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Saturday College Football Picks, Odds: How Our Expert is Betting Week 1, Featuring Utah vs. Florida, Notre Dame vs. Ohio State

Saturday College Football Picks, Odds: How Our Expert is Betting Week 1, Featuring Utah vs. Florida, Notre Dame vs. Ohio State article feature image
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Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: A Notre Dame football helmet.

  • Week 1 of the college football season is here, and our Collin Wilson sees plenty of betting value.
  • Wilson is betting four of Saturday's biggest games, including Utah vs. Florida, Notre Dame vs. Ohio State and UTEP vs. Oklahoma.
  • Read on four all four of Wilson's betting breakdowns and picks for Week 1.

Saturday’s monster college football slate represents the highlight of Week 1, and the games won’t disappoint.

We begin with one of the three top-25 matchups in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium as the Hogs host Cincinnati fresh off a College Football Playoff last season. At the same time, the Brent Venables era begins in Norman when Oklahoma takes on UTEP in the Miners’ second game of the season.

When the evening comes around, the Pac-12 will look to continue a cover streak against the SEC when Utah faces Florida in an effort to start its expectation-filled season on a high note.

To close the night, Marcus Freeman and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Columbus to take on an electric Ohio State offense that features Heisman contenders CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Read on for my favorite bets for all four games below, and be sure to check out the rest of Action Network’s Week 1 college football coverage.


Collin Wilson’s College Football Week 1 Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting from today’s slate of games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

Game
Time
Pick
3:30 p.m. ET
Cincinnati +6.5
3:30 p.m. ET
Oklahoma Team Total Over 44.5
7 p.m. ET
Under 51
7:30 p.m. ET
1H Under 31
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Cincinnati vs. Arkansas

Saturday, Sept. 3
3:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Cincinnati +6.5

One of the three top-25 matchups in Week 1 includes a trip to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium for an opener between a rising Arkansas group and defending College Football Playoff qualifier Cincinnati.

Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman went trophy hunting during the 2021 season, collecting every piece of hardware from The Boot to The Battle Line Trophy, plus a win in the Outback Bowl over Penn State.

Pittman retains both coordinators and expects to be a contender in the SEC while making the general public plenty of cheddar.

Reporter: "You're 16-6 against the spread so I wanted to say thank you."

Sam Pittman: "Go Hogs"

This interaction at SEC Media Day 😂 pic.twitter.com/7qD9K0QUQD

— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) July 20, 2022

Cincinnati comes off the most successful season of any Group of Five team in College Football Playoff history. The Bearcats were undressed by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl semifinal, failing to score a touchdown against the Crimson Tide.

The toughest test for head coach Luke Fickell comes this season with a depleted defense and the loss of quarterback Desmond Ridder.


Cincinnati Bearcats

With the loss of a four-year starter at quarterback, Cincinnati will look internally and within the portal for answers.

Ben Bryant returns to Cincinnati after starting for Eastern Michigan last season. The junior led the Eagles with 14 touchdowns to seven interceptions despite getting sacked 43 times.

The Cincinnati offensive line returns in full — a welcome scenario for Bryant after seeing 120 pressures in 411 dropbacks last season.

Bryant has competed with sophomore Evan Prater, but Fickell has been mum on who the starter will be against Arkansas. Both players may be asked to replicate Ridder’s scrambling ability.

Ben Bryant has wheels too pic.twitter.com/lq5Ij9DtKu

— Barstool Cincinnati (@UCBarstool) November 29, 2019

While the quarterback and running back position looks for answers in Fayetteville, the Bearcats defense returns just 46% of experience, per TARP.

The heaviest of those losses come in the secondary after Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant tallied 15 passes defensed last season. Cincinnati does return nickel Arquon Bush, but the Razorbacks are sure to target two new cornerbacks and a safety in the passing game.

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Arkansas Razorbacks

Every program in college football knows what the game plan for Arkansas will be; the question is if opposing defenses can stop it.

Quarterback KJ Jefferson returns for a fourth season, leading one of the most physical rushing attacks in the nation. Four starters from the offensive line return, including Outland Trophy candidate Ricky Stromberg at center.

