Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

PointsBet recently dropped 20 look-ahead college football lines. Below are my favorite on the board.

UNC -6.5 at Virginia Tech

Friday, September 3

Justin Fuente’s 10th season in Blacksburg is gonna be a show-me year after the Hokies finished with a losing record for the second time in three campaigns in 2020. With the fanbase getting antsy, the opener, at home against North Carolina, is a pivotal game for Fuente’s regime.

Virginia Tech lost a metric-ton of talent over the offseason, with CB Caleb Farley (2020 opt-out) and T Christian Darrisaw going in R1 of the NFL Draft, S Divine Deablo going in R3, and RB Khalil Herbert going in R6. DT Jarrod Hewitt and EDGE Justus Reed signed as UDFA, and veteran starting QB Hendon Hooker transferred to Tennessee.

Virginia Tech ranks No. 110 in CFB Graph’s returning talent index. The top of Fuente’s recruiting classes have usually been okay, but the depth invariably hasn’t been there — and that’s what’s has been biting the Hokies the past three years.

It’s highly doubtful VT will be able to keep UNC’s bombs-away offense off the scoreboard. The Hokies’ defense ranked 90th in explosive plays allowed last year. And after losing Deablo and company, it ranks 96th in returning production.

UNC ranks No. 21 in CFB Graph’s returning talent. The Tar Heels had four notable losses on offense (RBs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter and WRs Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome) and one big loss on defense (LB Chazz Surratt) but return most everyone else. Most notably QB Sam Howell, a contender for the Heisman and 1.1 honors in the 2022 NFL Draft.

And Virginia Tech’s offense, now led by Oregon castaway Braxton Burmeister, is almost assuredly not going to be able to keep pace once Howell starts scuffing the scoreboard. Imagine the scene in Blacksburg in the first quarter if the Hokies get nicked for two early touchdowns. The mob will start shouting for Fuente’s head as soon as UNC starts to pull away.

Iowa +5.5 at Iowa State

Saturday, September 11

The Cyclones enter the season in unfamiliar territory. The hunted, not the hunter. The Cyclones ranked No. 6 in ESPN’s post-spring rankings and are listed No. 7 on PointsBets’ board to win the national title, with +2500 odds.

Iowa State returns 19 starters from the best team in school history, including three-time All-Big 12 QB Brock Purdy, arguably the best RB in the nation Breece Hall, and arguably the best TE in the nation Charlie Kolar. ISU’s defense finished inside the top-40 last season in both efficiency and explosion and ranked No. 5 overall in finishing drives (points per trip inside the 40).

The Hawkeyes come in under the radar. Only 12 starters return from a team that went 6-2 last year. Respectable, but not a campaign that caught national attention like Iowa State’s 9-3 run. But Iowa was one of the most underrated teams in the nation last year.

The Hawkeyes lost their first two games against Purdue and Northwestern by a combined five points and sort of fell off the map from there. But Iowa ripped off six-straight wins to close the season, five of them by 14-or-more points (four of them by 20 or more, and not against cupcakes either — vs. Michigan State, at Minnesota, at Penn State, vs. Wisconsin) — and then had their bowl game canceled.

At +2500 odds to win it all, Iowa State has a 3.5% implied probability of winning it all. Iowa, at +10,000, sits at 0.99% implied odds. I believe that’s overstating things. My friends Eric Eager and Ben Brown at PFF agree with me. PFF’s ELO rankings slotted Iowa No. 9 with 2.0% national title implied odds. It ranks Iowa State No. 21 with 1.0% implied title odds.

The Hawkeyes have only five starters returning on offense, but that includes RB Tyler Goodson, the man I call “Spin Shady.” If Breece Hall is not RB1 in the next draft class, I believe Spin Shady will be. He runs behind a line that returns C Tyler Linderbaum, arguably the best returning interior offensive linemen in the class.

Iowa QB Spencer Petras improved steadily as a the season went on last year, and WR Tyrone Tracy is primed for a breakout with ISM and Brandon Smith gone. Iowa’s defense is going to be strong again. It returns seven starters, and added stud Northern Iowa DB Xavior Williams, who will start immediately.

Iowa State hasn’t beaten Iowa by more than a field goal in 15 games —not since 2005. You could argue they’re due, and this is their year, sure. But these teams are a lot closer in quality than the public and the book is giving credit for. I feel this line should be under a field goal.

LSU +1 vs. Florida

Saturday, October 16

You’ll recall that LSU upset Florida last year in The Swamp after Marco Wilson heaved a shoe. I don’t see the Gators getting revenge in Baton Rouge in 2021.

I’m not sure what people are seeing in Florida this year, but I’m out. They lost an all-timer in TE Kyle Pitts, along with a R1 WR Kadarius Toney and R2 QB Kyle Trask. That’s hardly all. Florida also lost aforementioned R4 CB Marco Wilson, R5 K Evan McPherson, R5 S Shawn Davis, R5 DT Tedarrell Slaton and R6 OT Stone Forsythe, along with priority UDFA WR Trevon Grimes, iOL Brett Heggie and S Donovan Stiner.

Only nine starters return in total — out of 24, if you include the kickers. This year’s offense will be a run-first throw-back to Dan Mullen’s old Mississippi State days, directed by untested former four-star recruit QB Emory Jones. Which, great. If you watched last year’s bowl game against Oklahoma, you know the Gators aren’t moving forward in time with their offense, they’re about to move backwards.

Florida’s defense was abysmal last year, ranking No. 81 in efficiency, No. 88 in explosiveness, and No. 96 in finishing drives. After bringing back DC Todd Grantham, I’m not bullish on the Gators’ odds of the turnaround needed to negate the water offensive attrition will bring into the boat.

