College Football Week 1 Viewers Guide - Betting Picks and Latest News

Updated: 102 Sport

Each week, Mike Calabrese will be providing a College Football Viewer’s Guide. Stay on top of the marquee matchups, betting angles, and the latest news impacting Saturdays in the fall.

College Football Week 1 Viewers Guide - Betting Picks and Latest News
Michael Calabrese US Content Manager

Experienced sports journalist, College sports expert and broadcaster, hailing from Pennsylvania

  • Low scoring Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Predicted in the football picks
  • Utah predicted to show well at Florida - Sportsbooks may Underestimate the odds
  • The Cougars have a tricky September schedule starting at UTSA


Mike Calabrese looks through the top selections and sportsbooks betting odds for this week's College football picks - We've 4 headline matchups to consider and have a couple of options for under-the-radar wagers to get some good odds.

#11 Oregon vs. #3 Georgia-17 (53) (The Chick-fil-A Kickoff)

3:30p EST on ABC 

The defending national champions are playing a de facto home game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, just 71 miles from campus. The Bulldogs enter as the nation’s third-ranked team, posting a 34-5 record across the last three seasons straight up and a respectable 22-17 mark against the spread. 

The Oregon Ducks, coached by former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, have struggled mightily against the spread in non-conference play in recent years. Since 2015, the Ducks are a putrid 7-17 ATS (29.2%, -11.7 units) when facing opponents outside of Pac-12 play.

From a personnel standpoint, both teams are replacing a ton of production year-over-year. The Ducks rank 76th (out of 131 teams) in terms of returning production and will be breaking in a new starting quarterback, running back, and two receivers. Georgia, meanwhile, has to replace eight starters from its historically good defense of 2021. Their 3-4 scheme is replacing six of seven starters in the box alone, a tall task against an Oregon team that returns all five starters along the offensive line. 

According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, Georgia is 2nd in his SP+ projections with Oregon checking in at 24th. Diving deeper into those projections, this is how he sees each team’s offensive and defensive units faring in 2022:

  • UGA - Offense (5th), Defense (2nd)
  • Oregon - Offense (19th), Defense (36th)

Under Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs are 25-21 ATS (54.3%, +1.9 units) when installed as a double-digit favorite. In the past two seasons alone, UGA has been favored by 10-points or more 17 times. And one final note on the coaching side of things, this will be Dan Lanning’s first game as a head coach at any level of football.

Betting Angle:

This play comes down to pace. Georgia loves to play at a slower pace, ranking 119th in 2021 in plays per game. Oregon hired Kenny Dillingham away from Florida State to run its offense, and his units at FSU were not known for an uptempo approach. Georgia opened its season last year in the Duke's Mayo Classic against Clemson, besting the Tigers 10-3 in a defensive battle. I foresee a similar outcome in this one and would advocate for taking the under.

#23 Cincinnati @ #19 Arkansas-6.5 (52)

3:30p EST on ESPN

Arkansas opens the season ranked for the first time since 2015. They’ll be facing the first Group of Five program to make the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati’s dream season was followed by a mass exodus to the NFL with five players being selected in the top 100 picks of the NFL Draft last April. As a whole, the Bearcats must replace 11 starters from their 13-1 team. Arkansas, meanwhile, boasts the third-highest TARP rating in the SEC, a metric that blends returning production with transfers. What this means is that Cincy will be trotting out a green starting lineup, while Arkansas will be starting 20 juniors or seniors.

Despite Cincinnati’s fantastic two-year run (22-2 SU), they were just a decent team against the spread during that time (14-10). Arkansas, on the other hand, has been building momentum nicely under head coach Sam Pittman, posting a promising 12-11 record SU and an impressive 16-6 mark against the spread. 

This spread opened at Arkansas-7 and has floated between -6 and -6.5 for the last two weeks. The reason why it’s stayed under the key number of seven likely has to do with Luke Fickell’s performance against Power Five competition in his five years as the Bearcats’ head coach. Under Fickell, Cincinnati is 6-4 against P5 competition straight up and a sterling 7-3 ATS. 

It is worth noting the mismatch at quarterback in this game. KJ Jefferson, a massive dual-threat QB (6’3”, 245 lbs) is one of the highest-rated QBs in the SEC per Pro Football Focus.  Meanwhile, Cincinnati has yet to decide on its starting quarterback, which could mean musical chairs at the position on Saturday.