A stable of running backs returns with Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, AJ Green and Dominique Johnson. Although Johnson will sit the first two razorback games due to injury, there are new running backs waiting in the wings to join the rotation.

The biggest question is who will fill the shoes of wide receiver Treylon Burks, who departed early for the NFL. Burks logged 88 targets last season, well above the 35 thrown to leading returner Warren Thompson.

Reports out of fall camp indicate the loss of Burks may be minimal. Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood and Georgia transfer Matt Landers both came in to Fayetteville and are expected to complete the starting lineup with Thompson.

All three receivers have gotten praise from Pittman and coordinator Kendal Briles.

Matt Landers working the slant route, pass from Malik Hornsby. #WPS pic.twitter.com/RdBRqcnI1I

— Jonathan Acosta (@_jacosta) August 9, 2022

The biggest question on defense is replicating the pressure from the three-man front, as nose tackle John Ridgeway and edge Tre Williams depart.

Coordinator Barry Odom has elected to move from a 3-3-5 to a 4-2-5 to continue putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. LSU transfer Landon Jackson joins a defensive front light on experience among the two deep in the depth chart.

Linebacker Bumper Pool and safety Jalen Catalon both return to stabilize a back seven that will continue to limit explosive plays.

The Razorbacks finished 11th in Defensive Finishing Drives last season, a result of Odom electing to give up yards in the middle of the field with a stiffer plan when opponents get to scoring position.


Cincinnati vs. Arkansas Betting Pick

The biggest question for Arkansas this season will be Jefferson in passing downs and which receiver will be targeted.

Burks was heavily used in the red zone and on third downs last season, leaving a void for Jefferson on money downs. Haselwood practiced this week with a green jersey, signifying no contact for the transfer.

The Bearcats were excellent in forcing third downs last season, ending with a top-30 rank in Standard Downs Success Rate. There’s no doubt the Arkansas run game will look to bully a Cincinnati defensive front that finished just inside the top 50 in Line Yards.

More questions surround an Arkansas defense that found a way to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks with just three players. With a defensive scheme change to a four-man front, the typical dime defense that was excellent in preventing explosive plays has one less player.

Cincy running back Ryan Montgomery averaged more yards after contact than Jerome Ford, racking up nine explosive runs in just 46 attempts. With an offensive line at full strength, Cincinnati may have long, sustained drives and multiple trips inside the Arkansas 40-yard line.

The Action Network projection makes the Hogs -3.5, indicating inflation on the current market for the home team.

While Pittman has led Arkansas from the pit of college football to a golden age of relevance, there are a number of unanswered questions that include defensive line pressure and identifying the main third-down and red-zone weapon.

Pick: Cincinnati +6.5 or Better



UTEP vs. Oklahoma

Saturday, Sept. 3
3:30 p.m. ET
FOX
Oklahoma Team Total Over 44.5

A new age of Oklahoma football is set to begin under head coach Brent Venables. Known for fielding the best defenses in college football, the first-time head coach spent seven seasons as the Sooners’ defensive coordinator before taking the same position at Clemson over the past decade.

Most coordinators need a few series to make adjustments, but Venables may be the best coach in college history at reading an offense and changing the scheme before the snap.

Armed with a new quarterback and a proven offensive coordinator, the Sooners expect nothing less than a national title as Oklahoma moves to the SEC in the coming years.

UTEP is a team on the rise despite a loss to North Texas in Week Zero.

Head coach Dana Dimel embarks on his fifth season after serving as Kansas State’s offensive coordinator for nearly a decade. Bill Snyder’s coaching tree preaches excellent play in the trench with a bruising run game.

The Miners were winless in 2017 before Dimel’s arrival, winning just two games in the subsequent seasons. UTEP came together last season by winning seven games and covering in a loss to Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl.

After a crushing conference loss last week, UTEP will look to rebound in an afternoon trip to Norman.


UTEP Miners

The Miners lost a key piece to the success of last season when wide receiver Jacob Cowing hit the transfer portal.

Quarterback Gavin Hardison become one of the most explosive passers in passing downs last season, but a high percentage of those targets went to Cowing.

The results against North Texas were not successful on the scoreboard but not because of a lack of explosive plays.

