College Football Picks Week 1: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

Keegan PopeContributor IIIAugust 30, 2021

College Football Picks Week 1: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    After a lackluster Week Zero slate that featured no top-25 teams and just three Power Five schools—though calling Nebraska that right now might be a stretch—the college football season begins in earnest starting on Thursday.

    The crown jewel of the weekend is the showdown between national title contenders No. 3 Clemson and No. 5 Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina, which could be the most-watched game this season outside of the College Football Playoff.

    It doesn't stop there by any means, though. Week 1 features each of the teams in the most recent top-25 polls, and there are five matchups between ranked teams Thursday through Sunday. After last year's chaotic, COVID-19 affected kickoff, in which only a few of the teams were playing in Week 1, having a full slate is akin to heaven on Earth for sports bettors. 

Week 1 Top 25 Schedule

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    (Note: Picks in bold)

    Thursday, Sept. 2

    No. 4 Ohio State at Minnesota (+13.5) | 8 p.m. | FOX

    No. 22 Coastal Carolina (-31.5) vs. The Citadel | 7 p.m. ET | ESPN+

    No. 24 Utah (-27.5) vs. Weber State | 7:30 p.m. | Pac-12 Network

    No. 25 Arizona State (-44.5) vs. Southern Utah | 10:30 p.m. | Pac-12 Network


    Friday, Sept. 3

    No. 10 North Carolina (-5.5) at Virginia Tech | 6 p.m. | ESPN


    Saturday, Sept. 4

    No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Miami (Fla.)(+18.5) | 3:30 p.m. | ABC

    No. 2 Oklahoma (-26.5) at Tulane | 12 p.m. | ABC

    No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia (+3) (Charlotte, NC) | 7:30 p.m. | ABC

    No. 6 Texas A&M (-29) vs. Kent State | 8 p.m. | ESPNU

    No. 7 Iowa State (-34.5) vs. UNI | 4:30 p.m. | ESPN+

    No. 8 Cincinnati (-23) vs. Miami (Ohio) | 3:30 p.m. | ESPN+

    No. 11 Oregon vs. Fresno State (+20.5) | 2 p.m. | Pac-12 Network

    No. 12 Wisconsin (-4.5) vs. No. 19 Penn State | 12 p.m. | FOX

    No. 13 Florida (-24.5) vs. FAU | 7:30 p.m. | SEC Network

    No. 15 USC (-14) vs. San Jose State | 5 p.m. | Pac-12 Network

    No. 16 LSU (-3.5) at UCLA | 8:30 p.m. | FOX

    No. 17 Indiana (+3) at No. 18 Iowa | 3:30 p.m. | Big Ten Network

    No. 20 Washington (-23.5) vs. Montana | 8 p.m. | Pac-12 Network

    *No. 21 Texas vs. No. 23 Louisiana (+8) | 4:30 p.m. | FOX


    Sunday, Sept. 5

    No. 9 Notre Dame (-7.5) at Florida State | 7:30 p.m. | ABC

Week 1 Prime Picks

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia (+3) (Charlotte, NC) | 7:30 p.m. | ABC

    The showdown between the Bulldogs and Tigers is one of the most anticipated season-opening games in recent memory, and interestingly enough, the schools—which are separated by 70 miles—used to play each other regularly.

    They haven't played since a 2014 meeting that Georgia handily won 45-21. This year, the Bulldogs bring back more than a dozen starters, including Heisman candidate J.T. Daniels at quarterback.

    Clemson, meanwhile, will rely on sophomore DJ Uiagalelei to replace No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, but he'll have a bevy of talent around him, including wide receiver Justyn Ross, who returns after missing last season with a spine injury.

    Neither team has been particularly impressive against the spread, largely because they're favored in almost every game they play, save for top-10 conference showdowns or College Football Playoff games. 

    In this one, though, it's too much to bet against Daniels and the Bulldogs, who have arguably the most talented roster in college football from top to bottom. 

    Prediction: Georgia +3

No. 11 Oregon vs. Fresno State (+20.5)

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    Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

    The Ducks are trendy picks to win both the Pac-12 North and the league outright, with 16 of 22 starters returning from last year's Fiesta Bowl team.

    Their biggest hole is arguably their most important: quarterback. Starter Tyler Shough transferred to Texas Tech after all seven games for Oregon last season, and he'll be replaced by sixth-year senior Anthony Brown, who threw 23 passes last year as a backup after transferring in from Boston College. 

    Fresno State was one of the darlings of college football two seasons ago, but the Bulldogs have struggled to replicate that success since, going just 7-11 in the last two seasons. They do, however, return 19 starters from last year's team that finished 3-3 in a shortened season and led the Mountain West in total offense. Leading that group is quarterback Jake Haener, who threw for more than 2,021 yards and 14 touchdowns in just six games in 2020. 

    The Bulldogs are 3-3 in their last six against the spread, and considering Oregon will be breaking in a new starting quarterback opposite Fresno State's potent passing offense, a 20.5-point spread seems a little too generous.

    Prediction: Fresno State (+20.5)

No. 21 Texas vs. No. 23 Louisiana (+8)

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    One of the most interesting matchups of the weekend features Texas and new head coach Steve Sarkisian against Louisiana, a team expected to contend for the lone Group of Five spot in the New Year's Six bowl games.

    The Longhorns return 15 starters from last year's squad that finished 7-3 and 19th in the final Associated Press poll, which still wasn't good enough to keep head coach Tom Herman's job.

    Enter Sarkisian, who spent the last two seasons as Alabama's offensive coordinator, coaching two of the best statistical offenses in college football history. At Texas, he'll break in a new starting quarterback in Hudson Card, who redshirted last season behind Sam Ehlinger. Leading rusher Bijan Robinson should take some of the load off, but the Longhorns will need a star to emerge from its talented wide receiver group. 

    On the opposite side, Billy Napier's squad features a dominant rushing attack that saw four different players rush for more than 300 yards last season. Nine super seniors are returning thanks to the extra year provided by the NCAA after the COVID-19 pandemic, including starting quarterback Levi Lewis, the third-leading passer in school history.

    The Ragin' Cajuns are 4-2 in their last six games against the spread on the road and 2-0 as underdogs. Texas has a recent history of significantly underachieving, and Louisiana will be looking for a signature win in Week One.

    Prediction: Louisiana +8