College Football Picks Week 1: Predictions and Odds for Entire Schedule

Jake RillSenior Writer IAugust 31, 2020

Navy wide receiver CJ Williams runs after making a catch against SMU during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

It's been an unorthodox year in the sports world because of the coronavirus pandemic. For college football, it wasn't clear if there would even be a 2020 season. And for some conferences (the Big Ten, Pac-12, MAC and Mountain West), there potentially won't be at all.

Other conferences have revised their schedules, mostly getting rid of non-conference matchups to limit travel. ACC teams are playing 11-game schedules (10 conference opponents) beginning next week. The Big 12 is doing the same, except their schedules are 10 games (nine conference). Meanwhile, SEC teams won't play any non-conference games and will begin their 10-game conference-only schedules on Sept. 26.

So, who does that leave to play this week? There won't be a ton of teams in action, but there are still more than a handful of matchups taking place, including a Labor Day contest between BYU and Navy next Monday night.

Here's a look at the full Week 1 schedule, along with odds and predictions.


Week 1 Schedule, Predictions

Picks in bold against the spread

Thursday, Sept. 3

Central Arkansas at UAB (no line), 8 p.m. ET

South Alabama at Southern Mississippi (-16), 9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network


Saturday, Sept. 5

Eastern Kentucky at Marshall (no line), 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Middle Tennessee at Army (-5), 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

SMU (-17) at Texas State, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Houston Baptist at North Texas (no line), 7:30 p.m. ET

Arkansas State at Memphis (-16), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Stephen F. Austin at UTEP (no line), 9 p.m. ET


Monday, Sept. 7

BYU at Navy (-2.5), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Odds obtained via Vegas Insider


Pair of Thursday Night Games Kick Off Week 1 Action

Although the NFL season doesn't start until Sept. 10, there will still be some Thursday night football action this week. UAB becomes the first FBS team to kick off the season when it hosts Central Arkansas, an FCS opponent. Then, Southern Miss hosts South Alabama in the first matchup of two FBS teams this season.

UAB has made a bowl game in each of the past three seasons, going 1-2 in those contests. Last season, it lost to Appalachian State in the New Orleans Bowl. But the Blazers have been a solid team since returning to play in 2017 after their program had a two-year hiatus due to a shut down.

This week, UAB should easily win against Central Arkansas. Then, it will likely lose next week, when it travels to play Miami. But the Blazers could be a contender in Conference USA later in the season. UAB senior linebacker Kristopher Moll was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award preseason watch list and should be fun to watch.

Southern Miss is an overwhelming favorite against South Alabama in the first Conference USA matchup of the season. The Golden Eagles have played in a bowl game three of the past four seasons and will be seeking their fifth straight winning season since Jay Hopson took over as head coach.


Buechele Set to Impress in Final College Season

Roger Steinman/Associated Press

One of the best players in action this week will be SMU redshirt senior quarterback Shane Buechele, who leads the Mustangs into a Saturday evening matchup at Texas State. He's likely to be taken in the 2021 NFL draft, and he could improve his stock even more with an impressive 2020 season.

Buechele spent his first three college seasons at Texas, where his playing time started to dwindle near the end of that time. He passed for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 12 games for the Longhorns as a freshman in 2016. Then, he attempted only 213 passes in nine games in 2017, losing his starting job to Sam Ehlinger. Buechele played only two games in 2018, while using his redshirt.

That's when Buechele transferred to SMU, where he put up big numbers last season. In 13 games, he passed for 3,929 yards, 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, leading the Mustangs to a 10-3 season, including an appearance in the Boca Raton Bowl, while he earned first-team All-AAC honors.

Buechele is poised to have another big year in his final college season at SMU, which will likely start with a strong showing Saturday as the Mustangs are heavy favorites to win on the road. The quarterback is one of the best players in the AAC, and this will be a great opportunity to get to watch him air it out.


Navy, BYU Ready to Face Off in Prime Time

Plenty of eyes are sure to be on Navy and BYU as that's the only football game taking place on Labor Day in a Monday night matchup in Annapolis, Maryland. It's also likely to be one of the most competitive games of the opening week as the Midshipmen are only slight favorites to win.

Navy has some strong returning players from a team that went 11-2 last season, finishing ranked No. 20 in the AP Top 25 poll. And although the Midshipmen will still be running their triple-option offense, they'll have a new quarterback at the helm as Malcolm Perry is gone (he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins) and senior Dalen Morris will be stepping in as the starter.

BYU also has some key returners and is coming off a solid 2019 season, during which it went 7-6, earned quality wins over USC and Boise State and made an appearance in the Hawaii Bowl. The Cougars are led by a strong offensive line, which has four returning starters from last year.

These teams weren't originally scheduled to play each other, but they scheduled this game to make up for other canceled contests. It will be only the third time the Midshipmen and Cougars have faced off, with each owning a win in the series. Navy won 23-16 in 1978, while BYU notched a 31-10 victory in 1989.