Wilson: 9 College Football Games I’m Betting in Week 1
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jarrett Stidham
- Collin Wilson gives out nine of his best college football bets for Week 1 of the regular season.
- He's backing a few underdogs on Friday night and hammering the main slate Saturday with some more dogs.
CW9 was born before The Action Network was formed in October of 2017. If you are unfamiliar with the column, this is my blank canvas to give nine selections for the weekend’s college football slate.
The column finished 65-51-5 in 2017, with the roughest week coming in Week 1 (3-5-1). Week 7 began a trend of six wins per week, as I got a feel for each team’s identity.
The first three weeks of college football are all about fact-finding as most teams plow through nonconference play.
Injuries, situational spots and explosiveness will be identified by October, allowing us bettors to get bigger shots down the road. In short, practice good money management early on.
Let’s get to the picks!
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Friday Night Lights
San Diego State at Stanford
- Spread: Stanford -14
- Over/Under: 48.5
- Time: 9 p.m. ET
- TV channel: Fox Sports 1
All I have been told this week is that Stanford has revenge on its mind for this contest. But this might possibly be the worst revenge spot of the season, as last year’s 20-17 Aztecs victory did nothing to keep the Trees from winning the Pac-12 North.
Stanford QB K.J. Costello did not play a snap, Bryce Love averaged 14.2 yards per carry but had only two attempts in the fourth quarter, and San Diego State had three drives of nine plays or more in the second half.
Last year’s game was sandwiched between USC and UCLA for Stanford. This year’s San Diego State game precedes a September schedule that includes USC, Oregon and Notre Dame.
With Costello’s health dominating headlines this offseason, it’s not crazy to think that Stanford’s main goal is to get everyone to Week 2 healthy.
Play On: San Diego State +14
Colorado State at Colorado
- Spread: Colorado -7.5
- Over/Under: 65.5
- Time: 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday
- TV channel: CBS Sports Network
The line movement for this game all started when Colorado State was down 37-7 to Hawaii during the third quarter of Week 0 last Saturday. This line sat at 6 all summer, but trickled to 7.5 after the Rainbow Warriors’ victory.
The Action Network’s power ratings make this game Colorado -5.5, while S&P+ puts this around -1.5 for the Buffaloes. There may be a bit of overreaction in the market to a Rams team that ranked dead last in returning production.
Colorado did not improve in Week 0, and will deal with returning production issues of its own. As our Colorado season preview points out, this defense ranked outside the top 100 in efficiency.
College football teams generally improve in their second game, and that’s where we find Colorado State.
Play On: Colorado State +7.5
Saturday Morning Mimosas
Texas at Maryland
- Spread: Texas -14
- Over/Under: 53
- Time: 12 p.m. ET
- TV channel: Fox Sports 1
I’m already prepared for your DMs stating “But you took Texas -11 on The Action Network App back on Aug. 10.”
That’s right, but the news of DJ Durkin being put on administrative leave in the wake of a report centering around treatment of a deceased player has changed things a bit.
Similar to Ohio State dipping to -35 on Bookmaker after Urban Meyer’s suspension, there is always a window in the market to grab a number that can be hedged later on.
That is what we are doing here with +14, which is available at Stations as of this writing and should be widely available before kick with more Longhorn money expected.
The Terrapins can explode with big plays offensively, but provide plenty of three-and-outs. The equalizer in this is new offensive coordinator and acting head coach Matt Canada.
Efficiency is the goal for quarterbacks Kasim Hill and Tyrrell Pigrome. Canada will implement an offense to improve 2017’s metrics, and you can expect plenty of pre-snap motion.
This still remains a very explosive offense, and Texas had season-long issues with defending explosiveness in 2017, ranking 90th in the country.
I have this number at two scores, while S&P+ and ESPN FPI make this game below 13. Take the 14, and look for Canada to get the Maryland offense to sustain a drive.
Play On: Maryland +14
Saturday Afternoon Power Hour
Washington vs Auburn (Atlanta)
- Spread: Auburn -2
- Over/Under: 48.5
- Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ABC
Big money came through Wednesday night to bounce this game in the direction of Auburn. I was able to get down a few units at CG Technology on -1 with the Tigers, but still suggest -2 for this game against Washington.
There isn’t a huge amount of analytics that go into this handicap, as both teams field plenty of talent. It took some research on the Auburn offensive line before I was comfortable with an investment.
The handicap on this game for me comes down to Chris Petersen and Jake Browning.
Washington lost and did not cover vs. Penn State in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. In the 2016 College Football Playoff, Browning and Petersen came up short of covering against Alabama, although turnover luck was not in their favor.
