The entire college football slate—or at least a good chunk of it—is at your fingertips.
The biggest games of the year can all be wagered on. Long dead are the days of having to wait until the game week to make your plays. If you feel strongly about a contest, and I am certain that you do, the lines are all there for the taking.
It can be overwhelming. Wonderful, of course, but still plenty to process. I am here to offer my services as the college football season approaches.
With Week 0 somehow just over a week away—a revelation that is glorious beyond words—it's all about picking the biggest games of the year against the spread.
These early point spreads, which come courtesy of DraftKings, will change over time. In fact, in the not-too-distant future, some won't be recognizable. Before that happens, however, we have winners to pick.
Next week, Locks of the Week returns to normal. Consider this a final, robust test drive.
Let us football.
Georgia (+3.5) vs. Clemson, Sept. 4
I'll keep my commentary for this game somewhat brief, as this selection will be part of my buffet of Week 1 picks.
The market has moved slightly toward Georgia. Earlier in the offseason, the Bulldogs were a four-point underdog. It wouldn't shock me to see this one land at three.
This one won't take place on a college campus. Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, will play host, and the turnout will likely be pretty split. Clemson, which travels incredibly well, could have a slight edge.
In terms of the actual game, Georgia is simply loaded. And yes, Clemson is also loaded, which is why this one is so much fun. In fact, it could include in excess of 20 players who see meaningful NFL snaps. Maybe more.
But Georgia will cover and win outright.
Oregon at Ohio State (-10), Sept. 11
This game will be played on a college campus, which is A) awesome and B) significant regarding the point spread and outcome.
While Ohio State's starting quarterback has yet to be named, anyone could play with these wideouts and probably throw for 200 yards and two touchdowns in a game under head coach Ryan Day.
That said, I love a lot of pieces on this Oregon defense. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe are either stars or nearing that status. Heck, Thibodeaux might be the best player in college football.
But the offense wasn't Oregon-like in 2020, and that won't change drastically. The Ducks will still need to outscore Ohio State to make this close, which is a tall order in Columbus.
As good as that Ducks defense will be, the secondary will still likely struggle to cover receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. That will be the case with most secondaries this season.
I can't help but size up what this environment will be like after Ohio State went a year without fans. Buckeyes by plenty.
Cincinnati (pick'em) at Indiana, Sept. 18
First, allow me to address the obvious. For those questioning whether this is indeed one of the best games of the football season, the answer is: absolutely. These were two of the best stories in CFB last year, and the timing of this matchup makes this extremely meaningful for both.
This might be my favorite play in the entire piece. I am a big believer in Cincinnati, headlined by quarterback Desmond Ridder, and it wouldn't shock me to see the Bearcats pick up right where they left off after a 9-1 season and a Peach Bowl appearance.
Indiana, meanwhile, had a tremendous year in going 6-2. I love wideout Ty Fryfogle. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who's coming off a torn ACL, can be dynamic when healthy.
But Cincinnati, which was No. 8 in scoring defense and No. 17 in scoring offense nationally last year, will be up for it.
Alabama at Texas A&M (+11.5), Oct. 9
I may regret this. I'm willing to say that in advance.
And let it be known that these picks can and will change during the year once the games begin. That said, I won't limp into this. Texas A&M has a great opportunity to be competitive against the odds-on title favorite.
Alabama's losses, which include quarterback Mac Jones and Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith, are monumental. The Crimson Tide still have some incredible pieces—who could carry Alabama to another championship run—although this season will not be without its challenges.
This matchup comes a week after Alabama plays Ole Miss, a group that gave Nick Saban's team fits last season. It's also on the road, and there is no question that College Station will be wild.
Although A&M lost quarterback Kellen Mond to the NFL, there is an abundance of skill position talent waiting to blossom in this offense. And the defense, which was third in the SEC last year, is poised to stay a threat with the pieces it has coming back.
Simply put, A&M appears to be recruiting and building to become Alabama Lite. And considering the Aggies' home-field advantage coupled with a dramatic 'Bama rebuild, it feels like a game that will be closer than many expect.
USC (+3) at Notre Dame, Oct. 23
A theme for anyone who has been paying attention to my offseason content is that I am a USC believer. This could look smart or very dumb.
For starters, the Trojans are the more talented team here. Plain and simple. They have a distinct advantage at quarterback with Kedon Slovis. (Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly recently named Jack Coan the starter in South Bend. He should be fine. Slovis could and should be much more than fine.)
The Irish lose a ton on offense, even aside from departed QB Ian Book, and they won't have the firepower to compete. The offensive line, which has been the lynchpin of the Kelly era but is young this year, is worth watching early on.
While the Notre Dame defense should once again be solid, USC has a chance to be better than it has been in a while. It won't be a blowout, but USC wins outright.
(Please forget this entire section if the Trojans lose and don't cover. It never happened. Thanks in advance.)
Other Plays on the Card
Oh, I'm not done. With so many games to pick from, there are still ample chances to dive in.
Michigan (-1) vs. Washington, Sept. 11: This game should be getting more love considering its importance to both teams. As for Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh, he could really use this. We know Cade McNamara will be under center to start the year for Michigan, and he played well in small doses last season. While U-M might not be a juggernaut, the Wolverines will be improved. (Probably.)
Auburn (+7.5) at Penn State, Sept. 18: What a weird, delightful out-of-conference game. Most importantly, what a weird, delightful game that will be played on an actual college campus. With an experienced line and some really good backs, Auburn should make this ugly. Penn State might win, although it'll be close. Bonus pick: Bet the under. I don't care what the projected total winds up being.
Texas (+9.5) vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 9: I like Texas. Oklahoma is certainly positioned to win this game—and the Big 12—although the Longhorns, under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, have a chance to make it a fight. Sooners win; Longhorns battle. With Sarkisian and Sooners coach Lincoln Riley, this series could be a great deal of fun in the Big 12 and beyond.
Georgia (-7.5) vs. Florida, Oct. 30: More Georgia. Although Florida's offense was exceptional last year, which was evident in the Gators' 44-28 win over the Bulldogs, I don't see an encore on the horizon. Losses on offense for Florida will be too challenging to replace in a matter of months. Bulldogs win big.
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