Meanwhile, I’m buying an LSU bounceback. The Tigers’ had a nightmarish 2020, losing 16 starters off the title team and fielding the FBS’ worst pass defense en route to a 5-5 season. But this year, 16 starters return — 17 if you count K Cade York, maybe the nation’s best, and 18 if TE Arik Gilbert decides to return. DC Daronte Jones was hired to overhaul the defense after Bo Pelini was shown the door.

The Tigers have the nation’s best CB duo — Derek Stingley and Eli Ricks, a duo Pelini criminally left out to dry schematically — along with an experienced, active defensive front. LSU added Clemson LB Mike Jones to augment a linebacking corps that lost Jabril Cox to the draft.

The offense was up-and-down last year but is going to be dangerous this year. All five starters return on the offensive line, WR Kayshon Boutte is one of the nation’s best receivers, and LSU is deep in the backfield. QBs Myles Brennan and Max Johnson combined for a 19/4 TD/INT rate between them last year — likely Brennan will run with the job, but if a freak injury fells him again, or if he struggles, LSU knows it has depth.

It’s crazy Florida is favored. By the time game week rolls around, it wouldn’t surprise me if LSU is favored by double-digits.

Texas A&M -8.5 vs. Auburn

Saturday, November 6

SELL SELL SELL on 2021 Auburn!

Auburn dismissed Gus Malzahn and his staff and brought in Boise State HC Bryan Harsin to replace him. The Tigers also lost WRs Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz and LB K.J. Britt and S Jamien Sherwood to the NFL Draft (along with WR Eli Stove and DB Jordyn Peters as UDFA).

More bad news: Shaky QB Bo Nix and his leaky offensive line return. Harsin has two things going for him Year 1: He has RB Tank Bigsby, who might be a star (and who defenses figure to gang up on all year). 2. He at least has some Nix insurance after former LSU QB TJ Finley transferred in last week.

Finley is a big pocket passer who was wildly inconsistent last year and ended the campaign on the bench — but Nix insurance is Nix insurance. And Nix, one of the worst P5 QB starters in the country last year, is guaranteed nothing. He completed 59.9% of his passes for 2,415 yards and a 12/7 TD/INT last year with two legitimate NFL receivers.

Whereas Malzahn didn’t use tight ends or huddle, in the spring, we saw both under Harsin. Change is coming. This is going to take time. That unit is going to have all kinds of issues moving the ball against a vicious A&M defense that returns nine starters.

The Aggies are loaded. A&M return stop-20 production in all of college football from a team that finished 9-1 and in the top-10 last year. They are four-deep in potential stars at running back, including the guy many see as RB1 in the 2022 NFL Draft in Isiah Spiller. With so much talent back there, multi-purpose talent Ainas Smith should be freed to move to receiver full-time.

A&M must replace QB Kellen Mond, a four-year starter. But Mond wasn’t an explosive player — his skillset, and his stats, are replaceable. Haynes King exited the spring with a slight edge over fellow soph Zach Calzada for the right to replace Mond. We’ll get a referendum on that battle in three month’s time.

In the week leading up to this game, you’ll hear plenty about how A&M has never beat Auburn in College Station — expect the Aggies to put an end to that emphatically this year with a double-digit win.

Texas A&M +13 vs. Alabama

Saturday, October 9

LSU -5 vs. Auburn

Saturday, October 2

See above/below


Miami +17.5 vs Alabama

Saturday, September 4

I say bonus, because this one comes with a caveat, and it isn’t for the faint for the heart — Alabama has beaten ranked opponents in season openers by an average of 23 points during the Nick Saban era. To bet Miami early, you have to be reasonably confident that Miami QB D’Eriq King (knee) will play.

Alabama will slaughter Miami if he doesn’t.

Hurricanes HC Manny Diaz and OC Rhett Lashlee have both said King is “smashing benchmarks” during his rehab from the torn ACL suffered against Oklahoma State in the bowl on December 29. Both have repeatedly stated they expect him to play against Alabama (Diaz has joked King will be ready to play against Alabama even if he has to be on crutches).

“We have full confidence that he will be ready and also be 100 percent and as good as ever,” Lashlee said last week. “We are just taking it as slow as we need to with him, but we are going to have to pry him off that field for him to not be there in game one. There is no indication that he won’t be able to go at this point.”

So long as King is in the lineup, I’m bullish on the 2021 Hurricanes. The only starter who doesn’t return on offense is TE Brevin Jordan, and he was more of a manufactured-touch sort of tight end. TE Will Mallory is the better NFL prospect.

Jordan’s spot on the field will simply be taken by another receiver — and Miami added an awesome one via the transfer portal in former Sooner Charleston Rambo. High-octane skill all around King with RB Cam’Ron Harris and WR Michael Harley back.

In all, the Hurricanes have 19 returning starters, ranking No. 3 in Bill Connelly’s returning production metrics. With a healthy King, this feels like a legitimate top-10 Miami team to me — and maybe even top-5. Alabama is never at a talent disadvantage, but it’ll certainly be at a continuity advantage against a dangerous team.

The Crimson Tide had 10 players drafted, including QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris, WRs DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, OT Alex Leatherwood, iOL Alex Dickerson, DL Christian Barmore and CB Patrick Surtain in the first two rounds. Yes, of course — Alabama reloads. But the Tide on offense in particular have lost a historic amount of skill talent the past few drafts — two first-round quarterbacks, a first-round running back, four first-round receivers.

This year, the unproved Bryce Young is tabbed to start throwing to a receiving corps led by John Metchie — a solid player but not on par with the four first-rounders Alabama just waived goodbye to — with a backfield that’s probably going back to a committee. Not only that, but OC Steve Sarkisian isn’t around to call plays anymore.

Expect some offensive regression. Too many question marks to lay this many points against a team as good and as experienced as Miami — so long as King plays.