Nick Saban-Jimbo Fisher feud highlight opening college football lines

At left, Alabama head coach Nick Saban yells to the sideline during the first half of Alabama's ...

College football season can’t come soon enough after last week’s feud between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher.

Saban fired the first shot while discussing the impact NIL (name, image, likeness) has had on the game.

“A&M bought every player on their team,” he said in reference to the Aggies’ top-ranked recruiting class. “Made a deal for name, image and likeness. We didn’t buy one player.”

Fisher, who last year became the first former assistant of Saban to beat him when the Aggies stunned the Crimson Tide 41-38 as 18-point underdogs, unleashed an angry reply in which he called the comments “despicable” and described his former boss as a “narcissist.”

“Some people think they’re God,” he said. “Go dig into how God did his deal. You might find out about … a lot of things you don’t want to know.”

The spat sets the stage for one of the most anticipated games of the season when the teams square off Oct. 8 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Will Tide roll?

The line is already up at Caesars Sportsbook, where the Crimson Tide are 14½-point favorites.

“I made the line 16½, so I don’t see any value at the current number,” professional sports bettor Paul Stone said. “If it drops to 14, I would take a position on Alabama. The Tide enter the season as the highest power-rated team in the country, they will be motivated by last year’s loss, and I don’t see either team gaining an edge from the recent dust-up involving the head coaches.”

Alabama is the -125 favorite at Circa Sports to win the Southeastern Conference title, followed by defending national champion Georgia (+140) and Texas A&M (21-1).

The Tide are the +195 favorites to win the national title, followed by Georgia (+265), Ohio State (+410) Clemson (11-1), Southern California (16-1) and the Aggies (21-1).

Week Zero, 1 lines

Three months before the season starts Aug. 27, the lines for Weeks Zero and 1 are on the board at Circa, Caesars and the Westgate SuperBook.

Some notable openers include Notre Dame-Ohio State (-13), Oregon-Georgia (-18½), Florida-Utah (-2), Florida State-LSU (-2½) and Cincinnati-Arkansas (-6½).

Stone, who lives in east Texas, said he has already placed 31 college football bets with his action split between neighboring Louisiana and Nevada.

Among his Week 1 recommendations are games involving former Southwest Conference rivals soon to be reunited in the SEC: Arkansas and Texas.

Early best bets

Stone bet the Razorbacks (-6½) at home over the Bearcats and Louisiana-Monroe (+39½) on the road over the Longhorns.

“I totally respect the job that Luke Fickell has done at the University of Cincinnati,” said Stone (@Paulstonesports). “But the Bearcats had a school-record nine players selected in last month’s NFL Draft and five of those guys went in the first three rounds.”

Pro handicapper Brian Edwards (@vegasbedwards) recommends a Week 1 play on North Carolina State (-9) on the road over East Carolina.

”North Carolina State returns 10 starters from a unit that ranked second in the ACC and 18th nationally in scoring defense (19.7 points per game),” he said. “The Wolfpack also return linebacker Payton Wilson after he missed all but two games last year. Wilson was a first-team all-ACC selection in 2020 when he led the league in tackles.

“Quarterback Devin Leary returns after a sensational 2021 campaign. He completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 3,433 yards with a 35-5 touchdown-interception ratio. He led N.C. State to six wins by double-digit margins last year.”

Early line moves

Seven totals have dropped by four points or more at Circa since it posted its opening college football lines Sunday:

— Clemson-Georgia Tech 55 to 49½

— Nebraska-Northwestern 55½ to 50½

— La.-Monroe-Texas 71½ to 67

— Southern Methodist-North Texas 75½ to 71

— Kent State-Washington 64½ to 60½

— Ball State-Tennessee 71½ to 67½

— Central Michigan-Oklahoma State 61½ to 57½

The biggest line move on a side was on UNR’s opener at New Mexico State:

— UNR -16 to -12½.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.