For bettors, 2008 begins a lot like 2007

The similarities between the start of the 2007 college football season and this past week's opening to the 2008 campaign are uncanny as favorites lined up at the pay window. And even more eerie coincidence was seeing both Michigan and Tennessee losing their openers a second straight year all while Clemson and Virginia Tech may have seen their dreams of playing for a national championship quashed.


The opening week of the 2008 college football season was not all that different from 2007, at least in the case of favorites pounding the pay window. They were beasts against the betting odds, going 30-11 straight up and 24-16-1 against the spread. Not quite as good as last yearís 32-15 ATS record, but profitable nonetheless.

Hereís another thing in common: The Michigan Wolverines lost. But at least Michigan didnít lose to an FCS opponent this time. The Utah Utes scored one for the Mountain West by downing UM 25-23 as a 3-point road dog. Rich Rodriguez obviously has some more work to do in Ann Arbor before this young team is ready for prime time. The Utes dominated this game until the final quarter, when Michigan scored a quick pair of touchdowns to make things interesting.

Rick Neuheiselís first game with his new employer went much better. His UCLA Bruins upset the Tennessee Volunteers 27-24 in overtime, cashing in as 7-point puppies. Bruins third-string QB Kevin Craft made up for a lousy four-interception first half by engineering a nine-play, 70-yard TD drive with under two minutes remaining. Credit the UCLA defense for keeping the game within reach. The Vols sent the game into overtime with a field goal before failing to wrap things up in the extra frame. Like Michigan, Tennessee is 0-1 and humbled for the second year in a row.

Jumping to conclusions about either of these two starts could be fatal to your bankroll. After last yearís stunning loss to Appalachian State, Michigan went 8-3 (6-5 ATS) and beat Florida at the Capital One Bowl as a 10-point underdog. The Volunteers lost 45-31 at Cal to open the 2007 season, but won nine of their next 12 at a very healthy 8-3-1 ATS before dumping Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.

Clemson supporters wonít find those numbers terribly soothing after the Tigers dropped a 34-10 decision to the Alabama Crimson Tide (+4). This was an awful game from the Clemson offense, which generated zero yards rushing and zero touchdowns. The Tide controlled the clock when they had the ball, keeping it for over 41 minutes. Clemsonís offensive line was the biggest red flag for handicappers; this overmatched unit could sink an otherwise talented team.

Virginia Techís 27-22 loss to the East Carolina Pirates didnít go over too well in Blacksburg, either. The Hokies started the season with designs on the national championship at 22-1 odds, just behind Clemson at 20-1. Those odds may have been optimistic for a team with some rebuilding to do; as it turns out, Virginia Tech has a whole lot of rebuilding to do. QB Sean Glennon was 14-for-23 with two picks and the Pirates got the winning score on a blocked punt with less than two minutes to play.

The Clemson-Alabama game was the only one of the four to stay below the posted total. The assorted defensive, special-teams and last-minute touchdowns in the other three games were enough to drive the over to the pay window, but the under still finished the opening week at 21-19-1.

Too bad handicappers wonít be able to use any of this information against Clemson and Tech right away. Theyíre playing cupcake opponents in Week 2 and presumably will not draw any betting lines. There were 32 games in the opening week with no lines attached; the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs see their first betting action Saturday against Central Michigan (+23) after drilling Georgia Southern 45-21.