College Football Picks: Opening Week NCAAF Total Plays

Ross Benjamin

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 6:34 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 6:34 PM UTC

It’s an exciting time of the year as the college football gets underway on Thursday night with 17 games involving FBS teams scheduled. In addition there are 8 slated on Friday, 48 games on Saturday, 2 on Sunday, and the opening week concludes on Monday night with the game between Florida State and Pittsburgh.

I have always contended that ignoring totals and just concentrating on sides puts you at a distinct disadvantage. In terms of being a professional sports handicapper the more options (excluding props) to wager on the more the edge. With that being said let’s hone in on some opening week college football totals that have captured my eye.

Thursday 8/29/2013

Mississippi @ Vanderbilt 9:15 ET

Game # 143-144

Television: ESPN

Total: 53.0

One of the first things I look at when adding total plays to my college football picks is weather conditions. With the exception of it being pretty hot in Nashville on Thursday night there’s and no precipitation in the forecast, and the wind are predicted to be mild weather won’t be a factor. It’s important to keep in mind that the books are on top of weather conditions at all times, and will adjust a total solely based on that factor alone aside from money movement. I only bring this up because there will be situations through the course of a season where we’ll see an abrupt or drastic movement on the total. The first thing that I decipher when that occurs is if it is weather related, due to money, or both.

The total in this intriguing SEC contest on opening night opened at 53.5 and at the time of this writing has moved to 53.0. According to the odds service that I use the early money has shown 71% of the general public has wagered on the under. At this point I can clearly say that the total showed a slight drop from its opening number because of public money. I never disregard the public and sharp money factor especially on nationally televised games. You can safely assume that there’s vastly more money wagered on national telecasts than locally aired or regional broadcasts for obvious reasons.

Visit our College Football Picks: Mississippi vs. Vanderbilt for another free play.

Now my personal take as it applies to this specific total. Mississippi returns all 11 players on defense for the upcoming season. The Rebels were #45 in total defense a year ago among the 124 teams in FBS. Ole Miss also ranked #26 versus the run allowing 126.5 yards per game. When you take into account the experience they have returning, the fact they played in the toughest conference in the country a season ago, you can make the case this will be a very strong defensive team in 2013. Last season Vanderbilt allowed 18 points or less in 4 of their 5 home games. The exception was the 31 allowed to Florida. The Commodores ranked 19th nationally in total defense and 15th in scoring defense. The Vanderbilt offense was dealt a huge blow a couple of weeks back when junior wide receiver Chris Boyd (50 catches/15.5 ypr, 5 tds in 2012) was suspended due to an off the field incident. They also will have to replace last season’s leading rusher Zac Stacy (1141 yds., 5.5 ypr.,10 tds).

The final piece to the puzzle is a college football technical angle. This is a Vanderbilt team that finished very strong last season winning their last 7 games. Why is that significant in regards to the total? I’m glad you asked. Any team that’s playing in a conference game in the first month of the season, and they finished the previous season by winning their last 5 or more games in a row, has seen 33 of those 43 games (76.7%) go under the total since the start of the 2004 season. My lean is to go under the 53 points listed on the college football odds board.


Saturday 8/31/2013

Northern Illinois @ Iowa 3:30 ET

Game # 165-166

Television: Big 10 Network

Total: 53.0

The Iowa Hawkeyes have been a traditionally strong defensive football team while bordering on deliberate and methodical on offense under Kirk Ferentz. I don’t see anything changing drastically in the regard this season with 8 returning players on defense and just 6 on offense. A season ago Iowa held 5 of their first 6 opponents to 17 points or less. Contrarily on offense they scored 27 points or less in 9 of their 11 games. Iowa faced Northern Illinois in last season’s season opener as well and won 18-17 in a game played at Soldier Field in Chicago. That was a particularly impressive performance considering this was a Northern Illinois team that went on to average 38.6 points and 469.6 total yards per game on the season. The Huskies were #21 nationally in scoring defense a year ago. I have a small lean on the under in this contest.


Saturday 8/31/2013

Louisiana Tech @ NC State 12:30 ET

Game # 163-164

Television: ESPN Game Plan (subscription)

Total: 63.0

This one qualifies under my best college football total angle of the week simply because it makes the most sense. It pertains to a lack of experience returning on offense. The NC State Wolfpack return just 5 starts on offense and the Louisiana Bulldogs return only 3.

Any game with a total of 63.0 or more that has both teams returning 5 or less players on offense, has seen 112 of those 170 games (65.9%) go under the total since the start of the 2004 season. My lean is to go under the total here based solely on this highly logical angle alone.


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