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By Todd Fuhrman
College football season is officially here, but the more things change the more they stay the damn same. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Clemson sits atop our Vegas Top 10 touting a ferocious front 7 and high-end talent at almost every position on the field (get it together secondary). Given the depth at quarterback a controversy seems inevitable and maybe the only thing that could derail the juggernaut Dabo’s built.
The Big Ten owns 40% of the stock in our rankings (Clay might need a defibrillator after reading this), including 3 from the East division alone, which looks to be the best division in all the land. Just imagine if James Franklin gets his boys playing to their potential, PennState could be the fourth team from one division to crack our poll. If you’re new to these Bet The Board rankings, keep in mind that these are not the teams with the best records or that will finish at the top of the popularity polls; instead they’re the teams we have power rated the highest. Keep in mind, it did feel bizarre not putting Florida State in the mix after you guys had fun at our expense nearly every single week last year, but don’t you worry, the ‘Noles are certainly lurking.
Vegas Top 10 before Week 1:
3.) Ohio State
10.) Michigan State
Overrated: West Virginia Mountaineers
This should be music to Vols fans ears as they count the hours until Saturday’s kickoff in Charlotte. West Virginia comes into the 2018 season ranked 17th by the AP boasting a power house offense lead by quarterback and Heisman candidate Will Grier. There is plenty to like about this team on that side of the ball, with fantastic NFL caliber wideouts Gary Jennings and David Sills leading an up-tempo offense that can put up points … and fast! The defensive side of the ball is where there should be major concern given there is little depth across this unit. While West Virginia has a chance to rack up victories early in the season, their toughest games (Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma) don’t start until a November trip to Austin. Given their lack of depth should any injuries pile up it will really cost this team especially in the meat of their schedule.
Underrated: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Let’s start with the obvious; new head coach Joe Morehead (former Penn State offensive coordinator) is a stud and brings a creative and efficient offensive system to a team that has pieces in quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, running back Aeris Williams, and the receiving core to make other SEC coaches blush. Defensively, Mississippi State brings back 8 defensive starters, including what has the potential to be an elite front 7. While Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Florida seem to garner most of the attention when in the SEC, Mississippi State becomes the forgotten name. If Fitzgerald can pick up this new offense quickly, and the defense can stay healthy, we could see this Bulldogs team head into a home game vs. Auburn on October 6th undefeated. The Maroons season win total sits 8.5 at BetOnline.Ag, showing that even oddsmakers might not respect the talent Coach Mullen left in Starkville before his departure.
Best Bet: (219) Virginia Tech-Florida State Over 54.5
This total opened anywhere from 50 to 52 across the market before professional money piled on the over driving the price to 54.5 – and a recent second wave has since taken it out to 56.5. When we take a look at the matchup, and the reason for the move, a couple of notable factors stick out. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 6 months, the Seminoles hired Willie Taggert from Oregon, who runs a quick offense (8th in adjusted pace) predicated on establishing a strong run game. FSU is primed to have a ton of success running the ball with Cam Akers, Jacques Patrick and Khalan Laborn. Quarterback DeAndre Francois won the job under center giving the Seminoles a sneaky dynamic offensive attack.
On the other side of the ball for Florida State, they will be playing an aggressive style defense that will take chances (but may also be exposed on the back end). Meanwhile, the Hokies have dealt with natural attrition, suspensions and injuries on the defensive side of the ball this off-season, forcing a ton of fresh faces into the fire early. It would appear Virginia Tech’s defense may not be in an ideal position to stop a good high school team early in the year, leading us to see points aplenty on Labor Day.