Back after Week 0 with a 1-1 record, the year started rocky with the Nebraska blunder. Hit on the UCLA Hawaii under after UCLA put a beating on the Rainbow Warriors. Nebraska was one of the most unprepared teams the whole weekend. Too many mental mistakes and got outcoached by Bret Bielema. Losing last year at home to Illinois and on national television this Saturday may be the nail in the coffin for Scott Frost's tenure. Now heading into week one, we have a full slate of games starting on Thursday and going all the way through Saturday night. Looking at the Thursday games, there are two that stand out to me.
Boise State at Central Florida (UCF -5, o/u68.5)
Boise State and UCF are both entering the season with a new coaching staff. Boise brought in Head Coach Andy Avalos, former Boise State and Oregon defensive coordinator. Former UC Davis coach Tim Plough is now the offensive coordinator and wants to revamp this Bronco passing attack. This offense ranked outside the top 100 in rushing yards per game and struggled to get the ball moving on the ground. At quarterback, Hank Bachmeier was named the starter last week after he and Jack Sears showed promise last season. In a new offense, it'll be interesting to see if Bachmeier can reach his full potential. This unit struggled to create takeaways on defense, and this secondary lost starter Avery Williams and Jalen Walker.
When looking at the Knights, this Central Florida team is also under a new era with Gus Malzahn. This highly explosive offense will have a fresh look this season but should still carry the up-tempo pace we're used to. In 2020, this offense ranked top seven in points and yards per game. Dillon Gabriel showed he was one of the best passers in the country last season posting, a 6.5% big-time throw rate and 1.9% turnover worthy play, both ranked top ten in the nation per PFF. This receiving corps is unproven but brought in multiple transfers that should make a difference.
This matchup brings together two new head coaches and should be a bit of a shootout with the high octane offenses. At home, UCF will have a clear weather advantage. This Florida heat may play a role in how well Boise State can keep up by the second half. Boise State is 3-5-1 ATS in away games the past two seasons. This total is intriguing, but it's many points for two brand new offenses. Going to ride with the Knights at home here, Malzahn will have this team conditioned and ready to play fast.
Central Florida -5
Ohio State at Minnesota (OSU -14, o/u63.5)
Ohio State has been the talk of the summer after losing one of the best Quarterbacks in Buckeye history, Justin Fields. However, this Quarterback room may be the most talented group in the country. All summer, redshirt freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller participated in a competition until five-star recruit Quinn Ewers decided to forego his senior season and enroll at Ohio State. C.J. Stroud was named the starter despite Ewers' arrival but will need to come out strong to avoid rumblings by fans to see Ewers. Stroud is no slouch when it comes to talent, also being a former five-star recruit, Stroud has all the ability to lead this offense. Ohio State was able to bring back Chris Olave and now has the best receiving room in the country. This offense ranked top ten in the country in scoring and top five in rushing yards per game. On defense, this group is stacked in the trenches and should see development in the secondary.
PJ Fleck was one of the hottest coaching names in the nation going into 2020 with how well they performed in 2019. However, this team came out slow and finished 3-4 with an overtime loss to Maryland and was blown out by Iowa and Michigan. Quarterback Tanner Morgan hit a huge wall in 2020 and regressed from his promising 2019 campaign. This offense was in the bottom half of scoring in the country and lost their biggest outside target in Rashod Bateman. This offense will have to lean on their rushing attack again behind a veteran offensive line that brought back monster right tackle Daniel Faalele. Veteran running back Mohamed Ibrahim will see another heavy workload this season, but this offense will spin its tires if it can't get him going. Defensively, the Gophers struggled all season long, giving up 415 yards per game and ranking 124th in the country against the run.
The Buckeyes are traveling to Minnesota for this game but are still laying almost two touchdowns depending on the book. It will be hard for the Gophers to keep up with the Buckeyes offense, especially if Stroud is comfortable early and can lean on the running game. Ohio State is 6-1 ATS in away games the past two seasons. Ohio State's strengths will exploit where Minnesota is weak and can handle their rushing attack. This is a national champion-caliber team, and they're going to get it done at Minnesota.
Ohio State -14
Georgia vs. Clemson (Neutral, Clemson -3, o/u51)
Easily the most anticipated matchup of the weekend, we get two potential National Championship contenders in an out-of-conference game in week one. This game is at a neutral site but will play a huge part in each other's College Football Playoff hopes. For Georgia, this has been hyped up to be the year they make their championship run. They seemed to have found their guy at Quarterback in JT Daniels, and this may be a down year for Alabama with their roster turnover. This whole offense changed when JT Daniels was able to take over as the starter against Mississippi State and exploded with points. The receiving core may be a bit of a question mark going into Saturday. Transfer Arik Gilbert has been away from the team, Dominick Blaylock is almost back from an ACL tear, and George Pickens is rehabbing from his ACL tear in the spring. However, the running attack will be as strong as ever with four offensive line starters back and one of the best running back duos in the country. Bulldogs' defense will have the depth to replace key starters and should dominate the line of scrimmage.
After one national championship and three ACC titles, the Trevor Lawrence era has ended in Death Valley. As a five-star recruit, Lawrence stepped in and lived up to the mountain-high expectations. Now it's D.J. Uiagalelei's turn, who may be even more physically talented than Trevor. At 6'4" 247 pounds, Uiagalelei. has physical traits that match anyone in the country. In the two games Uiagalelei played last season, he was impressive and showed he could command this offense. They scored a combined 74 in two games, with 40 coming against a stout Notre Dame defense. Getting Justyn Ross back for this receiving corps is huge, and they will have playmakers across the offense. On defense, Clemson is returning nine starters and can be special this year.
Two teams with championship goals will make for a great matchup. These two offenses are due for huge seasons. Georgia ended the season 4-1 in overs in their last five games. