College Football PrizePicks: JJ McCarthy, Travis Hunter, Antwane Wells Highlight Week 1 Plays
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: South Carolina’s Antwane Wells.
Unlike the NFL, college football is an unpredictable experience every fall weekend.
That extends beyond the games themselves and dives directly into the box scores. Passing, rushing and receiving totals can be listed significantly below (or above) my projected figures, which is why I’m sharing my three favorite PrizePicks with you before the games kick off on Saturday.
Let's dive into my top Week 1 plays.
Week 1 College Football PrizePicks
In the table below, you'll find each of Mike Calaebrese's top PrizePicks plays from today's slate of games. Click on any play or team logo to navigate to a specific play discussed in this article.
|Time (ET)||PrizePick Play|
Specific recommendations come from PrizePicks.
East Carolina vs. Michigan
Let’s get the obvious out of the way right off the bat — Michigan could go vintage Service Academy and not throw a single pass on Saturday and still beat a rebuilding ECU by four touchdowns. That’s how good the Michigan offensive line and running back room are at present.
Gameflow is paramount when targeting college football PrizePicks, and there's a decent shot that McCarthy is on the bench by the 10-minute mark of the third quarter.
Even if he were to play the majority of this game, McCarthy isn’t a prolific passer by any stretch. He failed to exceed 213.5 passing yards against seven Big Ten opponents last season because this is a run-first offense. Not convinced? Michigan finished as the 12th-most run-heavy team from a play-calling perspective in the entire country last season.
It will pound the rock and pull its starters in this game as five-touchdown favorites.
East Carolina was decimated by graduation and the transfer portal this offseason. It finished with a catastrophic net TARP of -10.5 with a -7 rating on offense alone, which is tied for the worst losses in the FBS.
Michigan will call off the dogs, including McCarthy through the air.
Play: McCarthy Less Than 213.5 Passing Yards (Play to 206.5)
Colorado vs. TCU
Deion Sanders has courted attention at every turn, transforming a doormat program into one of the most talked about teams in the country. To quote Urban Meyer, this is a “grand experiment.”
Well, let’s break out the goggles, beakers and Bunsen burners because things are going to get explosive in the Buffs’ season opener.
Travis Hunter, a former five-star out of high school, plays both ways and will be relied upon to generate big plays all over the field on Saturday. Needless to say, at this modest projection of just 32.5 yards, I’m in.
In three of his last four games at Jackson State playing both ways, he exceeded this receiving total. Gameflow-wise, I would be shocked if Colorado isn’t playing from behind for at least three-quarters of this football game.
I’ve personally watched Shedeur Sanders play multiple games at Jackson State, and my takeaways are straightforward. He’s an accurate passer (70.6% in 2022) who isn’t afraid to test the defense with an occasional deep ball.
When you mix the projected come-from-behind element with Hunter’s explosiveness and Sanders’ downfield accuracy, this is the kind of play that can pay off on a single pass.
Play: Hunter More Than 32.5 Receiving Yards (Play to 39.5)
North Carolina vs. South Carolina
This Carolina rivalry dates back to 1903, yet in their 59 meetings, these schools haven’t combined to score more than 59 points. That will change on Saturday in the Duke’s Mayo Classic.
North Carolina is an over backer's dream, and it'll goad the Gamecocks into a high-scoring affair. My spreadsheet was lighting up with players projected to sail past their listed statistical squares. And the reason is that these green secondaries aren’t ready for the kind of quarterback play they’ll be facing on Saturday.
Last season, UNC consistently popped big plays offensively, finishing 10th in plays of 20-plus yards. And when it came to stopping the big play, the Tar Heels were powerless. Gene Chizik’s defense allowed 72 plays of 20 yards or more (114th, 5.1 per game).
What that means is that Spencer Rattler and this passing game will have every opportunity to carve up this Swiss cheese defense.
Last season, once Wells hit his stride in conference play — October onward — he averaged 77 yards per game, including massive breakout performances against Vandy, Tennessee and Clemson. Pepper in the loss of SC’s top running back, and I foresee more targets headed his way in this one.
My projections call for this number to be set at 74.5 yards, nearly 25% higher than this listed number.