Trends show the SEC dominates neutral-site season openers, the Big Ten is profitable ATS in Week 1 matchups vs. MAC opponents, and the Pac-12 has disappointed the betting market in competitive games the first time out.
Five SEC teams kick off on neutral soil for their 2017 season openers this weekend, including No. 1 Alabama, No. 13 LSU, No. 17 Florida, No. 25 Tennessee and unranked South Carolina. Four are up against other Power 5 opponents, where the conference is 18-4 SU and 14-7-1 ATS all-time on fair grounds in Week 1 tilts. The SEC wins by 9.9 points per game going off a -5.0 favorite on average.
The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic is the marquee matchup in all of college football this weekend, as the Crimson Tide, national title favorites, take on No. 3 Florida State at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Alabama is laying a touchdown after opening a 5.5-point favorite back in May. Since head coach Nick Saban took control in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide are undefeated in season openers, going 9-1 ATS. Saban’s program is beating the number by 9.1 points per game.
South Carolina and Tennessee also square off against ACC foes. The Gamecocks are catching 5 points vs. the N.C. State Wolfpack at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, while the Volunteers are field goal favorites for a Monday night SEC-ACC encore again at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The “football” conference has dominated the “basketball” conference in season openers in recent years, going 27-11 SU and 23-15 ATS since 1980. As chalk, the SEC has covered 18 of 26 altogether.
In other action, the Tigers are 15.5-point favorites vs. BYU in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game offers little neutrality after officials moved the contest from Houston’s NRG Stadium in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction. The Cougars are one of a handful of teams with a game already under their belt, failing to cover a 34-point spread in a 20-6 victory against Portland State in “Week 0.”
The Gators, who have 10 players suspended for the opener, are 5-point underdogs vs. Michigan in the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Bettors have to go back to a 1987 matchup with Miami to find the last time Florida went off a pup (+5.5) in the season opener.Big Ten-MAC Openers Prominent & Profitable
Four Big Ten programs kick off their season vs. MAC opponents, a common occurrence in the world of college football. Since 1980, the two conferences have clashed in 95 opening games. The Power 5 representatives are 83-12 SU and 53-36-1 ATS in this span.
All but one of the four contests are seeing a double-digit spread: Illinois is a touchdown favorite over Ball State. Minnesota was 24-point chalk in its Thursday night tilt vs. Buffalo, while Michigan State is laying 17 points in a home matchup against Bowling Green. The largest spread goes to the Penn State-Akron tussle, the No. 6 Nittany Lions offering 30.5 points to the Zips. For those tempted to take all the points, consider this trend: The Big Ten is 13-3 ATS when giving four touchdowns or more in season openers vs. MAC opponents, beating the number by 6.1 points per game.
Cupcakes Only for the Pac-12 Please
The standard for many programs is to schedule an easy win or two at the front of the schedule as a tuneup prior to conference play. Since the Pac-12 restructured in 2011, backers are ripping up tickets in season openers that are the slightest bit competitive on paper. When going off chalk with a line of -20 or less, or as the underdog, Pac-12 teams are 12-23 ATS, losing to the number by 3.9 points per game.
Sluggish or overvalued offense tends to be the issue with teams failing to score less than or at least a field goal greater than expected (team total) in 31 of the 35 games. Three Pac-12 programs trigger this trend this weekend: Colorado (-4) vs. Colorado St, California (+11) vs. North Carolina, and UCLA (-3.5) vs. Texas A&M.