33 passes for 239 yards and a 2-to-1 ratio in OSU’s 23-3 Week 1 win over Indiana, fueling speculation as to his hold on the starting gig. McCord has now earned the trust of HC Ryan Day, completing 19-of-23 passes for 318 pass yards and three touchdowns in a 63-10 tune up against Western Kentucky. It will be interesting to see how McCord fares against Notre Dame’s 10th ranked pass D that is allowing just 4.18 yards per play (10th). However Ohio State’s defense, led by second year DC Jim Knowles, is bringing the pain in a way they simply were unable to for the past few years. OSU is allowing 6.5 PPG (2nd), 3.5 yards per play (1st) and .33 points per drive (1st) against an admittedly overmatched schedule thus far.
For betting purposes, it’s especially important for the Irish run defense to slow down TreVeyon Henderson and a Buckeyes ground game that is averaging 5.16 yards per carry. Reason being, Ohio State is 2-9 (.154) against the spread when averaging less than five yards per rush since the 2021 season, the 9th-worst in FBS (Avg: .362). I’ll be eyeing Hartman’s passing yardage line, as he floated in the 250 range last week, as I feel like a similar line is game script protected unless they simply run over OSU, which i’m not projecting to happen. I’m not going to wait to see if this line tightens any further and back the Irish (+3.5) in South Bend.
Colorado at Oregon (-21) | 70.5 - Opened (-19.5) | 69.5
This line dropped at (-19.5) | 69.5 back on 9/7 after the titanic Colorado upset over TCU, and then dropped to -14.5 on 9/9 following the Buffaloes’ evisceration of rival Nebraska. Late Saturday night trading post-Colorado State OT win spiked the line up to 17 before it took flight all the way to a high of 21.5 on Sunday evening. It goes to show the easy middle opportunities present in some of these look-ahead lines if you can play the public zeitgeist properly.
The best comp we have in this game for Oregon is their Week 2 survival of Texas Tech thanks to a 45-yard INT-TD from Jeffrey Bassa with :35 left to clinch the 38-30 victory. In a common refrain for this column, TT killed themselves with 4 turnovers (3 INT) despite accruing 456 total yards and 5.4 YPC against the Ducks. For their part Oregon was painfully sloppy, committing 14 penalties for 124 yards, but didn’t commit any turnovers and converted 10-of-18 third-downs thanks to trusted vet QB Bo Nix. Despite the late game theatrics, Oregon still had a 68% win expectancy over Texas Tech in their lone P5 test. The Ducks notably only gained 113 rushing yards on 31 carries (3.6 YPC) against the Red Raiders, but should be able to puncture a Colorado defense that ranks 108th against the run and 102nd overall. The Ducks have been ruthlessly efficient on offense despite the light schedule, ranking 7th in EPA/play and 12th in success rate.
It’s not hard to diagnose what CU wants to do, as they rank 32nd in passing offense and 107th in rushing. The Buffs are still very much a work in progress. The transfer-laden offensive line that has allowed the second-most sacks in the nation (16) is still coming together and the defense is allowing a 45.5% success rate (108th). Is this the game when the bubble finally bursts, or does Deion keep the sunglasses magic rolling. The Buffs haven’t been overpowering with post game win expectancies of 35% against Nebraska and 11% in the late night Gameday thriller vs. CSU on Saturday.
Colorado is 2-1 to the Over against this line so far, though it took some miracle theatrics and 2 OTs to clear the 70.5 total last week vs. CSU. Oregon is 1-2 against the total, with the lone Over coming in an 81-7 massacre of FCS Portland State. I’m very interested to see where Shedeur is listed after Opening at 323.5 pass yards and closing at 341.5, which he covered thanks in large part to the benefit of double-OT. The CU offense is going to slow down eventually, dynamo WR Travis Hunter is already declared out and Oregon is ranked 18th vs. the pass. If the books put Shedeur up in the 340-350 pass yards range again, I will likely fade him after riding his passing Over to 3-0 over the first three weeks. Game-wise I think Colorado’s offense will fight scratch and claw their way to a cover, but I want it at 21.5.
