The Duke Blue Devils face a tough task here in Week 1 of the 2019 college football season, as they travel west to Tuscaloosa to battle the Alabama Crimson Tide. Kickoff is set for 3:30 PM EST on Saturday, August 31st at Bryant-Denny Stadium and the game will be nationally televised on ABC.
Taking a look at the Week 1 college football odds, Alabama opened as a massive 30.5-point home favorite earlier this week. That line has moved pretty substantially after early betting, as the Crimson Tide are currently listed at -34.5. The total for the game is sitting at 58 points.
Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Alabama vs Duke
Duke had a relatively successful season in 2018, going 8-5 overall and earning an invite to the Independence Bowl. However, the Blue Devils did struggle a little bit in conference play, as their 3-5 record in SEC play left them 6th in the ACC Coastal division. They did manage to end their year on a high note, as they dominated Temple 56-27 in their bowl appearance. Former starting QB Daniel Jones is off to the NFL, so it appears as if Quentin Harris will take over his pivotal role in the offense. Harris was solid albeit unspectacular in limited action last season, passing for 437 yards and 7 touchdowns through the air. He also is a talented rusher, as he was able to find the end zone another five times on the ground. Harris should receive plenty of help out of the backfield, as the duo of Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown combined for over 1,200 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. However, Duke did lose both of their top receiving options over the summer as well, leaving Jake Bobo at the top of the depth chart despite the fact he only recorded 10 receptions for 167 yards last season.
On the other side of the ball, Duke was definitely below average defensively throughout 2018 as they gave up an average of 27.4 points per game on 408.8 total yards of offense. However, they did look quite strong defending against the pass, limiting opponents to 197.1 yards per game through the air (29th overall).
Alabama can only improve their performance in 2018 by winning one additional game, as the Crimson Tide ran the table before falling to Clemson 44-16 in the national championship game. However, it was pretty much the only blemish on the entire season, as they reeled off 12 consecutive in the regular season before defeating Georgia in the SEC title game 35-28 and Oklahoma 45-34 in the Orange Bowl. Heisman finalist Tua Tagovailoa returns as the starting quarterback after throwing for almost 4,000 yards and adding 43 touchdowns. RB Najee Harris will lead the way for the backfield after the loss of both Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs. However, the biggest strength for the Crimson Tide offense just might be at the receiver position, as Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, and Henry Ruggs III are all returning in 2019 after amassing a combined 2,800+ receiving yards and 28 touchdowns.
The offense wasn’t the only impressive part of Alabama’s season in 2018, as the defense certainly held their own as well. The Crimson Tide limited their opponents to just 18.1 points per game on 320.3 total yards of offense. They were extremely solid against both the pass and the run, ranking inside of the top 25 nationwide in both categories.
NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: Alabama -34.5
Something that become very apparent to me in 2018 was how undervalued Alabama was against the spread over the first half of the season despite the fact they often were favored by more than 30 points. They went a perfect 3-0 ATS to start the year and were sitting at a very impressive 7-3 record ATS after the second week of November. I know that this line has jumped up a lot already but I don’t really have any faith in Duke’s ability to keep this one close on the road. While the Blue Devils defensive unit remains somewhat similar to the way it was composed in 2018, the offense has lost a ton of former starters at pivotal positions such as quarterback and wide receiver. Basically, they will be without their former starting quarterback and two top receivers for a game being played on the road against a team that didn’t lose a single game until the national championship. I have to back Alabama in this spot, and it doesn’t even seem like a hard decision either.
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While I have no doubt that Duke will certainly miss Daniel Jones immensely, it is worth mentioning the fact that his replacement barely completed 50% of his passes when he was on the field last year. Harris will need to improve his passing immensely if he hopes to keep Duke moving in the right direction moving forward, but I don’t see him geting off to a good start against the Crimson Tide in Week 1. Give me Alabama to cover at home!