Picking week one games against the spread is always a good idea, because preseason rankings are strong predictors of quality and the lack of a preseason ensures consistent, repeatable results. While none of that is true, it’s still fun and can be profitable if you do your research, both on the teams and the best online sportsbooks.
Friday, September 1st
Navy (-13.5) at Florida Atlantic
I don’t think Lane Kiffin’s first game as head coach, against a scary triple-option team no less, is a recipe for success. I also generally don’t think betting against Navy is a good idea these days; the team lost its best quarterback in generations only to win nine games and a West Division title in the increasingly respectable AAC.
This year, Navy’s got a returning backfield, more experience on defense, and a devilish schedule. FAU has a rookie head coach and maybe the worst defense in the FBS. FAU won’t be bad for long, but Week 1 is liable to be rough.
My pick: Go Navy (-13.5).
Saturday, September 2nd
LSU (-13.5) vs BYU (NRG Stadium, Houston, TX)
I’m really looking forward to seeing LSU’s fancy new offense, especially against a BYU defense that’s still pretty green. The spread is pretty big on this one, and if LSU has the same problems passing the ball they’ve had in the recent past, they’ll struggle to put up that kind of a lead. I don’t think that scenario is likely — they’ve completely overhauled their offense since the archaic Les Miles era — but it’s still a possibility.
The key to this matchup is on the other side of the ball. As much as I like Tanner Mangum, this LSU defense is one of the best in the country, and with inexperienced receivers and an overmatched line, BYU is going to have a very hard time getting anything done on offense.
My pick: LSU (-13.5). The power-spread coming to Baton Rouge is a nightmare for all of us.
Louisville (-26.5) vs Purdue (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN)
The end of 2017 showed that there are some teams that can put a cork on Lamar Jackson’s prolific scoring. Purdue is not one of those teams. In their first season under a new head coach, looking ready to lose a lot of games and come out a little rusty, the Boilermakers will be marked on Louisville’s calendar as an opportunity to run up some serious points. That’s why Louisville scheduled this game in the first place, and they’ll take advantage.
My pick: Louisville (-26.5). Yeah, I’ll lay a 26.5-point spread, just watch me. Louisville is going to put on a track meet.
Alabama (-7) vs Florida State (Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA)
Florida State is going to be very, very good in 2017, College Football Playoff good. They’re also going to start the season with a loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, who will be even better. A Week 1 matchup favors the discipline and programmatic coaching of the Tide; their loss against Clemson in the 2017 national championship will elevate their already psychotic workrate, and I’m not sure they’ll ever lose again, except against Ole Miss, where I’m certain they’ll lose.
The only way FSU wins this is if Deondre Francois puts on an absolute show. If he can do that, he’ll immediately become a Heisman favorite; I just can’t bring myself to bet on it.
My pick: Alabama (-7). I’m gonna take Bama. Sorry. Promise I won’t do this every week.
Appalachian State at Georgia (-14.5)
I don’t want to play App State. Do you want to play App State? They’re still waiting for their first Power 5 win as an FBS team. But last year in Week 1, they came within a field goal of beating Tennessee, and they played fantastically in the Sun Belt, going 7-1 and sharing the conference championship with Arkansas State. Getting the Bulldogs in Week 1 goes a long way to tempering the talent and depth advantage Georgia has over their newly-FBS opponent.
This game is also one day after the ten-year anniversary of App State beating Michigan, and while that doesn’t mean anything on the field, it’s still fun to think about.
My pick: Appalachian State (+14.5).
Michigan (-5) vs Florida (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX)
For reasons that are frankly beyond me, I’ve been emotionally invested in Florida football for the last few years, reaching into the Will Muschamp era. It’s on the basis of that excruciating experience that I can tell you the Gators have been … inconsistent? Spotty? “Weird” is probably the best word. This is not a team I trust to beat one of the most powerful programs in the country at any point this season, let alone Week 1. I can’t put a ton of faith in the guy who spends his offseason denying that he posed nude with a dead shark to beat a team that very easily could have made the playoff already and is just now getting out of Brady Hoke recruits.
At the very least, you know that Michigan is fielding an elite defense, and Florida is still struggling to find an offensive identity. I don’t understand how the spread on this game is only five points.
My pick: Michigan (-5). Please and thank you.
Sunday September 3rd
South Alabama at Ole Miss (-24.5)
This one’s a judgement call. On one hand, Ole Miss has literally nothing to lose, lines up Shea Patterson at quarterback (for now), and just wants to sell tickets, so there’s a good chance this game turns into a Harlem Globetrotters-esque exhibition of five-stars toying with an FCS opponent at home.
On the other hand, the Rebels could be in full meltdown mode, with impending NCAA sanctions, a bunch of investigations, no head coach, and a self-imposed bowl ban. Even greatly diminished, they’re a massive favorite to beat South Alabama, but three-plus touchdowns is a stretch. This is the South Alabama program that started last year by handing Mississippi State a loss.
My pick(s): South Alabama (+24.5) to cover. Shea Patterson to transfer. Houston Nutt to be renamed head coach.
Monday, September 4th
UCLA (-3.5) at Texas A&M
From a playoff perspective, there’s no good reason to watch this game; both these teams are pretty flawed and have only a tenuous grasp on national relevance. UCLA has potential no. 1-overall pick Josh Rosen at QB — which makes it relevant from a draft perspective — but the Bruins have no ability to run the ball. Texas A&M is a pass-happy team (without a clear passer) and a defense that could only be described as porous.
The fun part? The odds someone gets fired are pretty good. Kevin Sumlin’s been stuck in something of a rut in the SEC West, and Jim Mora really hasn’t produced results yet despite having (arguably) the most talented quarterback in his class and one of the best recruiting pitches in the country. You want a game to have consequences, and short of the playoff implications, the future of two programs being decided on the field is a lot of fun.
My bet: UCLA (-3.5). I have faith in Josh Rosen’s skills and UCLA has a ton of talent on its roster. They’ll feast on a Texas A&M defense that’s missing a lot with Myles Garrett gone. I wish I could bet on one or both of these coaches getting fired.
Tennessee (-3.5) vs Georgia Tech (Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA)
Reigning Champions of Life, Tennessee, are favorites on the de facto road at the fancy new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. If you like picking underdogs, why not pick a wacky, triple-option team (which beat Georgia on the road last year) to upset the frequently disappointing Vols? The game takes place in Atlanta, so it’s not really a neutral site game, and I can’t overstate how volatile Georgia Tech can be.
Hell, at least GT didn’t lose toVanderbilt.
My bet: Georgia Tech (+3.5). Tennessee brings a lot of hype in the preseason, as always. They’ll fail to live up to it, as always.