College Football Week 0 Best Bet: Bet on the Aztecs and Bobcats to go over the total

2K5K66W October 8, 2022 - San Diego State Aztecs quarterback Jalen Mayden (18) during a game between the San Diego State Aztecs and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, CA - Michael Sullivan/CSM

• There is power in this Aztecs offense: The Aztecs have lost some receiving production, with Jesse Matthews and Tyrell Shavers now plying their trade in the NFL, but Brionne Penny (2.12 yards per route run) and Mehki Shaw (1.75) posted solid numbers in the second half of last year and can be useful replacements.

• Ohio returns a very solid quarterback: Ohio returns quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who earned a 92.0 PFF grade a season ago and is one of the country's best signal-callers at this level.

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The offseason is over. College football is finally back!

Defending Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams will be front and center for the festivities, with his USC Trojans taking on San Jose State in what should be a comfortable opener for the No. 6 team in the nation. But first, the action starts in Dublin, Ireland, with the long-standing rivalry between Notre Dame and Navy. 

One of the most important things for any prospective bettors to note heading into the new college football season is the rule change regarding the clock stoppages. The clock will now run after first downs but will continue to stop if the tackle is out of bounds and at the end of each half (as was previously the case).

By my model, this new rule has the average change in points per game at the FBS level at around -2.7 points, which will change on a team-by-team basis relative to their ability, opponent's ability and clock management.

There are more sophisticated ways to approach this problem if you have the time and data, but this is a good ballpark number without getting too deep into the weeds.

The market, and more specifically, the people betting on it, have had a long time to bleed this information into the current number, but those people have differing opinions on how the scoring will be impacted. Therefore, there is some relative uncertainty in the current lines, and there has been plenty of movement in both directions over the last few weeks.

If there is still an edge in this regard, it will be gone after a couple of weeks, so proceed with caution once we get beyond Weeks 0 and 1. Building priors, especially in college football, involves a lot of unknowns, and you have to be willing to get off them quickly once new information presents itself. 

Ohio @ San Diego State: Over 49

Generally available at -110 (-108 at DraftKings)

I’m not looking to exploit a rules edge this week. Rather, I will lean into a potentially undervalued coaching change at San Diego State last season. 

Midway through the 2022 campaign, Ryan Lindley was brought in to serve as the Aztecs' QB coach, the same time Jalen Mayden moved back from safety to become the team's starting quarterback.

The impact was immediate. The program had just come off a big loss to Boise State when the pair started in their new roles, but they improved their offensive efficiency in a big way after that, increasing their expected points added (EPA) per play number from -0.528 to +0.031 over the remainder of the season. Not only that, but they also increased their pass rate from 39% to 49% the rest of the way. 

Ohio  San Diego State
Power Rank: Overall 75th 72nd
Power Rank: Defense 62nd 85th
Power Rank: Offense 12th 83rd
SOS Played
Avg Offensive Snaps 71.2 67.4
% Run Plays 46.4% 50.0%
% Pass Plays 53.6% 50.0%
EPA Per Run -0.09 -0.23
EPA Per Pass 0.22 -0.04

Click here to see more of PFF's best bets for this game and the rest of the Week 0 games! 

The Aztecs have lost some receiving production, with Jesse Matthews and Tyrell Shavers now plying their trade in the NFL, but Brionne Penny (2.12 yards per route run) and Mehki Shaw (1.75) both posted solid numbers in the second half of last year and can be useful replacements.

Mayden has now had an offseason to prepare for his role as starting quarterback with Lindley at the helm of the offense, with the likelihood being that they look to pass at a much higher rate than the early-season 39% from 2022. 

Ohio returns quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who earned a 92.0 PFF grade a season ago and is one of the country's best signal-callers at this level. He has most of the starting pieces still intact, including four of his five offensive linemen and all three of his highly graded wide receivers in Jacoby Jones (3.07 yards per route run in 2022), Sam Wiglusz (2.36) and Miles Cross (1.65).

The San Diego State defense is stout, but they’re not immune to giving up points to good offenses, which Ohio almost certainly has. This is likely to be a well-contested game, and the total is low enough for two potentially useful passing attacks. 

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