Betting Angle:

Arkansas wants to run the ball often and they have one of the nation’s best offensive lines to clear a path for their ball carriers. Pro Football Focus rates the group as the fifth best in the nation and a candidate for the Joe Moore Award (best offensive line). Cincinnati returns just one full-time starter in its front six, after finishing just 62nd against the run in 2021. Look for the Hogs to play bully ball, as they did in their Outback Bowl win last year lover Penn State (353 rushing yards, 3 TDs), and cover this number.

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#7 Utah-3 @ Florida (51.5)

7:00p EST on ESPN

The Pac-12 conference has been raided by the B1G Ten, with USC and UCLA already agreeing to exit, with Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and Cal Berkeley not far behind. Just as the conference has been the epitome of instability, their best team has been the polar opposite. Utah returns its starting quarterback, head coach of 18 years, and both coordinators. Pepper in 14 returning starters and it's clear why they’re entering the 2022 season with the program’s highest preseason ranking of all-time. 

Florida, meanwhile, is in flux. A new coaching staff, mainly ported over from Louisiana Lafayette, will be breaking in 11 new starters, including a quarterback with one career start and just 64 career pass attempts. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s clear as day that Anthony Richardson could be an electric dual-threat quarterback. And Richardson will be surrounded by the nation’s 12th-most talent roster according to 247’s “Team Talent Composite” metric. 

 Then we have the venue for this football game. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, aka “The Swamp,” has been a house of horrors for opposing teams over the years. Since 2003, Florida has won 79.5% of its home games (11th nationally), and nearly shocked #1 Alabama in a narrow 31-29 loss last fall. According to the Action Network’s Collin Wilson, “The Swamp'' provides the 12th-best home-field advantage since 2016. That could present a “buyer beware” situation for Utah bettors on Saturday. 

Betting Angle:

Billy Napier loves to slow things down. During his tenure at Louisiana, his teams ran the 83rd-most plays per game. From a personnel standpoint, possessing a dual-threat quarterback, a talented offensive line, and a host of bruising running backs would set UF up to run the ball more than they pass it on Saturday. That would likely be playing right into Utah’s hands. Morgan Scalley, their defensive coordinator, has assembled a top-20 running defense for four consecutive seasons. 

Despite lofty expectations, I believe Utah’s experience and stout defense will allow them to grind out a win covering this short number in Gainesville. 

Flickr user ckirkman, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

#5 Notre Dame @ #2 Ohio State-17 (59)

7:30p EST on ABC

Ohio State’s offense is loaded for bear this season. The Buckeyes’ “Big Three” of C.J. Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are all legitimate All-American candidates. With three returning starters along the line and two highly touted guards entering the fray, it’s easy to envision a historically good offense in Columbus this fall. 

You won’t confuse Notre Dame for the “Little Sisters of the Poor,” but the Irish will need time to gel offensively. Tyler Buchner steps in at quarterback with a veteran offensive line in front of him. But they’ll need to find explosive plays on the perimeter to avoid relying too heavily on future NFL tight end Michael Mayer. Defensively, Notre Dame finished 15th in scoring defense last season, but they’ll be breaking in seven new starters on that side of the ball. Most concerning is a secondary that has just one returning starter, a unit that will be going up against the nation’s most prolific passing attack. 

And finally, you have the narrative surrounding Notre Dame in “big games.” Given their high-profile bowl losses (6-15 SU since ‘95), it’s trendy to pick against the Irish in nationally ranked contests. Interestingly, ND has been a solid underdog bet on the road against ranked opponents. Since 2010, the Irish are 11-5 ATS (68.8%, +5.5 units). 

Betting Angle:

The implied final score, according to Vegas odds, is Ohio State 38, Notre Dame 21. That seems like a low team total for an Ohio State offense that led the nation in scoring last fall (45.1 ppg), pouring in even more when playing at home (49 ppg). If you can find a number at 38 or below, it’s worth placing a bet on Ohio State’s team total over. 

Ohio State StadiumJoebengo at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


#13 NC State-11.5 @ East Carolina (51.5)

12:00p EST on ESPN

NC State is second in the ACC and 12th in the country in returning production. They return their HC, OC, DC and starting quarterback along with nine starters on defense (not including the injured Payton Wilson). This is the strongest Wolfpack team, in the preseason, since 2003 when they returned senior quarterback Philip Rivers. That Wolfpack team was snakebit in close games, losing four by double digits, two in OT, and falling out of the AP Top 25 altogether. And that’s why NC State fans should be nervous for this opener. Nothing is easy for the Wolfpack.

