That was ugly. Week 1 landed with a thud, a James Franklin tack-on TD in the final 10 seconds prevented 1-4, so it ended up 2-3, -2.25 units. About how it should work out for a smartass like myself who had the nerve to doubt Coach Prime in his P5 debut. As mesmerizing as Colorado’s display was, they turn around are only laying 2.5 at home to Nebraska? Looks too good to be true, but no way I’m going to bet into Prime back-to-back weeks to start this season. The rest of the slate is littered with a good amount of P5 non-conference games, and even some conference rivalries out on the west coast. On to the dramatically improved picks (chronological, best bet aside).
Bet 1: Notre Dame -7.5 (-104) at NC State (11:00am CT Sat 9/9, ABC; all odds via FanDuel)
I’m swallowing my pride and rooting on my least favorite team. NCST did just enough to pull their opener out against UConn, while ND has been impressive both times out, but neither time doing so against formidable competition. While NCST is a big step up from Navy and Tennessee St, they aren’t a 1-possession game step up. Wolfpack QB Brennan Armstrong was much more successful with his legs than through the air for his new team. Look for ND to make him one dimensional and force mistakes. The ACC scheduling agreement will continue to pay dividends for the Irish who seemingly never lose these games.
Bet 2: Purdue +115 ML at Virginia Tech (11:00am CT Sat 9/9, ESPN2)
Purdue again, huh? Yes, I underestimated Fresno St big time, but still have faith that Hudson Card and the offense will pick up the defense that struggled mightily in their debut. Brent Pry got his guys off to a 1-0 start over Old Dominion, but they gave up 200+ yards on the ground in the process, and the 36-17 final wasn’t much of a flex when you consider their +3 turnover margin. There is plenty for Ryan Walters and Co to work with in picking up his first career win Saturday.
Bet 3: Appalachian St +18.5 at North Carolina (4:15pm CT Sat 9/9, ACCN)
The rematch of last year’s 63-61 UNC thriller in Boone moves about 160 miles east to Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels were impressive in their border war win over the Gamecocks, but this has the makings of a letdown spot. App St is a nimble opponent who will go heavy pass or heavy run should the defense shut either down. UNC completely took the run game away from So. Car. but I expect the Mountaineers to live up to their pesky reputation and keep matching scores enough to hang with 18.5.
Bet 4: Cal +220 moneyline vs Auburn (9:30pm CT Sat 9/9, ESPN)
True road games on the west coast have been very unkind to the SEC in recent years. It made Utah a must bet against Florida, and it makes Cal a must play at +220. Hugh Freeze has credibility as an offensive coach, but this is not the spot to flourish. It’s tempting to dismiss Cal’s impressive opener as due to an inferior opponent in North Texas, but it was more than that. Jaydn Ott is a complete stud at tailback, and most of the UNT blowout was with their backup QB in. All reports are that the starter, Sam Jackson, is a full go. Be ready to add this to the list of Pac-12 final hurrahs.
Best Bet (2 units): Texas A&M -4.5 (-105) at Miami (2:30pm CT Sat 9/9, BTN)
I love the Bobby Petrino addition and think the Aggies will be one of the country’s most improved teams in 2023 (sort of hard not to after what little Jimbo got out of the talent last season). Conner Weigman should continue to play well at QB, and the loaded defensive line is a year older and ready to make Tyler Van Dyke’s life miserable. Miami looked good in their defeat of the MAC’s Miami, however this is obviously a whole new challenge. Cristobal is assembling things, but the talent just isn’t there to hang with A&M right now and keep it under a touchdown with the Petrino boost.
Week 1: 2-3, -2.25 units Season: 3-5, -3.35 units.