College football teams often change drastically from year to year due to graduations, transfers, new coaches, and schedules. Knowing which teams are overvalued and undervalued can help bettors find value in the market and gain an edge heading into the season.
We know teams like Alabama and Clemson will be good again, but several other programs coming off successful 2018 campaigns are candidates to regress.
Here are five college football teams to fade early in 2019:
West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia is arguably the top fade heading into the 2019 season. The Mountaineers have a new coach in Neal Brown, lost quarterback Will Grier, return only 54 percent of last year's production, and have one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Brown was successful at Troy but inherits a team that must replace its starting quarterback, three top receivers, three starting offensive linemen, and three of the defense's top six tacklers. Still, West Virginia is likely to be favored three times in the first month thanks to home games against James Madison and NC State, along with a road trip to lowly Kansas.
James Madison is an FCS powerhouse and should give the Mountaineers fits in the opener. Oddsmakers agree, installing West Virginia as a modest 5.5-point home favorite. If you're looking for a team to fade over the first month of the season, West Virginia should be at the top of your list.
Fresno State Bulldogs
Fresno State finished 12-2 and won the Mountain West title a year ago. But with an inexperienced roster and a new quarterback, the Bulldogs will likely take a step back in 2019.
Fresno State returns just 38 percent of its overall production from last year's 12-win team, the second-lowest percentage in the country. The Bulldogs were also plus-12 in turnovers in 2018; expect that number to drop as turnovers become a bigger issue with a young quarterback and four new starters on the offensive line.
Sharp bettors are already fading Fresno State in its season opener versus USC. The line opened at USC -9.5 but quickly moved to -13.5. Though the value is gone in that particular game, fading a young Bulldogs squad over the first month of the season will be profitable.
Texas is a hot team heading into the 2019 season, which means it's also an overvalued team.
The Longhorns returns just eight starters and 38 lettermen from last year's 10-win team. Tom Herman has recruited well, so there's talent waiting in the wings, but key pieces must be replaced. One of the youngest teams in the country, Texas faces the 23rd-toughest schedule in the FBS with games against LSU, Oklahoma (neutral), TCU (away), and Iowa State (away).
S&P+ and ESPN's FPI project Texas to finish between seven and eight wins, yet the Longhorns will be overvalued in the betting market most weeks. Texas may bounce back, but there will be opportunities to go against the 'Horns early in the season as big favorites versus Louisiana Tech, Rice, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia.
Buffalo went 10-4 last season and earned a berth in the Dollar General Bowl. Don't expect a repeat performance in 2019 from one of the least experienced teams in the country.
The Bulls were originally set to be serious contenders for the MAC title again this season, but quarterback Tyree Jackson declared early for the NFL draft and two key receivers transferred. What's left is a team returning just eight starters and 43 percent of last year's overall production.
There will be a couple of opportunities to fade Buffalo early in the year. After hosting Robert Morris in the opener, three of the Bulls' next four games are on the road against Penn State, Liberty, and Miami in Ohio. With a new quarterback, a revamped defense, and a tough schedule, Buffalo is one of the premier go-against teams during the season's first month.
NC State Wolfpack
NC State returns just 53 percent of its production from last year and has literally no experience at the quarterback position. That's not a great recipe for early-season success.
Last year's starter, Ryan Finley, graduated and the remaining quarterbacks have eight career pass attempts between them. There are some talented young options with redshirt freshman Devin Leary, JUCO transfer Bailey Hockman, and true freshman Ty Evans. But with only four returning starters on offense, it's going to be a difficult transition for whichever quarterback wins the starting job.
The Wolfpack have a soft schedule early in the season with games against East Carolina, Western Carolina, West Virginia, and Ball State. But that will create value in the betting market. NC State opened as a 20.5-point favorite in the opener against East Carolina and the line moved to 17.5. Bettors are already fading the overvalued Wolfpack and should continue to do so until oddsmakers adjust.