East Carolina has more than enough talent to play spoiler in the season opener. The Pirates have knocked off national powers like TCU (#22 in ‘02), West Virginia (#8 in ‘08), and Virginia Tech (3x since ‘08), with most of that upset magic taking place at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville. 

This game will rest on the shoulders of Holton Ahlers, a four-year starter at quarterback. Mr. Boom-or-Bust has been all over the map during his career at ECU. In the past two seasons, he has started 20 games. In those 20 contests, he has registered a QBR (scale to 100) of 70 or greater on eight separate occasions. He’s also posted a QBR of sub-40 seven out of 20 times. When he played well (QBR of 70 or better) ECU went 7-1 straight up. When he played poorly (QBR of 40 or worse) they finished with a 1-6 record. 

Betting Angle:

Given Ahlers’ erratic play, for better or worse, I would recommend two plays in this spot. On the alternate line take NC State-20.5 at +220 and place a small wager on ECU to win outright at +320. I foresee a blowout or upset unfolding in the ACC-AAC matchup and nothing in between. 

#24 Houston-4 @ UTSA (62)

3:30p EST on CBSSN

The Houston Cougars are considered by many college football pundits to be the best Group of Five team in the country, poised to capture the elusive and lucrative New Year’s Six bowl bid in December. If they want to do that, they’ll need to navigate a tricky September schedule that starts on the road in San Antonio. The Roadrunners of UTSA are the reigning C-USA champions, fresh off a school record 12-win season. They return eight starters from an offense that averaged 37 points per game in 2021 (11th). This includes lefty quarterback Frank Harris and a deep receiving corps headlined by Zakhari Franklin.

While UTSA can bank on scoring points, they’ll struggle to slow a potentially dangerous Cougar attack. Quarterback Clayton Tune came alive down the stretch and regularly targeted UH’s pint-sized playmaker, Tank Dell. The JUCO transfer lit up Cincinnati and Auburn (19 receptions, 302 yards, TD) in his final two games. A veteran UTSA secondary will have its hands full, and given their performance against high-flying aerial attacks last season, I predict UH getting the better of them early and often. 

In a high-scoring affair this game will likely boil down to turnovers and Doug Belk, Houston’s defensive coordinator, knows how to create them. The Cougars forced 22 TOs last season (25th) and kept opposing quarterbacks under constant duress (43 sacks, 6th). The famed “Sack Avenue'' defensive front for UH should tip the scales in their favor at the Alamo Dome. 

Betting Angle:

A combination bet paying close to +250 on Houston-4 and Over 62 is the way to go in this game with the likelihood of explosive plays and turnovers playing a large factor. Targeting a player prop on Tank Dell is also a solid angle. If you can find a receiving yard total under 95 yards, I would recommend playing the over.

Florida State vs. LSU-3 (51.5) (Sunday)

7:30p EST on ABC

LSU has a brand new head coach in Brian Kelly, but this game is déjà vu for the former Notre Dame head coach. Last season, Kelly and the Irish opened their 2021 campaign against these very same Seminoles, outlasting FSU 41-38 in overtime. Kelly will kick off his season once again with Florida State, this time in the Allstate Louisiana Kickoff to be played in the Caesars Superdome.

LSU limped to the finish line last season, dropping four of its last six games behind a flailing offense. Florida State, on the other hand, finished strong winning five of eight, with a near miss at Florida in the season finale. The Seminoles also enter with certainty surrounding their quarterback position. Jordan Travis appears to be taking the next step forward in his maturation as a passer, having played his best football in the back half of 2021 and in the Seminole’s Week 0 cakewalk over FCS Duquesne. In his last seven games, he has averaged a QBR of 70 (out of 100) placing him 31st nationally during that span. If he continues to provide a steady hand, the FSU running game could flourish, especially against an LSU front breaking in a host of new starters.

The Bayou Bengals come into New Orleans with a lot of momentum on the recruiting trail, but with tons of questions on their offensive line. Garrett Nussmeier will likely be making his first career start, which leads me to believe we could have a high-variance performance from an LSU offense short on established playmakers outside of Kayshon Boutte. 

Betting Angle:

If there were an underdog to roll the dice on in Week 1, it’s Florida State. The Seminoles could have a fearsome pass rush in this game. Keep an eye on FCS transfer Jared Verse on the edge. The former Albany standout was a TFL-machine and has the potential to make life hard on Nussmeier or Jayden Daniels in this one. FSU is coming off the board at +125 on the ML, but I would play this all the way down to a true pick ‘em.

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