BY TONY JOHNSON
As we approach week four of the NCAA football season, the conference games begin to loom large for the teams in the Power Five. Traditionally, teams open up with some soft non-conference games but recently the major conferences have begun to schedule some difficult non-conference Power Five schools to test themselves before the meat of the conference schedule begins. At “Betting For An Edge”, we decided to honor the start of the conference season by selecting one game each week from each of the Power Five conferences where we believe there is value to be had. This can either be on a side or total. We will keep track of the results and see how the season goes. Lines only from the major sports books here in Las Vegas will be used.
ACC: Clemson at Georgia Tech (Clemson -16.5 at William Hill)
Clemson is coming off a win at home versus Georgia Southern who runs a similar triple option offense like Georgia Tech. Head coach Swinney and defensive coordinator Venables have had Georgia Tech’s number in recent years and have won by double digits in four of the last five years. Clemson remains stout on defense and still very strong on offense but the same can’t be said for Georgia Tech. Tech lost their best running back Kirvonte Benson for the season a few weeks ago and struggled offensively against a mediocre Pittsburgh team last week. I expect Clemson to be up early and roll on the road.
Big 10: Penn State at Illinois (Illinois +28 at William Hill)
This will be the third week in a row I’ll be betting on the Illini. I believe this is an underrated team that is difficult to blow out of games. Head coach Lovie Smith has surprisingly done a nice job recruiting the last few years and there is some great talent especially on defense. They should have beaten USF outright at home last week but easily covered catching 10.5 points. Penn State is very good but still lost a lot of premier players on offense from last year. Miles Sanders has looked good filling in for Saquon Barkley but he clearly is not the same caliber of player. McSorley is an awesome passer but defending the pass and not giving up big plays is what Illinois does well. I certainly think Penn State will win the game but it will be closer than many people believe.
Big 12: Kansas State at West Virginia (Kansas State +16.5 at Stations)
This one seems pretty easy. Bill Snyder of Kansas State is one of the best coaches in the country and his teams are difficult to prepare for. They struggled to start the year with a close win against South Dakota and a loss to Mississippi State but played great last week against a pretty good UTSA team. I like both Thompson and Delton at quarterback but the big test will be on defense against the powerhouse West Virginia offense. WVU has an incredibly talented core of wide receivers to go along with quarterback Grier and Holgorsen is a great offensive mind. It all looks so good on paper but it never seems to work out that way on the field against Kansas State. The last five years results in this game are KSU win by 23, KSU win by 6, KSU win by 1, WVU win by 1, and WVU win by 5. KSU was 4-1 ATS in those games.
Pac 12: Arizona at Oregon State (Arizona -6 at William Hill)
This is a classic game where we are going against the public perception of both teams. It is certainly known that Arizona has struggled out of the gate with losses at home to BYU and on the road at Houston. They even struggled stopping Southern Utah on defense last week, On the other hand Oregon State has looked better than expected and put up a lot of points in all three of their games so far. That said, they have had some injuries on both sides of the ball already including losing their top RB and WR to injuries in weeks 1 and 2. Starting quarterback Jake Luton is also questionable for this game. I think Arizona has finally settled in under this new coaching staff and will look much more explosive on offense this week. I expect more designed runs for Tate and the defense can only get better after a rough three weeks. I expect Arizona to look like the better team on both sides of the ball and win the game pretty handily.
SEC: Florida at Tennessee (Under 47 at William Hill)
Both of these SEC teams are rebuilding under new coaching staffs. Florida is off to a rocky start having lost to Kentucky at home but played better last week against Colorado State. A bright spot has been the quarterback play from Feleipe Franks who should thrive under the new system from Dan Mullen. Florida has plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball and I would not be surprised if they look much better by the end of this season. Tennessee is also starting fresh with former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt at the helm. They have unsurprisingly played stingy defense but offensively have struggled. I expect this game to be a slugfest with both teams running the ball often and playing with a very moderate pace.
I hope it’s a profitable week for everyone. I’ll update the results at the bottom each week.