This was a DIME from Gavin Hardison to Tyrin Smith for the 32 yard TD! 🔥🔥 #UTEP pic.twitter.com/PnZOKfEQPx

— Follow @FTBeard7 (@FTBeard7) August 28, 2022

Tyrin Smith and Reynaldo Flores filled the gap in the passing game, each posting explosive catches for a total of 249 yards. Hardison hit four other targets, but four different drives ended with a turnover on downs after successfully getting into Mean Green territory.

Per Action Analytics, UTEP recorded seven scoring opportunities and averaged 1.28 points per attempt.

The defense also struggled to maintain the levels from last year’s bowl squad. UTEP ended the game without a sack, quarterback hurry or tackle for loss.

The North Texas offensive line was one of the stronger units returning to Conference USA play, but the lack of Havoc does not bode well against Oklahoma. North Texas also had four different players log an explosive rush.

The one bright side came from the Mean Green’s tempo. At 24 seconds per play, the new-look Oklahoma offense is expected to execute around the same tempo.


Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners’ players, coaches and fans are ready to get the Lincoln Riley era behind them with a new brand of defense and a different flavor of offense.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby leaves Ole Miss to take the same position in Norman after calling one of the fastest and most successful units in college football last season.

Lebby will look to replicate the success of Matt Corral in Oxford with a family quarterback in Dillion Gabriel. The two were paired together in the quarterback’s initial season at Central Florida.

This throw by Dillon Gabriel was absolutely filthy 😵 pic.twitter.com/n0FEe3xlAF

— Seth Oliveras  (@SethOliveras) May 18, 2022

From a decision-making standpoint, Gabriel had his best season as a freshman, posting 30 big-time throws to just seven turnover-worthy plays.

After Lebby’s departure from UCF, Gabriel had an increase in turnover-worthy plays with a steep climb in drops in 451 dropbacks during the 2020 season.

Despite Oklahoma losing half of its offensive line snaps, receiving yards and rushing yards, there’s an expectation that this offense will have no hiccups with Lebby calling the plays.

The defense undergoes a similar change with Venables and coordinator Ted Roof. Former coordinator Alex Grinch proved to be successful in upgrading the defense against the rush and in Havoc, but he never found a solution against the Big 12 passing offenses.

The Sooners finished last season 87th in Passing Downs Success Rate and 62nd in coverage grading. A number of highly-graded cornerbacks and safeties return for Venables’ zone coverage scheme.


UTEP vs. Oklahoma Betting Pick

The Oklahoma depth chart revealed the new-look defense under Venables. Both starting safeties, Key Lawrence and Billy Bowman, are light on experience, but both project to be impact players in causing disruption.

Cornerbacks Jaden Davis and Woodi Washington combined for just five forced incompletions on 55 targets last season.

Hardison found plenty of success hitting multiple receivers for chunk yards in Week Zero. Specifically, two passing attempts down the left seam resulted in 81 yards and a touchdown for Smith against North Texas.

Hardison loves to attack the left seam but also had 16 passing attempts between the hash marks not exceeding 20 yards. Oklahoma’s linebacker unit of DaShaun White and David Ugwoegbu have been excellent against the run but a liability against opposing passing attacks.

The Action Network projection for this game is Oklahoma -33, a number that has seen UTEP money throughout the week.

Hardison is capable of lighting up the Sooners’ linebackers in passing attempts, but it’s the Miners’ inability to score in multiple opportunities against North Texas that has our wager looking elsewhere for value.

One area North Texas exposed was UTEP’s pass defense. Mean Green quarterback Austin Aune lit up the Miners’ secondary, as five different players caught an explosive pass.

Considering the strength of the North Texas offense is the rush, the final Passing Downs Success Rate of 44% against UTEP indicates Gabriel could have a monster outing from an explosive pass perspective.

Unlike North Texas, Lebby will have no issues turning drives into points.

Pick: Oklahoma Team Total Over 44.5 or Better



Utah vs. Florida

Saturday, Sept. 3
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Under 51

The narrative has been laid all summer for the mega showdown of the Pac-12’s best team against a perennial SEC power. The idea that a team from the West Coast could go into the Deep South as a favorite has caught the attention of most bettors.

