We got our first look at the 2019 version of many college football teams this past weekend as spring ball got underway.
For any college football bettors looking to wager an early line on national championship futures, here are five key takeaways based on what we saw.
Sooners Offense Humming with Hurts
Jalen Hurts lost his job at Alabama to Tua Tagovailoa and ended up transferring to Oklahoma. Many weren’t sure what Hurts would look like after switching from a conservative, run-first offense to one that likes to light up the skies. However, early grades were all quite positive.
Hurts had the Oklahoma offense moving quiet fluidly as he went 11-of-14 for 174 yards, a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley is now known as the quarterback whisperer and it appears that he’s found another diamond in the rough.
Anyone who thought that the Sooners might be rebuilding after losing Kyler Murray to the NFL will have to reevaluate. The Sooners will open the 2019 season as the Big 12 favorite and are at +1600 to win the national championship at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Fields Inconsistent in Ohio State Debut
Ohio State has been in the headlines quite a bit since the end of the 2018 season. That’s why many were anxious to see how they’d look in their first taste of action in 2019.
Remember, Ryan Day now leads this crew as head coach after Urban Meyer retired. From a first glance, this team shouldn’t struggle on offense; the unit scored on five straight drives, each taking less than three minutes to find the end zone.
All eyes were on Georgia transfer Justin Fields, who will be the key to the Buckeyes’ season. He connected with Binjimen Victor for an impressive 98-yard touchdown but was just 3-of-12 on his other attempts. The No. 1 recruit in the country from a year ago showed his running ability, though, as 38 of his combined 169 yards came on the ground.
Fields was competing for the starting job with redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin, who went 20-of-36 for 246 yards, a pair of touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. But ESPN reported Thursday that Baldwin was entering the NCAA transfer portal and Baldwin confirmed the news on Twitter.
With that in mind it would be surprising if Fields wasn’t the starter come Week 1. The Buckeyes are currently +1200 to win the title at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Fighting Irish Offense on Rise
Notre Dame’s post-2016 success has been based around defense but it looks like the Fighting Irish offense could have some bite to it in 2019. Quarterback Ian Book looked crisp, starting off 5-for-5 with a touchdown while finishing the day 16-of-21 for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
He looks like he is one of the most underrated quarterbacks heading into the 2019 campaign. If that’s the case, Notre Dame could be offering some decent value at +5000 to win the championship at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Should We Believe in Florida, Franks?
There’s no question that the Gators are an elite defensive team. They’ve been strong enough on that side of the ball to compete for an SEC crown for a couple of seasons. The issue has been on offense where shoddy quarterbacking has crippled the team.
Head coach Dan Mullen has sworn to work on this and – at least in spring – it looks like the situation has improved. Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks looked great, indicating that he’s a completely different player these days. He went 13-of-18 for 327 yards and four touchdowns, though defense was mostly optional in this game.
Don’t buy into this hype, even at +3500, until we see it in the regular season. However, the Gators have a very soft schedule in 2019 and if Franks is even respectable, this team should win the SEC East.
Texas Offense Still Under Construction
Final stats from the Texas spring game pic.twitter.com/4fKHthwUaU— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) April 14, 2019
Typically, in spring ball, you want to see offenses overachieve as they’re usually facing more vanilla defenses and backups. When offenses don’t shine in these scenarios, that’s an early red flag.
The Texas Longhorns have struggled to find consistency on offense under Tom Herman and that’s still the case. With the spring game finishing 12-6, it’s hard to get excited about the offensive parts – even if rain and weather were a factor.
Junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger failed to lead the first-team offense to a touchdown and finished just 9-of-21 for 66 yards and an interception which was nearly returned for a touchdown.
Texas is currently at +3400 to win the 2019 national championship but it’s hard to see any value there until this offense improves.