The Daily Sweat: Real, meaningful football is finally upon us

The last meaningful football game we watched was the Super Bowl on February 13th. It has been 194 days since we watched any type of game that meant something. For college football, it has been even longer. It’s been 228 games since Georgia beat Alabama in the National Championship game. It's been a long summer that we've sweat through.

That wait comes to an end on Saturday. Week Zero is here. The college football season kicks off with a small, relatively unappealing 11-game slate. Only seven of those games feature two FBS schools meeting. However, the quality of matchups doesn’t matter. It’s football that will matter in the rankings discussion and most importantly, we can bet on it.

The most intriguing game takes place in Ireland, where Nebraska is an 11.5-point favorite over Northwestern. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Nebraska enters the new season with a fair amount of hype. There’s hope that this is the year Scott Frost finally figures things out with his alma mater. Casey Thompson, the former Texas Longhorn, takes over for Adrian Martinez at quarterback. Martinez is now at Kansas State.

Nebraska went just 3-9 last season. They found a way to lose a lot of games they could have and probably should have won. In Week Zero last season, the Cornhuskers lost to Illinois as a 7-point favorite. The hope is that history doesn’t repeat itself this year for Nebraska, as they play another Week Zero game that they’re expected to win.

Northwestern had a down year in 2021, going just 3-9. Last year notwithstanding, Pat Fitzgerald’s teams have been competitive and pesky for the most part. They won the Big Ten West in 2018 and 2020. This is a large spread that they certainly are more than capable of covering. It’s worth noting this spread has moved two points over the past day or so. Nebraska was a 13.5-point favorite just yesterday morning before Northwestern action started moving the line.

Elsewhere, UConn is back for another season of bad football. They open their season as 26.5-point underdogs against Utah State. I can’t recommend kicking your college football betting season off by backing UConn, so it’s the Aggies or nothing for me. Illinois is a 13-point home favorite against Wyoming in what should be a grinding and slow game.

Florida Atlantic is a 7.5-point favorite against Charlotte. That number feels a little high, but there’s a lot of unknown with these Group of Five schools early in the year. UTEP is a 1-point home underdog against North Texas in what’s projected to be the closest game of the Week 0 slate.

Saturday wraps up with two late games. Nevada is an 8.5-point road favorite against New Mexico State and Vanderbilt tries not to embarrass the SEC in Hawaii as the Commodores are 9.5-point favorites on the road in the Aloha state.

It’s not a beautiful slate, but it’ll do after 228 days without college football.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - AUGUST 28: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost looks on during an college football game against the Illinois Fighting Illini on August 28, 2021 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Scott Frost and Nebraska open the season as favorites over Northwestern. (Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NFL preseason continues

We go from meaningful football back to meaningless football. The final week of the NFL preseason wraps up this weekend and teams have varying opinions on how to handle this week. In the past, Week 3 of the preseason is when we’d see starters play the most. We'd never see starters in the final week of the preseason. Well, Week 4 of the preseason no longer exists, so Week 3 is the final week. Now you see the confusion. Some teams are treating this week like a normal Week 3, while others are treating it like they used to treat Week 4.

On Friday, the Carolina Panthers plan on playing Baker Mayfield and most of their healthy starters (sans Christian McCaffrey) into the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen will not play for Buffalo. As a result, the Panthers are 6.5-point favorites.

We’ve got another backups vs. starters matchup with the Seahawks and Cowboys. Geno Smith will start for Seattle and Drew Lock will relieve him as their quarterback battle continues into the final week of the preseason. Dallas will rest players like Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. As a result, Seattle is a 7-point favorite.

Brandon Staley and the Chargers don’t usually play starters in the preseason, so don’t expect to see Justin Herbert. Instead, Easton Stick and Chase Daniel will continue their battle for the backup job. On the other side, the Saints might play their starters for a few plays, though probably not for long. However, that, along with the home field advantage is enough to make the Saints a 3-point favorite.

Neither Bill Belichick or Josh McDaniels has articulated their plans for the preseason finale, so we don’t know how much we see the starters, if we even see them all. That news might come closer to game time, but as of now the Raiders are 1.5-point favorites.

Baseball is still here

Of course, there’s always baseball to bet on. Friday features a 15-game slate with all 30 teams in action. Unfortunately, there’s no afternoon action so you’ll need to wait until the evening to get your fix.

Two of baseball’s hottest teams meet when the Atlanta Braves visit the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves are sizable -145 favorites on the road as they have the pitching advantage throwing Spencer Strider against Jose Quintana. The Cardinals are 21-6 over their last 27 games and have opened a 6-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. Meanwhile the Braves are 14-2 in their last 16 and are just two games behind the Mets for the NL East lead.

There’s an intriguing interleague series between the Minnesota Twins and San Francisco Giants. It feels like we’re approaching last-call for both of these teams if they want to be seriously involved in the playoff race down the stretch. The Giants are 5.5 games out of the NL wild card while the Twins are 4 games behind the Guardians in the AL Central. Minnesota has lost six straight but they are -130 home favorites on Friday.

What else?

Soccer is back in Europe’s major leagues. Most of the action comes over the weekend, though Friday afternoon features two LaLiga games, a Bundesliga matchup, two Serie A tilts and a Ligue 1 match.

US Open qualifiers are underway before the first round begins on Monday. Novak Djokovic will not compete in the tournament due to his vaccination status, making Daniil Medvedev a +250 betting favorite on the men’s side. Iga Swiatek is a +450 favorite on the women’s side.

Scottie Schefler is a -135 favorite in the Tour Championship. He’s got a five-stroke lead after the first round when accounting for the applied bonus strokes. Xander Schauffele is in second place. He’s +600 to win the tournament.