On one side, Utah played an exhilarating Rose Bowl in a narrow loss to an Ohio State team that may win the national title. The other side of the fence points to a Florida roster full of blue-chip talent under new and improved management.

Bill Napier spent several seasons as the wide receivers coach in Tuscaloosa before a pit stop at Arizona State and before building a Sun Belt power at Louisiana.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has always spoken highly of Napier and his prospects of being the next great SEC coach. Those initial thoughts have become a reality with Napier taking over a Florida team that crashed at the end of the Dan Mullen campaign.

There’s no doubt Napier can coach. He’s a two-time Sun Belt champion with the Ragin’ Cajuns while winning Sun Belt Coach of the Year twice. A turnaround on defense will be key to the Gators’ 2022 season.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 18th season at Utah, logging at least nine wins in six of the last seven full seasons. The Utes have been on the cusp of the College Football Playoff, losing to Washington and Oregon in recent Pac-12 Championship games.

Whittingham returns a loaded offense that finished top-25 in numerous statistical categories. The defense will be the area of emphasis after losing a number of key contributors.

The Pac-12 has covered four straight games against the SEC dating back to 2019. This game features two of the most explosive quarterbacks in college football and asks each defense to improve in containing chunk plays.

There will be plenty of offensive highlights, but the team that thrives in limiting scoring opportunities will take home a huge statement win for future rankings.


Utah Utes

Just a year ago, Charlie Brewer was tapped to be the starting quarterback for the Utes after winning a narrow battle through fall camp. Soon thereafter, Brewer became inefficient, and backup Cam Rising made the Utah offense elite in the third game against Washington State.

Brewer quickly hit the transfer portal, while Rising finished the season with a 20:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The junior finished 2021 with an immaculate rating in play-action passing. Rising finished the season with 19 big-time throws and no turnover-worthy plays in passing attempts over 20 yards.

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s scheme of quick passing and zone runs ranked seventh in third-down conversions last season. Both the rushing and receiving yards return more than 70% of production from last season, but questions persist around two key areas on the offensive line.

Right tackle Jaren Kump logged 149 snaps at left tackle last season while posting the lowest pass-blocking grade of any lineman. Rising will have a new starting center after Paul Maile recorded over 200 snaps last season but finished second behind Kump in pass-blocking grades. The Utes ranked 92nd last year in pass blocking — an area that will be of concern against the Gators.

Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley will look for playmakers on a defense that lost four of its top five tacklers. The Utes lose half of their pressures recorded last season after ranking of 11th in Standard Downs Sack Rate.

The 4-2-5 scheme will depend on a plethora of unproven sophomores, but cornerback Clark Phillips III returns 13 pass breakups after finishing eighth in passing stops nationally among all Power Five cornerbacks.

#P6SProspectWatch
Clark Phillips III CB, Utah while his size may deter some, he makes up for it with his IQ, athleticism, explosiveness, twitch & physicality. Confident in his gm & playmaking ability, he's a player certain to rise up draft boards.@Pick6Sports1 #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/cIwlRETIpf

— 🍢إليزار✭ (@ohmyword88) August 27, 2022


Florida Gators

Napier walks into a fluid roster on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Emory Jones’ transfer to Arizona State has left questions of depth behind sophomore Anthony Richardson. While the Gators do return one of the most prolific highlight creators in Richardson, health was a constant issue in 2021.

Offensive coordinator Rob Sale is expected to lean on zone runs and RPO to get Richardson into space, where the quarterback averaged 4.6 yards after contact.

With the 15th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, The New York Football Giants select…Anthony Richardson QB University of Florida pic.twitter.com/1IzImJ3dI5

— 𝓢𝔀𝓸𝓜𝓸✞ (@Jayson_TaGOAT) August 24, 2022

A limited sample of 63 passing attempts at just a 59% completion rate is not enough of a sample to know if Richardson can execute secondary options off of the hot route.

There are question marks around the quarterback with just two experienced receivers and no running back who eclipsed Richardson’s yardage mark on the ground. The great news for the offense is the return of 73% of snaps to an offensive line that was 23rd in line yards.

Co-defensive coordinators Patrick Toney and Sean Spencer will look to replicate the concepts used at Louisiana. Napier is ready to field every player in the defensive two-deep to find the best Havoc combination.

