Golden Nugget's release of its college football Games of the Year each June gives the first glimpse of how oddsmakers see the sport in advance of the season. But to get the greater view from Las Vegas, it's worthwhile to examine where the lines moved after Golden Nuggets release.
With that in mind, we go to other pros to find out the teams and matchups that deserve another look:
Team win totals by Chris Andrews, AgainsttheNumber.com:
A team we have rated higher than the Golden Nugget, and handicappers agree with us, is Northwestern. This season, the Wildcats open with Cal, Northern Illinois and Western Illinois. With Northern Illinois down quite a bit from the past few seasons, Northwestern has an excellent chance to start 3-0 before entering the Big Ten portion of its schedule. Northwestern will have a new man at quarterback, but nine starters return on offense along with eight on defense. I look for big improvement from the team that folded after one bad loss.
Iowa starts its season with two games in which it will be highly favored, against Ball State and Northern Iowa. They host Iowa State, who is likely down this season, then travel to Pitt. The Hawkeyes open their Big Ten schedule with Purdue, one of the worst teams in the FBS, then host Indiana before traveling to Maryland. Those are all very winnable games. If things go right for the Hawkeyes, they could easily be 7-0 before tough games with Northwestern and Minnesota, a breather with Illinois and finishing with Wisconsin and Nebraska. Luckily they avoid Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State. Teams can build confidence with success. Iowa has a good core of 14 returning starters including their quarterback. This could be an excellent season in Iowa City.
Louisville starts with an always tough Miami team, but will then be strongly favored in its next four games. Say what you will about new/old coach Bobby Petrino's character, but the man can coach football. Look for Louisville to improve during the course of the season.
Line moves by Warren Sharp, SharpFootballAnalysis.com:
When Golden Nugget gave the betting public the first opportunity to bet on single college football games for the 2014 season, there were a number of teams the sharps immediately jumped on.
The largest mover was TCU, which was a 4.4-point underdog, on average, in the four games selected by Golden Nugget. Since that line release, however, it move from a 10-point to 12.5-point favorite at SMU, from a 14-point home underdog vs. Oklahoma to 11.5, and from a 4-point home underdog to a 2. Though a 2-point move is substantial, even more substantial is moving the number through the +3 point barrier, which is the hardest threshold to cross from a linemaker's perspective.
TCU's lines moved in its favor by an average of 2.3 points per game, most of any team in the 200 games of the year.
The team with the most games moved by +1.5 points was Florida, which saw three games move in its favor. Florida, in its eight listed games, is an underdog of 5.7 points on average and is not expected to contend for the SEC, seeing a win total of only 7.5 wins. But that didn't stop sharp bettors from taking the Gators.
Florida's Sept. 20 game at Alabama started with the Gators as a 21-point underdog, but the line moved to 20.
The Gators initially were listed as 9-point underdogs at home vs. LSU, but sharp bettors not only drove the line +2.5 points in Florida's favor, they moved it thru another key number of +7, dropping it to +6.5 points.
The sharps decided to move the Gators' line as a home favorite vs Missouri (the week after the LSU game) from -3 up to -4. Though this was not a move through the key number of 3, moving off the key number of 3 is still a strong position.
Finally, lines moved against Oklahoma in six of six games, by an average of 1.25 ppg. Clearly, the sharps see something about Oklahoma that they don't like.
Dave Bartoo is the creator and publisher of the CFBMatrix, a website, blog, podblog and digital preview magazines dedicated to new, smart and unique views on college football. Follow him on Twitter @CFBMatrix. His preview magazine Vegas Expectations is available on iTunes and the Android Market.
RANKING EVERY FBS TEAM FOR 2014