Week 1 College Football Odds & Picks: Our Top NCAAF Favorites, Including Alabama & UCLA

Week 1 College Football Odds & Picks: Our Top NCAAF Favorites, Including Alabama & UCLA article feature image

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Alabama running back Jase McClellan.

You may be familiar with our weekly moneyline underdog article. Well, we decided last year we needed to show love for the other side by also sharing our two favorite college football favorites that we share weekly on the Big Bets on Campus podcast.

We affectionately refer to them as "overdogs," thanks to one of our beloved callers. To kick off the chalk talk this year, we are rolling with a duo of Power 5 schools hosting Group of Five foes in prime time. Let's kick things off in T-Town.

Stuckey: Alabama -39

Saturday, Sept. 2
7:30 p.m. ET
SEC Network
Middle Tennessee Odds
-110o / -110u
Alabama Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via Caesars. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

Yes, Alabama has Texas on deck, so one might consider the possibility the Tide won't show much and/or will pull their starters earlier than usual in the second half with a big lead.

Well, I don't necessarily think that's the case with a true quarterback battle. I'm sure head coach Nick Saban wants to get a look at all of his options in live action throughout.

Plus, I believe Alabama will come out with its hair on fire, trying to make a statement after all of the offseason talk about potentially taking a step back and no longer being the big, bad wolf in the SEC with Georgia winning back-to-back national titles.

Not only do I show value in this number and expect Alabama to play with a purpose throughout, but I'm also super low on this Middle Tennessee team, which lights up as a negative regression candidate after its recent turnover luck.

The defense could take a major step back without that turnover fortune, especially after losing sack leader Jordan Ferguson (now with the Seahawks) and defensive back Decorian Patterson, who will play his sixth year at UCF after leading FBS in interceptions last season.

More critically, I just don't know how Middle Tennessee will score against this caliber of defense. MTSU must replace quarterback Chase Cunningham and its top three pass-catchers. That group includes tight end Izaiah Gathings (now with the Jets), wide receiver Jaylin Lane (transferred to Virginia Tech) and team captain Yusuf Ali (graduated).

In fact, the Blue Raiders must replace all five team captains — most of whom contributed to the passing attack. That's an ominous sign for a unit that finished with a bottom-15 yards-per-carry mark.

Alabama should force plenty of third-and-longs where its pressure should then create an abundance of Havoc. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, MTSU won't generate much pressure, which is key for the Tide's inexperienced signal-callers.

For what it's worth, Alabama found itself in a very similar situation in last year's season opener. The Tide were similar-sized favorites at home against Utah State with a showdown against Texas looming the following week. Even with a known commodity at quarterback in Bryce Young, who sat almost the entire second half, they still rolled, 55-0, for an easy cover.

Yes, that's a sample size of one game, but Saban is actually the most profitable coach ATS in season-openers since 2005 out of 532 head coaches in our Action Labs database. Since arriving in Tuscaloosa, he has gone 13-2 ATS (86.7%) in the first game of the season, covering by 8.5 points per game. That includes a perfect 4-0 mark against the number when favored by more than 30 points.

I'll throw out a prediction of 48-3.

Wilson: UCLA -14.5

Saturday, Sept. 2
10:30 p.m. ET
Coastal Carolina Odds
-108o / -112u
-108o / -112u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAF odds here.

I'm not fearing the hook — nor a potential backdoor cover from uber-talented Coastal quarterback Grayson McCall — and backing the Bruins after head coach Chip Kelly has said all three quarterbacks will play.

Last year's backup, Ethan Garbers, will get the start, and we will also see Kent State transfer Collin Schlee. However, the start of the show is highly-prized recruit Dante Moore, who I can't wait to see in action.

All three bring different skill sets, which will make this a much tougher opening week prep for an overmatched Coastal defense.

Whoever is under center can lean on bruising Ball State transfer Carson Steele in the running game and will have two new toys on the outside to play with in Cal transfer J. Michael Sturdivant and Kam Brown, who transferred from Texas A&M in 2021. That spells bad news for an inexperienced Chanticleer secondary that projects as potentially the worst in the Sun Belt.

After Jamey Chadwell headed north to Liberty in the offseason, the offense will change under Tim Beck, who is an overall downgrade. Expect a heavy rush rate out of 11 personnel and a heavier passing frequency from 10.

Who knows how much we will see of the old reliable heavy motion and counter triple for McCall, who will have to deal with edge Laiatu Latu all night. Latu, who registered 65 pressures in 2022, headlined a defense that posted a top-30 pass rush last season. They may be even better in that regard in 2023.

I love McCall, but Coastal is overmatched here and won't be able to keep up.

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