College Football Odds, Early Bets: 2 Picks for Week 1, Including Louisville vs. Georgia Tech, Northwestern vs. Rutgers

College Football Odds, Early Bets: 2 Picks for Week 1, Including Louisville vs. Georgia Tech, Northwestern vs. Rutgers article feature image

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images. Pictured: Louisville running back Jawhar Jordan (25) and Louisville Cardinals teammates.

Week 0 is behind us, and now it's time to truly kick off the college football season.

With every team in college football returning to the field this week, we all know the market moves a lot over the course of the week. Money pours from the time lines open until kickoff on Saturday (or until kickoff on Monday. Week 1, am I right?).

Like any other sport, it's paramount to get the best price possible when betting on college football.

For example, a -6.5 favorite could move to -7.5 on Saturday morning, and then you run the risk of that team winning by one of the most likely outcomes — a seven-point victory — and you just lost your bet.

It could have all been avoided if the bet was locked in at -6.5 on Monday morning.

I'm here to help you navigate the market by providing a few lines I'm buying right now — or other lines that I'm waiting to buy later in the week.

The hope for this piece is to beat the market, get the best price possible, and in the long run, save you some money with closing line value. To do that, we'll utilize our Action Network PRO projections, ESPN's SP+ and my own projections to create a consensus.

You hear all the time, "Process over results." The best way to know if the process is working is by closing line value (CLV), meaning how many points did you beat the closing line by? Well, I'm here to help you hopefully get the most CLV possible early on in the week so you're sitting in a great position by the time we reach Saturday.

Louisville vs. Georgia Tech Odds

Friday, Sep 1
7:30pm ET
Louisville Odds
-108o / -112u
GA Tech Odds
-108o / -112u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Louisville vs. Georgia Tech Projections

Action NetworkCunninghamSP+
Louisville -23Louisville -12.9Louisville -14.9

Louisville begins a new era under Jeff Brohm this year, which means the offense is going to change quite a bit. When he was at Purdue, Brohm's offenses threw the ball close to 60% of the time.

So, to run his offense, he brought in one of his old Purdue quarterbacks, Jack Plummer, who spent last season at Cal. Plummer was hit or miss at Cal last season, putting up a 78.4 PFF passing grade and averaging 6.8 yards per attempt with 19 big-time throws compared to 18 turnover-worthy plays.

But he knows Brohm's offenses inside and out, which is a big plus.

The pressure won't be entirely on his shoulders, because Louisville returns one of the best running backs in the ACC in Jawhar Jordan. Jordan averaged a whopping 5.7 yards per carry last season, put up an 80.8 PFF rushing grade and recorded 26 runs of 10 yards or more.

Louisville is losing three important starters across its offensive line, including first-team all-ACC left guard Caleb Chandler, but Brohm went into the portal and added six offensive linemen with 150 combined career starts, so Louisville should be just fine.

In this game, the Cardinals may have to be more of a run-oriented team because Georgia Tech's secondary was the strength of its defense last year, finishing 39th in EPA/Pass Allowed. The Yellow Jackets lost two starters in the secondary but bring back LaMiles Brooks, who led them in pass breakups and interceptions last season.

The problem for Georgia Tech is it can't stop the run to save its life, and it's not getting better any time soon.

The Jackets are losing a massive amount of production in their front seven with linebackers Ayinde Eley and Charlie Thomas both leaving for the NFL. The duo combined for an absurd 230 tackles a season ago. Georgia Tech brought in a couple of transfers, including Andre White and his 139 tackles and 13 starts in his career at Texas A&M, but the Yellow Jackets aren't going to be able to replace both players and keep the same level of production.

Even with third- and second-team All-ACC linebackers, Georgia Tech still gave up 4.5 yards per carry and ranked 114th in EPA/Rush Allowed. So, if Louisville can't get anything going through the air, it should be able to run the ball effectively with Jordan.

On Georgia Tech's offense, Haynes King has transferred from Texas A&M. Let's just say his career as an Aggie didn't go too well. King started five games, and these are the numbers he put up:

Image via PFF.

He'll also be under a brand new system with Buster Faulkner beginning his first year as offensive coordinator. Faulkner has been a quality control coach at Georgia for the last three years, but in the past, has been the offensive coordinator for Southern Miss, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee.

