10 College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 1
August is here, and with September right around the corner, thousands of hopeful sports bettors will line up in Vegas to try and beat the books this football season.
Everyone could use a different perspective on each weekend's slate of games, and hopefully I can help provide some insight for those trying to finish in the black this year.
Here are ten of my favorite lines for Week 1 of the 2011 season.
North Texas at Florida International (-13.5)
North Texas opens the season against one of the Sun Belt Conference's best teams in Florida International.
FIU returns 15 starters to a team who is expected to challenge Troy for the conference crown this year.
North Texas, on the other hand has a first-year coach and a first-year quarterback both entering into their first road game. This combination is usually a deathblow to a team, especially one in the rebuilding process.
The Golden Panthers should handle this one fairly easily, and win by 20+.
Pick: Florida International -13.5
TCU at Baylor (+6.5)
We're not sure what to expect from TCU, as they return only eight starters to their undefeated team from a year ago. I for one, think that they will still be a very strong team, and a contender in the Mountain West.
Baylor will have the phenomenally talented Robert Griffin running the offense for them, but still have several questions at all other positions on the field.
TCU should be able to shut down a Baylor offense focused around one player, and win this one by around two touchdowns.
Pick: TCU -6.5
Kent State at Alabama (-36.5)
Alabama looks poised to have a shot at a BCS Championship run this year. They return 10 players to a top-5 defense from a year ago, and have a Heisman candidate running the ball in Trent Richardson.
Kent State will be an average MAC team this year, but don't have nearly the talent they need to compete with the Crimson Tide.
Alabama has defeated their last eight non automatic-qualifying teams by a combined score of 345-44, an average of 43-6. I expect this dominance to continue as they down Kent State by 45 to 50 points.
Pick: Alabama -36.5
Colorado State at New Mexico (+4.5)
I don't think that Vegas is giving Colorado State nearly the respect they deserve in this game. The Rams beat New Mexico 38-14 last year in convincing fashion, and should be even better this year.
New Mexico could see slightly improved play as well, but will still struggle and likely be an underdog in nearly every game they play.
I think this game may have flown under the radar by the bookmakers, and bettors would be wise to take advantage of this soft line. Colorado State wins by two touchdowns.
Pick: Colorado State -4.5
Rice at Texas (-22)
Look for the Longhorns to get back in the game this season, and once again become an impact team in the Big 12.
Texas played some of their worst football at the beginning of the season last year, and still managed to beat Rice by 17.
Mack Brown will have his team far more polished and prepared entering this season, and should take this first game by somewhere around 30 points.
Pick: Texas -22
Troy at Clemson (-15)
Troy always seems to find a way to compete with upper-tier teams during their non-conference schedule. They have either won or shared the Sun Belt title each of the last five years, and look ready to finish at the top of the conference once again in 2011.
Clemson always recruits well and has outstanding talent, but never seems to get the results that are expected of them. Dabo Swinney will be on the hot seat this year, which may get even hotter after Week 1 of the season.
I expect Clemson to win a game that is closer than the public may see it, and Troy should stay within the number set by Vegas.
Pick: Troy +15
Boise State vs. Georgia (+3)
Boise State has proven that they belong in the conversation with the nation's top teams. This does, however, work to their disadvantage as the element of being a surprisingly talented team is now gone.
Georgia has had a tumultuous offseason, losing their starting tailback and a few of their offensive linemen. Despite the loss of starters, I expect Aaron Murray to have another great season at quarterback, and for freshman running back Isaiah Crowell to burst on to the national scene.
Mark Richt typically has good years when he is on the hot seat, and a season-opening win over top-10 team in Boise State would be a perfect start to 2011. Georgia wins straight up in a mild upset at the Georgia Dome.
Pick: Georgia +3
Oregon vs. LSU (+1)
The first heavyweight fight of the season features two top-5 teams battling in Arlington, Texas. This should be a little bit more of a home-field advantage for LSU because of the proximity to Louisiana.
Les Miles is a coach who loves to gamble and approaches the game somewhat unconventionally. Despite poor clock management and an offense that isn't always prolific, the Tigers just win games. LSU's defense is always stout, and will be prepared for the Duck's fast offense.
I expect a game very similar to last year's BCS Championship game, in which the defenses took center stage to create a classic. LSU squeaks one out by a field goal in Arlington.
Pick: LSU +1
SMU at Texas A&M (-15.5)
Texas A&M may have gotten slightly under-ranked in the first preseason polls, and may prove to be one of the top two or three teams in college football this year.
The Aggies return 18 starters, and have talent at all skill-positions with QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray and WR Jeff Fuller.
June Jones has gotten off to a great start with the rebuilding job at SMU, taking them to their first consecutive bowl games since the early 80s.
While I expect SMU to be a fairly improved team, Texas A&M has too much talent and will roll in this one by about three touchdowns.
Pick: Texas A&M -15.5
Miami FL. at Maryland (+5.5)
Miami and Maryland face off in a Monday night ACC slugfest to cap off the first weekend. Both teams are in a state of transition with new head coaches, and both should have their share of ups and downs throughout the 2011 season.
I think the X-factor here is the quarterback play from each team. Jacory Harris has shown brilliance in short bursts, and Danny O'Brien was the ACC freshman of the year in 2010.
I'll give a slight edge to Maryland playing at home, as the underdogs will be hyped up to play a nationally televised Monday night game. The Terps edge the Canes by a field goal and get off to a successful start to the 2011 campaign.
Pick: Maryland +5.5