NCAA Football Week 1 Preview
New Year’s Eve. The last Monday in May. July 4. And, of course, August 27.
Those are all dates that we, as red-blooded Americans, look forward to celebrating. The last one, of course, signifies the return of college football!
And who isn’t stoked about flipping on a memorable matchup between the juggernauts that are Abilene Christian and Georgia State?
No? Well, how about the return of yours truly writing about the gridiron once more? This time, I’m going back to school—and putting it all on the line (the betting line, that is).
So, without further ado, let’s crash a rush party, do a keg stand, steal a rival’s mascot (it’s been awhile, but I’m pretty sure that’s how I recall college worked) and check out the top betting plays for the inaugural week.
No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 South Carolina (Thurs, Aug. 28)
Current College Football Line: South Carolina (-10.5)
This time last year, these teams boasted arguably the two biggest names in the sport. But even with Johnny Football (aka Manziel) and Jadeveon Clowney gone, both teams have returned fairly stacked.
Even sans Clowney, South Carolina will have a great defense that will be tough to move the ball on.
Meanwhile, Kenny Hill is the new signal-caller for the Aggies, and he has his work cut out for him in this SEC game facing a great defense.
The Aggies are 0-4 against the spread in their last four road games, while the Gamecocks are 4-1 against the spread in their last five home games.
Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss (Thurs, Aug. 28)
Line: Ole Miss (-10.5)
After an incredible run that saw the team roll off 10 seasons of three or fewer losses from 2002-2012 (including a couple of undefeated campaigns), Boise State came back down to earth a bit last year, finishing 8-5. Even more unprecedented is that it starts 2014 unranked.
That said, the Broncos have a legit rushing attack led by Jay Ajayi, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards last season, and a defense that has some key returning players.
(And they have cool, blue turf. There's always that.)
Meanwhile, Bo Wallace (and his luscious hair) is both back under center for an Ole Miss team that may be a dark horse in the SEC. Last season, Ole Miss ranked 37th in the nation in total defense.
Boise State is only 2-5 against the spread in its last seven games overall, while Mississippi is 19-7 against the spread in its last 26 nonconference games.
No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
Line: Florida State (-17.5)
It's good to be the king. And lately, it's been great to be a 'Nole.
FSU returns some Heisman winner named Jameis Winston along with many key players on a Seminoles defense that was the top-ranked unit in the nation last season. In fact, Florida State returns as the preseason No. 1 as well. And for good reason.
Oklahoma State lost some key players on both sides of the ball, but running back Desmond Roland is poised for a big season, and the defense has some playmakers.
FSU is 5-1 against the spread in its last six nonconference games, while OSU is 6-2 against the spread in its last eight games overall.
West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama
Line: Alabama (-26.5)
While perennial powerhouse Alabama remains stacked, it goes into the season with an unsteady quarterback combo, including FSU transfer Jacob Coker. The Tide are always awesome on the defensive side of the ball, but that unit only returns five starters. Compare that to WVU, which returns 14 total starters.
Alabama is 0-3-1 against the spread in its last four nonconference games, while WVU is 0-6 against the spread in its last six nonconference games.
In other words, something has to give.
Arkansas vs. No. 6 Auburn
Line: Auburn (-21)
Auburn QB Nick Marshall is getting Heisman talk, but it will be the rushing attack and defense that will be the Tigers' key strengths this season. Arkansas will be dealing with a Tigers rushing game that was the top-ranked unit in the nation last year.
On the flip side, the Razorbacks only had three wins last season but will at least have continuity. They return many key players, including the running back duo of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, who will have to play well in this game to pull off the big upset.
While Auburn is 8-0 against the spread in its last eight SEC games, while Arkansas is 5-2 against the spread in its last seven games against the Tigers in Auburn.
No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia
Line: Georgia (-7.5)
Who you calling gurley?
Georgia is the favorite mainly because it has 10 returning starters on defense and a running back in Todd Gurley who is another early-season Heisman favorite.
Last season, Clemson beat the Bulldogs 38-35, but both starting quarterbacks from that game are gone. Clemson should have a great defense this season led by Vic Beasley, who registered 13 sacks last season.
Clemson is 8-3 against the spread in its last 11 road games, while Georgia is 1-4-1 against the spread in its last six home games.
No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU
Line: LSU (-4)
Both of these perennial powers are coming off disappointing seasons, but hope is renewed, as both begin the year ranked in the Top 15 to start the year. LSU is the slight favorite here and will feature QB Anthony Jennings and a potential stud in new RB Leonard Fournette.
The Badgers lost eight starters on the defensive side of the ball, but they have a lot of young talent in place.
Wisconsin is 4-1 against the spread in its last five nonconference games, while LSU is 2-5 against the spread in its last seven nonconference games.
Southern Methodist vs. No. 10 Baylor (Sun., Aug. 31)
Line: Baylor (-33)
This one may not be pretty for Southern Methodist fans.
SMU was only 5-7 last season and lost its starting quarterback to boot. Neal Burcham should take over, and he passed for more than 200 yards in the last two games of last season. The issues on defense are not a good sign when facing a Baylor squad that was the highest-scoring team in the nation last season.
Meanwhile, QB Bryce Petty is back to lead the potent Baylor offense, and Shock Linwood, who rushed for 881 yards with eight touchdowns last season, is the main back with Lache Seastrunk now in the NFL.
Baylor is 20-6 against the spread in its last 26 home games, while SMU is 0-4 against the spread in its last four nonconference games.
Odds are based on CoopersPick.com as of Tuesday, Aug. 25.
All games played on Saturday, Aug. 30 unless otherwise noted.