Thanks to the legend Brent Musburger who is now enjoying retirement in Las Vegas, we get to see the first odds released for opening weekend.
Among those odds released by the South Point Casino were all of the Sun Belt’s matchups against FBS competition (UMass-Coastal Carolina is currently off the board). Here we’ll take a quick look at each contest and try to explain the line. Let’s ride!
ULM (+23) @ Memphis
The Warhawks would be looking to build off a surprising 4-8 campaign in Matt Viator’s debut season. ULM will face Memphis in their opener on Thursday, August 31st. The Tigers should have one of the best offenses in the country behind quarterback Riley Ferguson, running back Darrell Henderson, and do-it-all receiver Anthony Miller. The Warhawks will have a hard time stopping head coach Mike Norvell’s offense and if this becomes a shootout it could get ugly quick for the Warhawks. It is essential for ULM to establish the running game, limit turnovers, and eat as much clock as possible to keep the Memphis high tempo attack on the sidelines. They’ll be playing under the lights at the Liberty Bowl.
New Mexico State (+26) @ Arizona State
The Aggies enter their last season before beginning FBS Independent life with a road trip to Tempe as they’ll take on Arizona State on that opening Thursday. The Sun Devils are coming off back-to-back losing seasons and all of a sudden head coach Todd Graham may be on a little bit of a hot seat. For NMSU to have a chance, Larry Rose III will have to run wild in Sun Devil Stadium. NMSU will have their hands full against Arizona State’s uptempo attack even in offensive coordinator Billy Napier’s first game. Arizona State skill players Kalen Ballage and N’Keal Harry should have their way with New Mexico State’s defense. Points will be scored in bunches here.
Arkansas State (+19) @ Nebraska
The defending Sun Belt champs open the season on the road in Lincoln and they’ll be looking for a faster start than in 2016. The Huskers will be breaking in a new QB in Tulane transfer Tanner Lee and they have some legit weapons outside at receiver. However, Arkansas State may have a nice advantage with their defensive front. End Ja’Von Rolland-Jones and tackle Dee Liner are both future NFL draft picks and could wreak havoc against Nebraska’s offensive line. However, this could be a rough first assignment for the five new starters on Arkansas State’s o-line as they face off against what should be a respectable Power 5 front seven. If the Red Wolves can get off to a fast start, an upset will be possible.
South Alabama (+22.5) @ Ole Miss
Last year USA went into Starkville and shocked Mississippi State on opening day. This time they’ll look to do the same to that school up north. Ole Miss enters the year amid allegations and will be sitting out the postseason in 2017. However, USA will get the Rebels while their fresh as Shea Patterson and the Ole Miss offense should have a field day against a defense that ranked 101st against the pass and 119th against the run in 2016 per S&P+. Meanwhile, the Jags will need to get their run game going because they are replacing nearly all of their receiving production from 2016. That Ole Miss defense is expected to be one of the worse in the SEC, so the opportunity for success is there.
Georgia Southern (+36) @ Auburn
It’s a now or never year for Tyson Summers in Statesboro and the Eagles get a really difficult draw to start 2017. Auburn will be a preseason top 10 squad and seem to be Alabama’s biggest competition in the SEC. Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham appears to be a star for Auburn and Kamryn Pettway should have a field day running against this front seven behind an awesome Auburn offensive line. Southern will need the option to be successful early and often to keep the high octane Auburn offense on the bench. Auburn’s defense was legit under first year coordinator Kevin Steele and they return a lot of key pieces in 2017.
Appalachian State (+11) @ Georgia
A year after taking Tennessee to overtime in Knoxville, the Mountaineers will travel to Athens to take on the Bulldogs for a game on ESPN. This will give Scott Satterfield’s program another chance to make a national statement as they head into Sanford Stadium to take on Kirby Smart in his second season in Athens. This will be a interesting running back match-up as App State’s Jalin Moore goes up against Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. This UGA offense struggled mightily last year so the hope is App State can control the game with their offensive line and steal a win in the fourth quarter.
Troy (+5) @ Boise State
Perhaps the Sun Belt’s best chance to make a statement would occur on Boise’s famed blue turf. Troy makes the journey west to take on a Boise State team that may be the favorite to win the G5’s New Year’s Six Bid. This will be a unique QB battle as we’ll get the 2016 All-Mountain West (Brett Rypien) and All-Sun Belt first team (Brandon Silvers) members going against each other. Hidden in a loaded opening weekend, this game is very under the radar going into the season. On a neutral field, this match-up is a coin flip. Both Neal Brown and Bryan Harsin could be heading to a Power Five program in the very near future.