He's always been pretty balanced between the run and pass, and his offenses at the G5 level have been successful. In 2019 with Southern Miss, his offense finished 35th in the nation in yards per play. He's now spent three years working under Todd Monken at Georgia, so the future does look brighter for Georgia Tech than it did under Geoff Collins.

We have to remember, though — this is a new quarterback in a new system in his very first game, so it's not the best of spots for the Yellow Jackets.

This is also a revenge game for Trey Cooley, who transferred to GT from Louisville after backing up Jordan last season. However, he averaged only 4.7 yards per carry. Now, four offensive linemen return, but they have only 66 starts between them. Georgia Tech finished 126th in Rushing Success Rate last season, so it's hard to see it improving much early in the year.

Louisville's defense was outstanding last season. The Cardinals allowed only 4.8 yards per play, ranked ninth in EPA/Play Allowed and fifth in Finishing Drives Allowed.

The problem with Louisville, though, is it's losing quite a bit in its front seven. The Cardinals' top two defensive linemen and top three linebackers are gone. Brohm did add some Power 5 transfers to help fill the void, but the defense is going to regress toward average.

This is a great matchup here for Louisville, and all three projections models are showing value on the Cardinals.

There are currently a couple of -7.5s out in the market with a few books already moving Louisville to -8.5. Currently, 84% of the spread money is on the Cardinals, so I'd imagine this line is going to get bet up as the week progresses.

Pick: Louisville -7.5 (via DraftKings)

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Northwestern vs. Rutgers Odds

Sunday, Sept. 3
Noon ET
Northwestern Odds
-110o / -110u
Rutgers Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Northwestern vs. Rutgers Projections

Action NetworkCunninghamSP+
Rutgers -1.2Rutgers -4.3Rutgers -3.2

Northwestern is in a really weird place, but I think now that all the dust has settled, things are getting a little better than they were in July.

Pat Fitzgerald is out after the hazing scandal, and new defensive coordinator David Braun has taken over as the interim head coach. Braun is the former defensive coordinator for North Dakota State and had tremendous success at the FCS level.

After everything that has happened in Evanston, Northwestern's motivation is going to be a key to handicap. The rumor is that the players demanded Braun become the head coach, or there would be a mass exodus via the transfer portal.

So, even though this is a terrible situation for Northwestern and 11 guys have hit the portal, the players who stayed seemingly want to play for Braun.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it — this is going to be an ugly game. Northwestern averaged the fewest points of any Power 5 school and did not win a game in the United States last season. With that said, six of its losses came by 10 points or less, so a lot of things simply didn't go its way.

Braun has not named a starting quarterback for the Rutgers game as Cincinnati transfer Ben Bryant and Brendan Sullivan battle it out.

Bryant was really good before suffering a season-ending foot injury in Week 12 of last season. He put up an 81.8 PFF passing grade, averaged 7.8 yards per attempt and posted 23 big-time throws compared to 11 turnover-worthy plays.

Given the quarterback play Northwestern has endured over the last few years, he's an immediate upgrade.

Sullivan started five games and really wasn't that great, averaging only 6.1 yards per attempt and owning a PFF passing grade below 60.

The rest of the offense is a work in progress. The Wildcats lose their top running back from last season, the offensive line is inexperienced, and they'll be relying on some Power 5 transfers at wide receiver.

But with competent quarterback play, Northwestern will improve after a 1-11 season.

Defensively, Rutgers is going to be solid once again under head coach Greg Schiano. The Scarlet Knights finished 40th in EPA/Play Allowed and boasted a top-35 unit when it came to stopping the run.

They return eight starters, but all of the starters they lost were in the secondary, so going up against an efficient passer like Bryant could spell trouble.

Rutgers' offense was abysmal last season, and the prospects this year don't look better.

Gavin Wimsatt will be the starting quarterback after a pretty rough season, albeit in a limited sample size. Now, he was dealing with injuries, but averaging just 5.1 yards per pass attempt with eight turnover-worthy plays compared to just three big-time throws is worrisome.

Couple that with the fact that Rutgers really struggled to run the ball with just 3.6 yards per carry and a rank of 122nd in EPA/Rush, and things are a bit concerning.

The Knights do return top back Kyle Monangai and have some experience across the offensive line, but it's most likely going to be a struggle for the Rutgers offense once again.

All three projection models are showing value on Northwestern in what should be an extremely difficult game to watch. But ultimately, the Wildcats offense has nowhere to go but up, and they have the far better quarterback in this matchup.

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