LAS VEGAS — A recent email from Ralph Michaels signaled that college football’s glorious kickoff is near, but the beauty of the note’s attachment is in its availability, gratis, to everyone.
The 42-page guide contains his power ratings for all 131 Division I teams, home-field edges and a Michaels line on every game, which we employed to excavate victory-total value.
Michaels hails from Cleveland, where he helped Phil Steele produce his annual College Football Preview. Michaels has been with WagerTalk since 2016, when he moved to Vegas.
He posts pertinent information daily on his social-media platforms, and the guide is on his WagerTalk profile.
Comparing his projections to DraftKings numbers, the shiniest initial gem was Marshall Over 5.5, at a DK price of -155 — risk $155 to win $100.
That 2.3-game variance, compared to Michaels’s projected 7.8, was the only one in the 2s. At one shop, Michaels hammered a Marshall total of 5 with a maximum Over wager, which he duplicated at 5.5.
“I have Marshall favored in TEN games,” he wrote me, “with the only ‘certain’ loss [coming] at Notre Dame.”
Others followed Michaels, bumping that 5.5 total to 7, -120 on Over, in one week. We’re sticking with Marshall in our six-pack of plays, because of Michaels’ bullishness, but advise a smaller wager on the Thundering Herd.
Arizona (a Michaels 4 to DK’s 2.5) and Liberty (7.7 to 6.5) round out Over action.
Under picks include UTSA (7 to 8.5), Georgia State (6.2 to 7.5) and Western Michigan (5.2 to 6.5).
(Totals and prices subject to change.)
MARSHALL: Over 7 (-120)
Over the last nine years, the Thundering Herd have averaged 7.8 victories.
Athlon’s annual rates its seven position units second, to Appalachian State, in the Sun Belt, says the Herd did the league’s best recruiting and pits it in the LendingTree Bowl against Kent State.
Tailbacks Rasheen Ali and Khalan Labor, a Florida State transfer who had a superb spring, are dynamic.
Steele gives top-10 national recognition to Marshall’s pass defense, led by linebacker Eli Neal and cornerback Steven Gilmore, both seniors.
Michaels has the Herd as a big favorite against FCS members Norfolk State and Gardner-Webb at home, where it’s also favored against Louisiana, Coastal Carolina, App State and Georgia State.
That last one is the season finale with double-edged ramifications.
Michaels also favors the Herd by 10 at Bowling Green, by 7.5 at Old Dominion and by 4.5 at James Madison in its FBS debut.
ARIZONA: Over 2.5 (-140)
The Wildcats were a combined 1-16 in the last two seasons, but there are many new faces and a fresh outlook. And Athlon pegged their recruiting class at No. 2 in the Pac-12.
They are one-point underdogs at home against FCS power North Dakota State, and they’re favored in home games against Colorado and Washington State. Arizona will be about a field-goal dog at California and at San Diego State.
Jayden de Laura, the quarterback who turned heads at Washington State, transferred to Tucson and should guide the Cats to winning three of those five games.
LIBERTY: Over 6.5 (-160)
Quarterback Charlie Brewer and a fine corps of receivers, plus a strong defensive line, drew us to the Flames, who have gone 23-11 over the last three regular seasons.
Even more impressive, coach Hugh Freeze has capped each of those campaigns with a bowl victory.
Brewer started at Baylor and played a bit for Utah before bolting to Lynchburg, Virginia. Steele envisions an offense that’s “just as potent” without quarterback Malik Willis, especially if it shaves sacks and turnovers.
A favorable schedule for the independent program includes five Michaels lines with Liberty at least an 18-point favorite. It’s favored in three others and is a pick ’em at home against Virginia Tech on Nov. 19.
UTSA: Under 8.5 (-150)
With stout tailback Sincere McCormick, the Roadrunners won their first seven games last year and received their first national ranking.
“Incredible expectations,” Michaels said. “We are happy to play the Under on them this year.”
In ’21, UTSA returned 21 starters, was plus-13 in turnovers and 5-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer. Plus, McCormick is gone. “All are reasons to fade,” Michaels said. Steele has UTSA among 11 “going down” squads.
It is a decided underdog at home against Houston and at Texas, and a slim dog against Army. “An 0-3 start is exactly what can derail a team,” Michaels said.
We only need four defeats. The Runners are 5.5-point dogs at UAB, and Western Kentucky is a coin flip at San Antonio. Dropping one of those two seals the deal.
GEORGIA STATE: Under 7.5 (-150)
In nine D-I seasons, the Panthers have won more than seven games only once. Marshall beating them benefits our Herd Over position, too, and could be the fifth Georgia State defeat, making this Under a winner.
Michaels has them as double-digit dogs at home against North Carolina and at App State, and they’re getting nine at South Carolina.
Their fifth game is at Army. If Georgia State returns to Atlanta 1-4, we’ll get that fifth loss long before the Marshall finale.
WESTERN MICHIGAN: Under 6.5 (-145)
The Broncos are coming off a bowl but now feature a freshman quarterback. A 1-3 start is likely, and Michaels has them as underdogs in four of their final five games.