The biggest contributors from a pressure standpoint return to the line, as tackle Gervon Dexter and edge Brenton Cox recorded 19 quarterback hits in 2021.

While most of the secondary — led by safety Trey Dean — returns, the group ranked 109th in coverage grading.

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Utah vs. Florida Betting Pick

There aren’t many questions surrounding Utah’s offense, but two offensive linemen have yet to prove themselves in pass-blocking attempts.

With limited experience returning to right tackle and center, both Dexter and Cox should put pressure on Rising during passing downs. If Kump and Maile can execute in standard downs rushing attempts for running back Tavion Thomas, Utah can avoid the passing downs in which it ranked 116th in explosiveness last season.

For Florida, options around Richardson on the Gators offense are limited. Any chance to beat Utah will come from execution in passing downs.

Phillips has been excellent at cornerback for the Utes, cutting the football grid in half against opposing offenses. Utah was excellent in creating Havoc and limiting scoring opportunities last season, but its tackle grading fell out of the top 75.

The Action Network projection agrees with the current market making Utah a favorite, but the Gators defense is expected to be vastly improved in the front seven.

That pressure against Utah’s inexperienced offensive linemen can take away explosive plays for Rising and Thomas. Look for points to be at a premium on a humid Florida evening.

Pick: Under 51 or Better



Notre Dame vs. Ohio State

Saturday, Sept. 3
7:30 p.m. ET
ABC
1H Under 31

There’s a stark contrast between oddsmakers and AP Top 25 voters every college football season. That fact has never been more transparent, as No. 2 Ohio State takes on No. 5 Notre Dame as a three-possession favorite.

A number that opened Ohio State -10.5 earlier in the summer has taken nothing but Buckeyes money, leading to one of the most steamed lines in the Week 1 slate.

Marcus Freeman begins his first full season as the Irish head coach after losing to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

His impact as defensive coordinator was felt in the wake of Clark Lea taking on the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. The Irish finished top-10 defensively in tackling, coverage and Finishing Drives. When the conservative offense sputtered, the defense navigated the Irish to a victory over 11 opponents on the schedule.

Ohio State enters the season neck-and-neck with Alabama as the odds-on favorite to win the National Championship. With a loss to Oregon and Michigan last season, the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl over Utah in a high-scoring affair.

While the offense was electric, the defense continued a yearly struggle against the explosive play. The hire of Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator is expected to be the fix for a defense that fell outside the top 100 in standard downs explosiveness.

An Ohio State victory here ensures there will be no logjam behind the Irish in the College Football Playoff rankings.


Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Freeman returns 83% of the defense from last season, with more than 80% of tackles and passes defensed taking the field against Ohio State.

The front seven brings back 15 quarterback hits in tackle Jayson Ademilola, edge Isaiah Foskey and linebacker JD Bertrand. While those players are locked in on creating pressure against Ohio State’s offensive line, one of the best secondaries in the nation looks to trim the explosive play.

Cam Hart picks off Graham Mertz!

Irish look to grab their first lead of the game. pic.twitter.com/q4j4uqVK7Y

— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) September 25, 2021

Cam Hart is just one of the multiple defensive starters for the Irish who brings back more than 25 passes defensed on the season.

The argument could be made that Notre Dame faced a subpar schedule of passing offenses, but the counting stats indicate the Irish may field the best defense the Buckeyes will face all season.

On the offensive side, Tyler Buchner beat Drew Pyne for the title of QB1 after fall camp.

Buchner does not have a ton of experience after serving in relief of Jack Coan in 2021. The sophomore posted just one big-time throw against five turnover-worthy plays.

Buchner will be assisted by one of the best tight ends in college football, as Michael Mayer led the Irish with 71 catches a season ago.

Michael Mayer takes it to the house for #NotreDame against #FloridaState pic.twitter.com/KvPckHJpyw

— CollegeFootballLegends (@CFBallLegends) August 25, 2022

After Mayer, there are plenty of questions at the skill positions for Notre Dame.

Leading wide receiver Avery Davis is out for the season with a torn ACL, leaving Braden Lenzy as the only target with starting experience. While experience is good, Lenzy had the highest drop rate on the team at 13.5%.

