A funny thing happened in college football this week. The defending FBS national champion Clemson Tigers are set for a season-opening scrum with Kent State this Saturday, but despite wagers being available, many online sports books aren’t bothering to put the lines on their front pages.
Why? Maybe it has something to do with Kent State having been a bad team in a weak conference (the MAC) last year. Or rather, the resulting casino lines, which are truly astronomical. Clemson is nearly a 40-point favorite, and the visiting Golden Flashes are – cough – 170/1 underdogs or worse with some bookies.
Who: Kent State Golden Flashes at Clemson Tigers
When: Saturday September 2nd, Noon ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson SC
Lines: Kent State (+38. 5) at Clemson (-38.5) / O/U Total: (51.5)
The O/U total gives away what bookies think is going to happen. Kent State, they believe, will simply not be able to score any points until garbage time. A track-meet style blow-out would amount to something like 52-20, which would blow away the O/U line.
Instead, odds-makers believe that the final score will be more like 42-10.
Some touts are calling Kent State ATS a value pick, reasoning that the Tigers may suffer from a “championship hangover.” It’s true that Clemson will be missing Deshaun Watson, last year’s superstar QB who put the team on his back in the big win over Alabama. RB Wayne Gallman is also gone, now a member of the New York Giants. And some bettors doubt that Dabo Swinney’s coaching staff can continue to manufacture a great defense year after year.
That analysis overlooks a couple of key aspects of this match-up.
Pundits are treating this game as if Clemson were playing a bad team from the ACC. Yes, if the Tigers opened the season against Syracuse and the spread was almost 40 points, a wager on the Orangemen could be a smart play.
But Kent State isn’t just a struggling team, they’re a struggling MAC team. Head coach Paul Haynes is in his 5th season with the program, and has few original ideas to offer. The Flashes are uncertain at QB, and Nick Holley (tentatively the signal-caller in ’17) out-rushed all of the team’s running backs last season. Holley only passed for 4 touchdowns.
Clemson is also great at exceeding expectations and rising to the occasion. Don’t expect a sloppy offense in Week 1 from the Tigers, who heavily out-weigh the Flashes up front. In fact, Swinney may choose to air it out and give new QB Kelly Bryant some confidence passing against a marginal defense.
Take the Tigers ATS, or the over. Clemson is likely to score 50+ points, and the Flashes are not ripe to score more than 10 in this one.