Auburn University

Auburn-Oregon: How to approach betting on marquee college football battle

‘I’ve always wanted to play quarterback at Auburn’: Bo Nix named Tigers’ starting QB

Auburn Tigers freshman Bo Nix was named the starter at quarterback. He'll make his first start against the Oregon Ducks on August 31.
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Auburn Tigers freshman Bo Nix was named the starter at quarterback. He'll make his first start against the Oregon Ducks on August 31.

There’s only one matchup on the first full Saturday of college football action that pairs preseason Top 25 teams. That’s No. 16 Auburn of the Southeastern Conference taking on No. 11 Oregon from the Pac 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (ABC, 6:30 p.m.)

Because so many major college teams are playing tune-up scrimmages vs. lesser lights, Tigers/Ducks is the clear showcase betting event of the weekend. Thursday, VSiN discussed the SEC’s typical dominance in non-conference litmus tests. Will Auburn be up to the challenge?

That’s a big question, because Oregon is a popular national dark horse choice this season thanks to Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Herbert. He’d probably go #1 in the next NFL draft if it were held this week.

Though, it has to be reported that Herbert is a top prospect largely because he’s 6’6” with great potential, not because of consistently reliable excellence. Oregon’s pass offense only ranked #50 nationally last season. Herbert had trouble with accuracy and sacks in three road losses at Washington State, Arizona, and Utah. You may have watched the telecast of Oregon’s ugly 7-6 Redbox Bowl win over Michigan State played in Santa Clara. Herbert was just 19-33-0-166 in that neutral field test vs. a strong defense.

Betting on Herbert burned money last season. Oregon was only 5-8 against the spread, and it would have been 4-9 if Michigan State hadn’t botched a late field goal in the pick-em bowl game. The senior could develop into a more NFL-ready passer this season. Auburn’s athletic defense will be fired up to make a statement with “tough D” near “Big D.”

Auburn was also overpriced last season, finishing 6-7 ATS. But, the Tigers did cover four of their final six, highlighted by a stunning 63-14 pounding of Purdue in the Music City Bowl.

It might be tough for that late-season surge to carry over because quarterback Jarrett Stidham left early for the NFL draft (taken by the New England Patriots). Pressure is on head coach Gus Malzahn to live up to his “offensive guru” reputation. Auburn only ranked #79 nationally last season in total offense.

Betting markets sat on Auburn -2 much of the summer. Gradual support for the Tigers lifted that past the key number of three to -3.5 two weeks ago. Clearly professional bettors believed the national rankings should have been flipped. Odd to see the worse-ranked team laying more than a key number on a neutral field.

Be sure you monitor line moves throughout the day. Sharps and recreational players will have all morning and afternoon to jockey for position at preferred numbers. Then, watch the game intently so you can make smart bets in future litmus tests involving these teams. A lot can be learned from what is essentially an August bowl game.

Other Notes

Labor Day weekend annually features Sunday and Monday college action because NFL teams are busy preparing for the start of their regular season. Ranked playoff threats will be laying big numbers both days…

Sunday, #4 Oklahoma hosts Houston (ABC, 6:30 p.m.) in a projected shootout that will feature one of the highest Over/Unders all season. Barring weather issues, that should close in the low 80’s.

Monday, #9 Notre Dame visits rebuilding Louisville (ESPN, 7 p.m.). The Fighting Irish were a surprise entry in last season’s Final Four before getting squashed by Clemson 30-3.

Baseball gets buried on the sports betting slate once football starts. But, the Oakland A’s visiting the New York Yankees is a huge series this weekend that will help bettors scout the coming pennant race and playoffs. National TV spots for Saturday’s early matinee (MLB Network, 12:05 p.m.) and Sunday’s finale (TBS, 12:05 p.m.)

Labor Day features mostly afternoon diamond action, with several teams forced to play day games after traveling. Look for value spots to fade jet-lagged, disinterested visitors.

VSiN returns Thursday to preview the much anticipated LSU/Texas showdown and other games involving SEC teams. Next Saturday, we’ll get you ready for the New Orleans Saints’ season opener at home against the Houston Texans. We’re as excited as you are that real live football is back on the betting board!

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at VSiN.com/newsletter
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