The Irish will look to replace running back Kyren Williams with a trio of options.

Logan Diggs will be full strength for Week 1 after averaging 3.3 yards after contact in 2021. Chris Tyree will also contribute to the depleted backfield, but he forced just six missed tackles on 56 rushing attempts last season.

The bigger question for the offense comes at the right tackle spot. Redshirt freshman Blake Fisher is expected to start but had one of the lowest run-blocking grades of any lineman in 128 snaps last season.


Ohio State Buckeyes

Words cannot do justice to how loaded the Buckeyes are on the offensive side of the ball.

Heisman Trophy contender CJ Stroud returns at quarterback with nearly every rushing yard out of the backfield.

Although wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have departed for the NFL, there may not be more of a dangerous skill position player than Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba in last year’s Rose bowl:

Stroud: 37/46, 573 YDS, 6 TD, 1 INT
Smith-Njigba: 15 REC, 347 YDS, 3 TD

OSU/ND can’t get here fast enough. pic.twitter.com/nMz7PteOVM

— Mack Perry (@DevaronPerry) August 27, 2022

Stroud ended his true freshman season with 44 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Even more impressive was a minimal dip in adjusted completion rate in pressured dropbacks.

One factor that could keep Stroud from competing for the Heisman is the backfield, specifically TreVeyon Henderson.

The sophomore finished the season sixth nationally in elusiveness, forcing 50 missed tackles on 183 rushing attempts. Henderson became a force in passing downs, averaging 11.6 yards per catch with one drop on 29 targets.

If there’s a question on this national title-contending offense, it may come on the offensive line with minimal experience on the interior. Henderson’s ability to slide in the flats makes his skill set the perfect complement for the offense.

Knowles takes over a Buckeyes defense that has been embarrassed by Iowa, Purdue and Oregon in recent years. The 4-2-5 scheme Knowles ran at Oklahoma State was one of the best in the nation, and he’s expected to unleash the same scheme in Columbus.

Nine of the top 10 tacklers from last season return under new management. Edge Zach Harrison leads the charge in the trench after recording 28 pressures last season.

Zach Harrison with that double TFL. pic.twitter.com/tESIgkRifr

— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 1, 2020

 


Notre Dame vs. Ohio State Betting Pick

There’s plenty of familiarity between the coaching staffs of Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Knowles built Oklahoma State’s defensive game plan in preparation for the Fiesta Bowl against the Irish. There’s not a skill position on the Irish offense that will surprise Ohio State’s new defensive coordinator in his debut.

With the departure of Notre Dame’s veteran quarterback, there’s every reason to believe Harrison and middle linebacker Tommy Eichenberg will look to confuse the youth movement at the tackle positions on the Irish offensive line.

The Irish defense will look to contain the most explosive offensive attack in the nation, but there may be a few factors already playing in the favor of Ohio State.

Head coach Ryan Day schemed his offense against Freeman’s Cincinnati defense in 2019. The end result was a 42-0 for the Buckeyes, but Day took a four-touchdown lead into halftime before running the offense at a lower gear in the second half.

Freeman does have a better defensive unit than the 2019 version of the Bearcats, but the scheme is unchanged.

Notre Dame’s scheme will feature five in the box with a standing edge rusher. Cornerbacks are expected to win heads-up battles with wideouts, but more importantly, Freeman prefers man-to-man coverage. Jaxon Smith-Njigba was the second-highest-graded wide receiver against man-to-man coverage in college football last season.

As mentioned at the top, this number has steamed all the way to Ohio State -17.5 at a couple of shops. The Action Network projection makes this game Ohio State -17. But the more important question is when will the Notre Dame offense have to catch up on the scoreboard?

Day made it clear at his weekly presser that establishing the run was of the utmost importance. The Irish prefer a slower-paced game, but any lead for Notre Dame will tempt the Buckeyes to air the ball out to the most talented group of receivers in FBS.

The first half may be low-scoring because of the scripted plan to run the ball on both sides. Once Knowles makes adjustments after a few offensive series for Notre Dame, the Irish will be limited in creating explosive plays.

At some point, Ohio State will put up its fair share of points. But college football consumers may have to wait a few series to see the fireworks.

Pick: First-Half Under 31 or Better

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