The Golden Nugget Casino-Hotel released its early lines for 111 key games not long ago, an annual tradition in the college football betting world. Nebraska was featured in five contests with the marquee elements of its schedule well-represented. Let’s examine what these meticulously-determined tea leaves say about the Huskers’ 2012 season.
Including the Southern Miss line (via 5Dimes Sportsbook), Nebraska is favored in half of the early lines. Even more interesting is that the Huskers’ odds get worse in the premiere games later in the year.
- 13-point favorite versus Southern Miss:
Nebraska’s home opener is against a Golden Eagles team coming off such a good season that their coach was able to jump into the FBS big leagues. The thirteen-point spread is almost worrisome.
It’s large enough that the Huskers could feel comfortable, but not enough that some critical turnovers couldn’t swing the game in Southern Miss’ favor. The visitors’ new coaching staff may dream up additional wrinkles that Nebraska must plan for. The Big Red covers, but it may be closer than fans like.
The way-too-early pick: Nebraska -13
The score: Nebraska 31, Southern Miss 17
- Seven point favorite versus UCLA:
Week two features the Huskers on the road in Los Angeles facing another team with a brand new head coach. Jim Mora Jr. takes over for Rick Neuheisal, inheriting a roster that has some legitimate big-time talent.
This line seems weird. Either Nebraska isn’t getting respect from the oddsmakers or UCLA is going to be a lot better than many anticipate. Given how the Huskers have handled their “big” non-conference road trips, this bet looks pretty good.
The way-too-early pick: Nebraska -7
The score: Nebraska 28, UCLA 10
- Three-point favorite versus Wisconsin:
The Huskers look to rudely welcome the Badgers to Memorial Stadium under the lights in the same fashion that Wisconsin did to them in Camp Randall last year.
This bet will mostly decided on how well Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien integrates into the Wisconsin offense. The value is with Nebraska when considering the home crowd, loss of talent on the Badgers’ end and the Wisconsin Transfer Wheel of Destiny potentially coming up with a bust.
The way-too-early pick: Nebraska -3
The score: Nebraska 34, Wisconsin 21
- One-point underdog versus Ohio State:
Nebraska finds themselves on the other end of the line as they trip to play Urban Meyer’s first Ohio State team. After the biggest comeback in Husker football history, you have to think the Buckeyes will be thirsty for revenge.
Luke Fickell returns to coordinate a defense that stymied the Huskers until late in last year’s game, and Urban Meyer will be installing his offensive schemes into a roster brimming with talent. There’s big value in Ohio State for this game.
The way-too-early pick: Ohio State -1
The score:: Ohio State 34, Nebraska 21
- Two-point underdog versus Michigan:
The Big Red hosts a rematch with the Wolverines, another team that embarrassed them on the road last year. Nebraska was in last year’s game before momentum swept them out of Ann Arbor.
Michigan can’t get much better on defense and loses key contributors. As good as the Wolverines were overall last year, they had some poor road performances (See: Iowa). This is going to be a much closer game than 2011, but it’s hard not to side with the Wolverine defense and offense over Nebraska’s.
The way-too-early pick: Michigan -2
The score: Michigan 31, Nebraska 28
Five-point underdog versus Michigan State:
Another instance of the Huskers going on the road against a team they upset in Lincoln, Nebraska will face a Spartans team that could very well take the conference crown. Michigan State returns almost all of its defense as they welcome the Huskers to East Lansing.
While the Spartans lose senior quarterback Kirk Cousins, he didn’t really do much against Nebraska last year. The Huskers should be able to keep the score low, but may find it difficult to score. With five points to the underdog, you have to like that pick in a potential defensive battle like this.
The way-too-early pick: Nebraska +5
The score: Michigan State 13, Nebraska 10
In the betting world, you’re always looking for value.
Right now, it feels like the best value is in the game at UCLA with the Huskers not spotting the Bruins many points and a new regime in Westwood trying to rally its team together.
Ohio State also seems like a strong pick as the Buckeyes should be improved this season and gets Nebraska at home.
Finally, the Wisconsin pick hinges on on how you view Danny O’Brien. If you think he’s overrated, picking Nebraska could be a steal at that line.
Regardless, Husker fans have to be disappointed to see Nebraska already listed as underdogs in three of their most important games of the year. The good news is that Vegas doesn’t issue lines to predict winners. It’s your money they’re after.
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