The College Football season is here, finally. For some of us, this is our favorite time of year. For others, it just means we’re a few weeks closer to the NFL season. For those of us into college football, this is the perfect appetizer week to dip our toes back into College Football betting.
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This week, we have a few higher-profile teams playing, but nothing elite just yet. Too often, we see so many opening games turn into boat races. However, when we are dealing with new coaches, new quarterbacks, new systems, and high-profile competition, things tend to be more on the conservative side.
Today, we’ll be applying that rationale when breaking down a few of these opening games. Check out our picks below with odds from the DraftKings Online Sportsbook.
Nebraska at Illinois Under 55 (-115)
Brett Bielema is back in the Big 10. I know he had a recent stint with the Patriots as an assistant, so I’m not sure his run-heavy philosophy has changed much since his days at Wisconsin. Because of that, I expect we will see Illinois hammer it on the ground and burn a lot of clock.
When you look at Bielema’s age, it’s not reasonable to expect this team will be very fired up for their opening game. I could be wrong here, but I’ll take my chances. On the other side, Scott Frost has been underperforming, despite high expectations for the ex-UCF coach and Nebraska Legend.
For the matchup itself, Nebraska will be returning its coach and veteran quarterback. Illinois, on the other hand, has a new coach we’re all very familiar with.
We should anticipate Illinois to work all three of their RBs in the game (Brown, Love, and Hayden) as the Illinois passing game is still very inconsistent and not very dependable. I like Nebraska in this one, but think this game will be a relatively slow and low-scoring affair.
Nebraska 30 Illinois 16
Hawaii at UCLA -18 (+100)
Last week, we talked about the UCLA Bruins and their odds to win the Pac 12. They lost all four games in 2020 by a combined total of 15 points. This is a critical year for Chip Kelly in proving himself as the right choice for the Bruins moving forward.
The Bruins are returning nearly every starter on both sides of the ball and it’s reasonable to expect a more experienced group to be able to pull out the close games they failed to close last season.
For Hawaii, they have a pretty successful system in place. My only concern is the amount of prep time the Bruins will have to prepare for Hawaii. Hawaii suffered a few blowouts in the conference last season. Considering how bad the conference was overall and how bad Hawaii was on the road, those aren’t good signs going into their opener in Westwood.
Hawaii can be a real hit-or-miss team, but they might really be in for it this week. With the disappointing 2020 losses still lingering, I think UCLA may be looking to make a statement in their opener. The key here is the juice. With so much action on Hawaii, you can get UCLA at even odds, which makes this pick even more intriguing.
UCLA 44 Hawaii 24
Southern Utah at San Jose State -24 (-115)
San Jose State is another team we touched on last week in the season props article. The defending MWC Champs are returning all 11 starters on defense and will have former four-star QB Nick Starkel leading the offense.
I like San Jose St to win and cover here for two primary reasons. One is the full defense returning, with all this time to prepare for the nearly-exclusive passing attack of the Southern Utah Thunderbirds. The other reason is the 2020 season.
Southern Utah didn’t suffer any blowout losses in their six-game campaign, but they only managed to win one game in a bad conference. Without the experience against a bigger program, on the road, this game will be the biggest game many of the Thunderbirds have played in.
Expect San Jose State to set the tone in this one. The Southern Utah defense is particularly bad, which should help aid Nick Starkel in a comfortable opening performance. Offensively, this should be an easy opener for the Spartans.
Defensively, the Spartans have a veteran group and plenty of time to review the tape of the surprisingly potent Thunderbird passing attack. I feel comfortable with Brent Brennan’s squad in this one.
San Jose State 48 Southern Utah 19
East Carolina at Appalachian State -10.5 (-105)
Appalachian State has a notable history in season openers. Remember the Michigan game from 2007? It has absolutely nothing to do with 2021, but I guarantee the team is reminded of that game before every season opener.
The main reason I’m going with Appalachian State has more to do with how bad East Carolina (3-7) was last year than it does Appalachian State (8-2 last season). The reasoning for going with Appalachian State at home is similar to the other picks in the sense that they are all home teams facing prolific offenses.
The best time to face a prolific offense with the hopes of containing it is during Bowl season or the first week. The more time a defense has to prepare for an offense, the better.
We also have to consider the fact these road teams are all smaller schools and tend to take a few weeks to really get into a rhythm. Remember, we have no current game film to cite, so all we can use for opening week predictions are performances from last season and historical tendencies for high-powered offenses.
Despite the return of many of the offensive starters for ECU (9), their QB (Holton Ahers) has been known to turn the ball over. Last season, Ahlers tossed nine INTs in just eight games. It’s reasonable to expect Ahlers could succumb to some pressure on the road in a hostile environment in the opener.