LAS VEGAS — A recent email from Ralph Michaels reported that college football’s glorious kickoff is near, but the beauty of the note attachment is that it’s available, free, to everyone.
The 42-page guide contains his power ratings for all 131 Division I teams, pitch edges and a Michaels line on each game, which we used to dig into the total win 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 relevant information daily on his social media platforms, and the guide can be found on his WagerTalk profile.
Comparing its projections to DraftKings numbers, the brightest initial gem was Marshall Over 5.5, at a DK price of -155 – risk $155 to win $100.
This gap of 2.3 games, from the 7.8 predicted by Michaels, was the only one in the 2. At a store, Michaels hammered a Marshall total of 5 with a max over bet, which he duplicated at 5 ,5.
“I favorite Marshall in TEN games,” he wrote to me, “with the only ‘certain’ loss [coming] at Notre Dame.
Others followed Michaels, taking that total from 5.5 to 7, -120 on Over, in a week. We’re sticking with Marshall in our six-pack, due to Michaels’ optimism, but recommend a smaller bet on the Thundering Herd.
Arizona (a Michaels 4 to DK 2.5) and Liberty (7.7 to 6.5) complete the Over action.
Sub-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: More than 7 (-120)
Over the past nine years, the Thundering Herd have averaged 7.8 wins.
Athlon’s year ranks its seven positional units second only to Appalachia State in the Sun Belt, indicates the herd had the best recruiting in the league and pits it in the LendingTree Bowl against the Kent State.
Tailbacks Rasheen Ali and Khalan Labor, a transfer from Florida State who had a superb spring, are dynamic.
Steele gives national top-10 recognition to Marshall’s pass defense, led by linebacker Eli Neal and cornerback Steven Gilmore, both seniors.
Michaels has the herd as a strong favorite against FCS members Norfolk State and Gardner-Webb at home, where he is also favored against Louisiana, Coastal Carolina, App State and Georgia State.
The latter is the season finale with double-edged ramifications.
Michaels also favors the herd of 10 at Bowling Green, 7.5 at Old Dominion and 4.5 at James Madison in his FBS debut.
ARIZONA: Over 2.5 (-140)
The Wildcats are 1-16 combined the past two seasons, but there are plenty of new faces and new prospects. And Athlon pegged its recruiting class at No. 2 in the Pac-12.
They’re one-point underdogs at home to powerhouse FCS North Dakota State, and they’re favorites in home games against Colorado and Washington State. Arizona will be on goal dog ground in California and San Diego State.
Jayden de Laura, the quarterback who turned heads in Washington State, was traded to Tucson and should guide the Cats to win three of those five games.
FREEDOM: Over 6.5 (-160)
Quarterback Charlie Brewer and a good receiving corps, along with a strong defensive line, drew us to the Flames, who have gone 23-11 the past three regular seasons.
Even more impressive, coach Hugh Freeze capped off each of those campaigns with a bowl victory.
Brewer started at Baylor and played a bit for Utah before moving to Lynchburg, Virginia. Steele envisions an “equally potent” offense without quarterback Malik Willis, especially if she shaves sacks and turnovers.
A favorable schedule for the independent program includes five Michaels lines with Liberty at least an 18-point favorite. He’s a favorite in three more and is a home pick against Virginia Tech on Nov. 19.
UTSA: Less than 8.5 (-150)
With strong 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 against them this year.”
In 21, UTSA turned over 21 starters, was plus-13 in turnovers and 5-0 in games decided by eight runs or less. Also, McCormick is gone. “All are reasons to disappear,” Michaels said. Steele has UTSA among 11 “down” teams.
He’s a decided underdog at home against Houston and Texas, and a thin dog against Army. “An 0-3 start is exactly what can derail a team,” Michaels said.
We only need four losses. Runners are 5.5-point dogs at UAB, and Western Kentucky is a corner flip at San Antonio. Dropping one of these two seals the deal.
STATE OF GEORGIA: Under 7.5 (-150)
In nine DI seasons, the Panthers have won more than seven games only once. Marshall beating them also benefits our Herd Over position, and could be Georgia State’s fifth loss, making this Under a winner.
Michaels has them as double-digit dogs at home against North Carolina and at App State, and they get nine in South Carolina.
Their fifth match is at Army. If Georgia State comes back to Atlanta 1-4, we’ll have that fifth loss well before Marshall’s final.
WEST MICHIGAN: less than 6.5 (-145)
The Broncos are coming out of a bowl but now have a freshman quarterback. A 1-3 start is likely, and Michaels has them as underdogs in four of their last five games.