New teams bear watching

The Big Ten and Mountain West will kick off their college football seasons this weekend with the Pac-12 and MAC not far behind them starting in early November.

With that in mind, it’s a good time to remind all of our Gaming Today readers of some betting concepts that can help put you on the winning side in the first couple weeks of the season in these conferences. 

A strong betting angle when the SEC, Big 12, ACC and all the other conferences started back in September was betting on teams that had more practice sessions than their opponent. Proper preparation prevents poor performance is a phrase that I believe in and it’s certainly true in sports as well. Teams that had more practice time on the field often had better performances in those first couple games of the season.

Betting against teams with a new head coach is also a solid betting profile to consider in this unique season. Teams with new coaches and coordinators often need time to implement their systems and schemes.

This year’s offseason routine was completely disrupted by COVID-19 and coaches don’t often get the same amount of time they would in a normal offseason to work directly with the players to get everyone on the same page with all the changes taking place.

As a result, teams in this situation often need to get a game or two under their belt before they begin to start firing on all cylinders.

The last thing to consider in these first couple games for these conferences set to begin are strong home field edges that certainly will lose their strength with no fans being permitted to attend other than family members of the players and coaches. The Big House in Michigan, Camp Randall in Wisconsin and “The Shoe” in Columbus are just three venues in particular that stand out like a sore thumb where the home field advantage for the Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers and Ohio State Buckeyes will be diminished significantly and could lead to value betting against those teams at home.

Those are some tips that worked for me last month when other major conferences started playing. As always, keep them in mind but don’t blindly bet these angles. It’s still important to make sure to treat each game as its own entity. 

Here are my picks for this week:

Friday

Illinois +20 at Wisconsin: The Fighting Illini and Badgers get the Big Ten season underway with a Friday night clash under the lights in Madison. Illinois beat Wisconsin outright as 28.5-point underdogs last season in a 24-23 win. The Badgers have to work in a new starting QB this season in redshirt freshman Graham Mertz because Jack Coan, last year’s starter, is out with a broken foot. They also must replace Jonathan Taylor at RB.

The defense should be improved for Wisconsin, but Illinois' offense could be exceptional with senior QB Brandon Peters back at the helm along with a loaded and experienced offensive line returning 125 career starts. I expect this game to be more of a battle than a blowout. Illinois was 6-1 ATS as Big Ten underdogs last season. ILLINOIS

Saturday

Virginia Tech at Wake Forest, Total 68.5: Virginia Tech’s offense is on fire, averaging 42 points per game and 484.5 total yards per game at 7.3 yards per play and should be even better now with Hendon Hooker back at QB.

I don’t expect a subpar Wake Forest defense which allowed 45 and 37 points vs. Clemson and NC State to shut down the Hokies here.

On the flip side, Wake Forest also plays at an extremely high tempo and QB Sam Hartman and the Demon Deacons' offense has been outstanding since their first game against Clemson. They have scored 42, 66 and 40 points in their last three games and should do damage against a Virginia Tech defense surrendering 31.3 points per game and over 473 total yards per game. OVER

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Syracuse at Clemson, Total 61.5: Clemson’s offense put up 73 points in an annihilation over Georgia Tech last week. They could match that output here and possibly go over this total by themselves.

The Syracuse defense is an injury-riddled mess and it showed on the field last week as Liberty gashed them for 38 points and 520 total yards in a home loss on Saturday. That is trouble against QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Travis Etienne and company.

Syracuse is still playing a fast tempo on offense and to be honest, there isn’t much of a decline from the injured Tommy DeVito to Rex Culpepper, who had three TD passes last week. I think Syracuse can at least find the end zone once or twice while Clemson gets to at least the high 50’s if not the 60’s in points in this game. OVER

Michigan at Minnesota +3: Michigan will have a new starting QB this season as redshirt freshman Joe Milton is the frontrunner to be under center for them here on Saturday against Minnesota. He’s gotten solid reviews in camp but getting it done in what will be his first game action as a starter is a different animal.

Minnesota had a breakthrough year last season under head coach PJ Fleck and they should be strong on offense with QB Tanner Morgan back and an experienced offensive line which holds a size advantage in the trenches over the undersized Michigan defensive line.

The Gophers lost a few pieces on defense but this may not be the opponent capable of taking advantage of them as head coach Jim Harbaugh often goes conservative on offense away from home. I’m not convinced that Minnesota deserves to be home 'dogs in this spot. MINNESOTA

Last week: 3-1

Season: 11-9-1