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Georgia State at Coastal Carolina (-6.5) | 62.5 - Opened (-10.5) | 62.5
CCU had a respectable 28-14 loss to UCLA in Week 1, but rebounded to beat Jacksonville State and Duquesne before now entering SBC conference play. This is a different system than we’re accustomed to seeing from the motion-heavy approach of former HC Jamey Chadwell, which is reflected in Coastal’s disappointing 2.4 YPC against Power Five opponents. Georgia State is off to a quick 3-0 start following wins over Charlotte and UConn, averaging 462 yards and 39 points per game. They’ve had major trouble defensively though, allowing an unacceptable 317 passing yards per game, which favors CCU. I agree with this line movement, as -10.5 is way too much to give this GSU team. As it stands, I’m waiting to see if this line hops back over to 7/7.5 so I can take Georgia State in this hot Sun Belt conference matchup.
Boise State at San Diego State (+7) | 45.5 - Opened (+9.5) | 43.5
SDSU is in the midst of a brutal four-game run, having lost badly to both UCLA and Oregon State the last two weeks and now face MWC power Boise State. The 2-2 Aztecs are averaging 13 PPG against FBS opponents with their two victories coming against an Ohio team that lost starting QB Kurtis Rourke to injury early in the contest, and a 36-28 win over FCS Idaho State. Boise State (1-2) lost an 18-16 heartbreaker to UCF on a last second 55-yard field goal after QB Taylen Green was injured. BSU will look to put their non-conference schedule in the rear-view mirror and have a mauling run game to lean on with sophomore sensation RB Ashton Jeanty. If this game drops below 7, i’m taking Boise State. I’d also love a reasonable line on WR Eric McAlister, who I have rostered in multiple CFF leagues, so I can take his Over again as he’s earned 28 targets through 3 games and was the talk of preseason camp.
Mississippi State at South Carolina (-5.5) | 51.5 - Opened (-3.5) | 56.5
South Carolina lost a little CLV off the open, while the total plummeted following a closer examination of MSU’s definitive loss to LSU last weekend. The Bulldogs under HC Zach Arnett are clearly struggling to establish an offensive identity, with their run game being more consistently effective than Mississippi State’s 111th rated passing attack. South Carolina started the game hot going up 14-0 against Georgia, but their game plan fizzled out as the contest progressed. I think we see the Under continue to trickle under 50.
USC @ Arizona State (+33.5) | 61.5 - Opened (+14.5) | 73.5
Arizona State’s program is at a low-point after losing 27-15 to Oklahoma State and getting shut out by Fresno State 29-0. Such is life after Herm Edwards. Heck, they barely survived Southern Utah 24-21 in Week 1, and now they welcome USC’s chainsaw of an offense to Tempe. I’m curious to see what the individual team totals look like, as ASU’s well compensated freshman QB Jaden Rashada is on the shelf for a few weeks. I’ll also be monitoring the ASU player props market for Guillory and Badger’s lines for WR Under opportunities.
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest (-3.5) | 60.5 - Opened (-6.5) | 60.5
Did you know that Georgia Tech is averaging 35 points per game, 8.4 yards per pass, 203 YPG rushing and 5.2 yards per carry? That’s the good news. The bad news is they rank 133rd against the pass on defense, allowing a ghastly 10.0 yard per attempt (124th). Wake Forest just survived Old Dominion in a game where they had a 40% win expectancy, though the Demon Deacons took care of business against Vandy (93% win exp) the week prior. I am hoping for low lines on Wake QB Mitch Griffis and GT QB Haynes King.
Stanford at Arizona (-10.5) | 58.5 - Opened (-9.5) | 59.5
This line hasn’t moved much yet, but I think it will edge closer to 13 as we approach game time and the casuals realize that Stanford just lost to an FCS team, Sacramento State, that the Cardinal’s current HC, Troy Taylor, left for the Stanford job this year. Gotta respect the hustle. They’re taking on a potent Zona offense that dropped a tough 31-24 decision against Mississippi State, but smoked their other two lesser rung opponents 69-to-13. Stanford is still trying to get basic blocking assignments together in Year 0 of a down-to-the-studs rebuild, so I think this line rises closer to (-14) as gametime approaches.