College Football season begins Sept. 3. We've had game odds for several weeks now. Should you jump on those ASAP or wait closer to game time?
Reasons To Wait
College Football betting at the start of a season is much tougher than the NFL because college teams have more turnover than the professionals do. Obviously there's no term limit to playing for the New England Patriots, but you can only play four seasons on the field for the University of Alabama. And in college, you tend to see more off-field suspensions because 19-year-olds are going to act like, well, 19-year-olds at times. There also can be some academic issues.
But the two reasons reason I would wait until game day to bet are because college coaches are so tight-lipped about everything, and also potentially key injuries.
For example, let's start with defending national champion Ohio State visiting Virginia Tech on Labor Day night. The Buckeyes are 10.5-point favorites but that line has dropped because OSU will play without four suspended players, including arguably the nation's best defensive player in end Joey Bosa as well as H-back Jalin Marshall. Those suspensions moved the line down a bit. Also, don't you want to wait and see which quarterback will start the game? Coach Urban Meyer says he won't announce whether it's J.T. Barrett (I think it will be him) or Cardale Jones until game time. Meyer doesn't have to answer to anyone else so why not wait and keep the opposition guessing? The NFL pushes its coaches for a release of information like that and of course there's also the league-mandated injury report.
Ohio State is hardly the only school with a quarterback battle. Alabama faces Wisconsin on Sept. 5 in Arlington, Texas, with the Tide as 10.5-point favorites. Wouldn't you feel more secure backing Bama knowing that redshirt senior Jake Coker is the starting quarterback over freshmen David Cornwell or Blake Barnett? I sure would, even though Coker doesn't have much game experience. Wisconsin is a good team and that's asking a lot to throw a freshman in the mix.
We could be looking at a similar situation at UCLA, which opens as a 17-point home favorite on College Football odds against a capable Virginia team. Will it be true freshman Josh Rosen under center or veteran backup Jerry Neuheisel? Coach Jim Mora said Wednesday there has been no separation in the competition to name Brett Hundley's replacement.
There are also high-profile quarterback competitions going on at Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina (as you can see, the SEC has few returning established starters at QB), Michigan, Florida State and Oregon, to name a few. I looked at Oregon's battle and Vernon Adams' Heisman chances earlier this week.
Key injuries are also going to happen in college training camps just like they do in the NFL (Carolina Panthers are up the creek now with the loss of top receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a season-ending torn ACL on Wednesday). Just this week there have been a handful of major injuries at national title contenders.
Arkansas lost running back Jonathan Williams, who rushed for 1,190 yards and 12 scores last year, for the entire 2015 season. LSU lost excellent safety Jalen Mills for up to six weeks with a fractured fibula. Mills is the team's most experienced player with 39 starts in 39 career games. Nebraska lost receiver and return specialist De'Mornay Pierson-El for 6-8 weeks with a foot injury. Pierson-El was second nationally in punt-return average last season, and he tied for the national lead with three returns for touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 321 yards and four TDs. In addition, five Nebraska players will be suspended for the season opener against a very dangerous BYU team, but we still don't know who they are. On Monday, BYU announced that starting tight end Steven Richards was done for the year with a knee injury. Two weeks ago, starting running back Jamaal Williams withdrew from school.
Notre Dame lost defensive tackle Jarron Jones for the season. In his 11 games last season, Jones had 40 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble and blocked two kicks. There is a flip side to this as well. Sometimes guys are cleared to play from an eligibility standpoint. The Irish got bad news on Jones but good news on cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who was cleared to play this season on Tuesday. Russell started all 26 games his first two years at Notre Dame (2012-13), totaling 109 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. He missed all of last season due to suspension.
NCAAF Free Pick: It's easy to get overeager and get those Week 1 bets down the minute the lines come out. But there's really no benefit. Wait until game day.