College football’s wild start and biggest overachievers

It was pretty easy to assume that this college football season would be different. The coronavirus stopped spring football in its tracks, made summer conditioning particularly fraught and altered fall camp practices as well. New coaches of the “head” or “coordinator” varieties had less time than ever to instruct and implement their ideas and systems to their new players.

Plus opt-outs and the potential for positive tests and contact tracing absences meant that coaches had to prepare for a drastic opening up of their respective benches, while writers and fans had to brace for the impact of having less up-to-date information and simply knowing less. So did bookmakers and bettors.

As expected, September was the most volatile first month of a season that we’ve ever seen. The average absolute-value difference between the spread and the final scoring margin for games featuring two FBS teams was 15.1 points per game — compared to 13.0 in September 2018, and 12.1 in the Septembers of 2019, 2017 and 2016. Dating to 1978, the highest averages in terms of September errors were 14.1 points per game in 1999 and 13.7 in 1986.

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