Week 1 of the college football season is still over a month away, but Caesars Sportsbook already has lines on the games. After looking over the full slate, six games stand out to me. Play these games now, as a month from now the lines may not be as favorable.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-14.5) vs. UMass Minutemen
Rutgers needs to get some wins in 2019. Head coach Chris Ash is 3-2 as a home favorite and is entering a pivotal fourth season, coming off a 1-11 campaign. Last year, the Scarlet Knights opened as a home favorite against Texas State and rolled to a 35-7 victory ... their only one of the season. They were minus-13 in turnovers, but this year should more resemble the 4-8 team of 2017. The Scarlet Knights have 13 starters back, while UMass not only has a new head coach but also has only eight starters back (No. 130 on my experience chart). It may seem like a lot of points to lay with Rutgers, but the two times Ash was a double-digit favorite the past two years, he covered by an average of 17.5 points per game.
ATS pick: Rutgers -14.5
Score: Rutgers 41, Massachusetts 17
New Mexico State Aggies (+34) at Washington State Cougars
New Mexico State got to a bowl game two years ago and could be close to the 2017 version led by quarterback Josh Adkins, running back Jason Huntley and a much-improved defense. Washington State went the transfer route again at quarterback, bringing in Gage Gubrud from Eastern Washington and moving up from No. 122 on my experience chart to No. 70. Washington State is 8-11 ATS versus nonconference teams the past five years and is a slow-starting team, dropping its past four home openers against the number, including two outright upsets by FCS teams. I will take the nearly five-touchdown spread here.
ATS pick: New Mexico State +34
Score: Washington State 42, New Mexico State 20
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (+20.5) at Texas Longhorns
Skip Holtz is a solid 14-4-1 as an away underdog the past five years. Texas has opened the season with upset losses to Maryland each of the past two years and has a huge game home against LSU the next week. Longhorns head coach Tom Herman is one of the premier underdog coaches in the game, but he is only 6-15-1 as a home favorite. Texas has the talent edge on offense, defense and even special teams, but the situation favors Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs are also the more experienced team (No. 28 on my experience chart vs. No. 92 for Texas) and have a veteran starting quarterback in J'Mar Smith.
ATS pick: Louisiana Tech +20.5
Score: Texas 34, Louisiana Tech 21
Michigan Wolverines (-31) vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Michigan has won its last 10 home openers by 32 points per game. Defensive coordinator Don Brown had the top defense in the country last year until he ran into Ohio State and Florida the last two games and his D gave up 103 points.
Middle Tennessee has been a strong team the past four years with a healthy Brent Stockstill at QB, but much weaker on offense when he missed games. The Blue Raiders now have a first-time starting QB with only one starter back on the offensive line and open their season in front of over 107,000 fans and a blitzing defense. Michigan has a new, faster-paced offense trying to get up to speed and the Wolverines also have a significant special-teams edge (No. 7 vs. No. 96). Middle Tennessee lost its opener to Vanderbilt the past two seasons with Stockstill at quarterback by 22 and 28 points. Vanderbilt is not to be confused with an angry, embarrassed Michigan team.
ATS pick: Michigan -31
Score: Michigan 48, Middle Tennessee State 3
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (+22.5) at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last year, Mississippi State rolled to a 56-10 win over Louisiana, scoring on its first seven possessions (49-3 after three quarters). This game takes place in New Orleans, and though Mississippi State has the larger fan base, Louisiana usually fills up the Superdome when they travel here for bowl games and should have the crowd edge.
The Bulldogs lose their entire defensive line, including two first-round NFL draft picks and a sixth-rounder, and overall Louisiana is the more experienced team (No. 15 vs. No. 84 on my experience chart). Louisiana has a trio of outstanding RBs in Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais, who each ran for over 750 yards last season. The Ragin' Cajuns should find more room to run than they did last year when they had just 65 yards rushing. Louisiana is pumped up about this game and will keep the game much closer than last year's contest.
ATS pick: Louisiana +22.5
Score: Mississippi State 34, Louisiana 20
Florida State Seminoles (-4) vs. Boise State Broncos
Florida State looks like a vastly improved team this year, with better depth and players who have bought into Willie Taggart's system. The Seminoles have ULM on deck, and though this is technically a "neutral" site game, it will be played in Jacksonville -- that gives Florida State the heat, humidity and crowd edge. Boise State will have a first-time starting quarterback but gets all five starters back on the offensive line, and the defense returns seven starters.
The Broncos are a talented team coming off a 10-win season, but lost their past two matchups against Power Five teams by 19 and 23 points -- and that was against Virginia and Oklahoma State. I will side with a hungry Florida State team out to prove the doubters wrong.
ATS pick: Florida State -4
Score: Florida State 31, Boise State 17