If Auburn’s defense can be beat, it’s in the secondary … but I’m not positive Jake Browning has the arm strength to expose that weakness.
Play On: Auburn -2
North Carolina at Cal
- Spread: California -7.5
- Over/Under: 60
- Time: 4 p.m. ET
- TV channel: Fox
In the wake of the North Carolina suspensions, I mentioned that this number would adjust north of 7 and have value on the Tar Heels. There should be plenty of motivation for star defensive lineman Malik Carney, who will serve his suspension after the Cal game.
North Carolina was a couple of backup quarterback interceptions away from a victory in last year’s opener.
The key to a UNC cover will be the defense against Patrick Laird.
While I make this game Cal -5.5, S&P+ projects the Golden Bears at -2. Expectations are high for Justin Wilcox and crew while suspensions cloud the UNC program. We will go against public perception, and take a deep dive in the box score postgame to see if we can trust the Tar Heels in a great spot against Central Florida in Week 3.
Play On: North Carolina +7.5
Old Dominion at Liberty
- Spread: Old Dominion -7
- Over/Under: 58
- Time: 6 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN3
Welcome to the FBS, Flames! No bowl or conference title is at stake, but Liberty begins its journey hosting Old Dominion. The Flames rank seventh overall in returning production, bringing back a crew that shocked Baylor in 2017.
This Liberty team is desperate to have an invite to a conference, and should play with a chip on its shoulder every game of the season. As I make this game Liberty +2, no other trusted power rating system makes this larger than a field goal.
The strength of this Old Dominion team is the defensive line, but Liberty returns plenty of depth to protect quarterback Stephen Calvert.
Play On: Liberty +7
Saturday Night Blackout Chaser
Louisiana Tech at South Alabama
- Spread: Louisiana Tech -10
- Over/Under: 51
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN+
My love for South Alabama is all about Steve Campbell, who has had success at every collegiate level. Campbell first came to light with a Central Arkansas victory over Arkansas State a few years ago, making the Bears and their purple field an FCS force to be reckoned with.
South Alabama may play three quarterbacks against Louisiana Tech in the opener, but the size of these wide receivers make the difference in this game.
Jamarcus Way, Malik Stanley, and Jordan McCray are bigger than most Sun Belt tight ends. Amik Robertson is one of the best corners in all of the Group of 5, and will need to make a difference for Louisiana Tech in this game.
The issue with La Tech is the second corner spot might be a question mark against this wide receiver crew for the Panthers. Take the points and look for an outright upset.
Play On: South Alabama +10.5
Bowling Green at Oregon
- Spread: Oregon -33
- Over/Under: 72
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV channel: Pac-12 Network
Nothing screams college football is back than a nice #MACtion road team heading into Autzen with a boatload of points.
Bowling Green’s offense may be a bit under the radar, but Jarret Doege returns at quarterback after a successful freshman campaign. The quarterback went for 12 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, while scoring an additional two touchdowns on the ground.
The Mike Jinks era at Bowling Green has resulted in a 6-18 record, and visible improvement must happen for him to avoid the hot seat. Surprisingly, Bowling Green ranked 47th overall in offensive explosiveness last year and should continue that trend upward with key pieces returning in the backfield and at receiver.
>> All odds as of 12 p.m. ET on Friday. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.
Carl Pelini takes over as defensive coordinator, long known for having top-25 groups. He inherits a unit that ranks 13th in returning production. With experienced sophomores and juniors all over the roster and talent in the skill positions, Bowling Green can surprise in 2018 … but Autzen is a humbling place to start.
Mario Cristobal and Justin Herbert did not have a day to remember in the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State to end 2017. Herbert’s health will be of most importance to the offense, as explosiveness and efficiency went out the door during the Braxton Burmeister and Taylor Alie experiment.
Look for Herbert to get pulled when and if the Ducks take a four-touchdown lead.
Play On: Bowling Green +33
BYU at Arizona
- Spread: Arizona -12
- Over/Under: 60.5
- Time: 10:45 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN
Khalil Tate got proper recognition in the Arizona team preview, but the offensive line continues to dominate headlines for the Wildcats. With replacements all over the line and not many career starts in the BYU opener, Tate may be on the run from the first offensive possession.
If BYU’s defense can hold serve against the most electrifying man in college football, hopefully the offense will find its way on the scoreboard.
Jeff Grimes is the new offensive coordinator, tasked with turning around an offense that averaged 17.1 points per game. Tanner Mangum has been named starter, and plenty of familiar skill position players return.
BYU’s adjusted pace was 93rd in 2017, and that could limit the number of touches for Tate. Look for a grind of a game with a defense that excels in limiting explosiveness to get BYU to the window.
Play On: BYU +12