The detritus that was Week 0 has passed, and now the real work begins. Nice job Hawaii, a backdoor that what was oxymoronically never really in doubt. As for the losers, Pavia and NMSU moved the ball, but turnovers destroyed their chances. As for FIU, they never should have had a chance, but somehow managed to hold the lead until a minute left while being outgained practically 3-to-1. Week 1 comes with its usual share of mystery and intrigue that an eight month offseason is bound to conjure up. Only one ranked v. ranked matchup, which feels a little light, but the roughly 1st grader-aged concept of opening week conference games helps a bit. So many debuts, who will surprise, disappoint, both? On to the picks (chronological, best bet aside).
Bet 1: Purdue -4.5 (-105) vs Fresno State (11:00am CT Sat 9/2, BTN; all odds via FanDuel)
It was better at 3.5, but 4.5 isn’t a dealbreaker. If the Boilers don’t cover, I’m telling you right now, it won’t be because of their defense. I’m not the biggest Graham Harrell fan (and I don’t really know why anyone would be other than the Crabtree TD over Texas 15 years ago), but Ryan Walters is a total stud when it comes to coaching defenses. On the other side, Jeff Tedford probably has the biggest experience advantage of any matchup this week, but that doesn’t replace a Jake Haener-sized hole. Purdue establishes Mockabee, Hudson Card’s job becomes easier, and Boilers win by at least a TD thanks to a defense that will only get better with time under Walters.
Bet 2: Northern Illinois +8.5 at Boston College (11:00am CT Sat 9/2, ACCN)
A MAC team coming off 3-9 is only 8.5 point underdogs at P5 school to open the following year? That should tell you everything you need to know about the shape BC is coming into 2023 in. With Rocky Lombardi back for yet another go-round this should be a return to 2021’s conference winning form for NIU. Hafley is trying to turn around a 3-9 of his own in Chestnut Hill, and has brought in former NFL head man Rob Chudzinski as co-OC to do it. With Jurkovec off to greener ACC pastures at Pitt, QB1 moves on to Emmett Morehead. He did some nice things finishing out 2022, but expect growing pains now that a new system is being installed. Barring a sloppy showing, NIU will keep it close or win outright.
Bet 3: Penn State -20.5 vs West Virginia (6:30pm CT Sat 9/2, NBC)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve been exposed to the commercial for NBC’s B1G debut ad nauseum. With all the hype and anticipation, PSU is laying a large number against a once-plucky WVU squad. James Franklin’s teams haven’t been the greatest non-con cover at home, but this is supposed to be a special year, and there is no reason we shouldn’t see their A-game Saturday. Start the Allar-era right, something like 42-14 should suffice.
Bet 4: South Alabama +205 moneyline at Tulane (7:00pm CT Sat 9/2, ESPNU)
Don’t confuse this for a lack of respect for what Willie Fritz and the Green Wave accomplished last year, but this just screams to me as an upset spot. Kane Wommack’s boys only lost 2 regular season games by a combined 5 points last year. The latter of which to Troy cost them a spot in the Sun Belt Championship Game. They will be jacked up big time to knock off the reigning Cotton Bowl Champs, and establish themselves as the team to beat in the SBC. Michael Pratt is scary as Tulane’s returning QB, but the loss of 1500+ yard rusher in Tyjae Spears and his top two receivers leaves him vulnerable to this underdog.
Best Bet (2 units): TCU -20.5 vs Colorado (11:00am CT Sat 9/2, FOX)
As many have noted during Coach Prime discourse, the primary theme is: strike while the iron’s hot. His nascent drastic (and dramatic) rebuild won’t last forever, eventually they will definitely be better than the Buffs of recent history, but that isn’t this TCU team’s problem. Who could be saltier than a team coming off the most historic title game humbling this sport (and maybe sports generally) has ever seen? Chandler Morris is a promising heir to the Max Duggan era, and Sonny Dykes hasn’t forgotten how to coach offense, even if UGA’s band of freaks made it seem so. Kick ass Hypnotoad!
Week 0 and Season: 1-2, -1.1 units.