Initial leans on early lines for Texas at Michigan, LSU vs USC and other big non-conference matchups in the 2024 season

On3 imageby:Jesse Simonton03/15/24


The 2024 college football season will feature some juicy non-conference games, including LSU-USC squaring off in Las Vegas and Texas making a Week 2 trip to the Big House to play the reigning national champion Michigan Wolverines. 

With expanded conference realignment and the new 12-team playoff, we may see fewer and fewer of these regular-season cross-over marquee matchups, so let’s enjoy them while we still can.

FanDuel Sportsbook recently updated more than a dozen early betting lines for some big games in 2024. Dynamics can (and will) change among teams between now and the start of the season. 

There’s spring practice to complete. The next transfer portal window. Summer conditioning and fall camp. 

Still, let’s take a gander at five marquee non-conference games and handicap an early lean — Does the line look right? Or is it too high, or too low?

Georgia Bulldogs Recruiting
(Tony Walsh/UGAAA)

Georgia (-12.5) vs. Clemson (Atlanta)

Early Lean: The Bulldogs are the preseason favorites for the 2024-25 national title, so it’s no surprise they open as a big favorite over a Tigers team looking to replicate their championship success again under Dabo Swinney

But a spread of nearly two touchdowns? 

At first glance, the line looks high, but it speaks to the roster Kirby Smart has assembled at Georgia, as well as the continued skepticism people have about the current status of Swinney’s program. There’s a wide chasm between the two teams in many power rankings, too — including ESPN’s SP+ where Georgia is No. 1 (34.5) and Clemson is down to No. 16 (18.0).

The Bulldogs return quarterback Carson Beck, who is a top Heisman Trophy contender, as well as a young, tenacious defense and an impressive collection of transfer additions (Trevor Etienne, London Humphreys, Colbie Young, Ben Yurosek). Meanwhile, Clemson should have a solid defense again in 2024, but the Tigers have lingering questions at OL and WR for the third straight year.

LSU (-6.5) vs. USC (Las Vegas)

Early Lean: This is an incredible matchup between two programs looking to replace the last two Heisman Trophy winners — wizardly quarterbacks Jayden Daniels and Caleb Williams

Both Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley also completely overhauled their defensive coaching staffs after fielding terrible units last season. The opener will be our first look at if Blake Baker (LSU DC) and D’Anyton Lynn (USC DC) were able to make any significant changes in one offseason.

While the Tigers must replace Daniels and star wideouts Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas, LSU returns a team stacked with blue-chip talent. Garrett Nussimeier has proven he has a rifle arm and he’ll be protected by the best OL in the SEC. LSU is seen as a fringe College Football Playoff contender next season, while USC is a team in transition.

Is Miller Moss the guy at QB? Has the OL woes been solved? I already acknowledged the defensive concerns for both teams. 

Considering LSU hasn’t taken care of business in its last two non-conference season openers against Florida State, the line is probably a tad high, though. 

Colorado (-7.5) vs. North Dakota State

Early Lean: Deion Sanders may be talking like Colorado will be a College Football Playoff contender in Year 2, but Vegas clearly does not believe in such aspirations for the Buffs, who are barely a touchdown favorite against an FCS team. 

Although North Dakota State is a perennial power, the Bison are not the same program they were under now Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman. They lost in the semifinals last season and their head coach Matt Entz left for an assistant job on Lincoln Riley’s staff at USC. 

Colorado has brought in another wave of transfer portal additions, specifically addressing the offensive and defensive lines. Shedeur Sanders returns as one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12, and Travis Hunter might be the best receiver in the country next fall. 

The Buffs should have enough firepower to win their opener, but expecting them to cover more than a touchdown spread might be a bit much for a team still in the throngs of a rebuild. 

Texas A&M (-1.5) vs. Notre Dame

Early Lean: Mike Elko will kickstart his tenure as the Aggies’ head coach going up against his former quarterback and top defensive lineman at Duke (Riley Leonard and RJ Oben) in Week 1 against the Irish. 

Texas A&M has become a bit of an offseason darling, with lots of happy vibes emanating from College Station. Elko brought a host of intriguing, veteran transfers, and assembled a quality staff highlighted by OC Collin Klein. The Aggies rank No. 1 in returning production among all SEC teams, so if quarterback Conner Weigman can make a leap as a third-year starter, they could emerge as a darkhorse contender this fall. 

Meanwhile, the Irish are eying a playoff berth in Year 3 under Marcus Freeman. Leonard and Oben aren’t the only transfer upgrades at Notre Dame this offseason, as the Irish also addressed needs at receiver and cornerback

Considering Notre Dame’s offensive line will enter the year as a major question mark and the game is in Kyle Field, the Aggies feel like they should be closer to a field goal favorite. 

Texas (-2.5) at Michigan

Early Lean: Two of the four 2023 College Football Playoff representatives will meet in Week 2, and what a tremendous helmet game this will be. 

The Wolverines will look completely different from last year’s title team though— from head coach Sherrone Moore, to quarterback X replacing J.J. McCarthy? To a totally new offensive line. Well, you get the idea. 

A lot has changed in Ann Arbor.

Texas saw a slew of talent leave for the NFL Draft, too, but Steve Sarkisian has assembled one of the best rosters in the country through both prep recruiting (Top 5 class) and the transfer portal (Isaiah Bond, Silas Bolden, Kendrick Blackshirt, Trey Moore, another others). Quinn Ewers is one of the better returning starting quarterbacks and Texas’ offensive line will feature multiple future NFL prospects. 

It’s not a surprise that Texas is favored — even on the road in the Big House. But I could actually see this line grow the closer we get to the game considering all the uncertainties around Michigan’s roster right now (especially at the quarterback position).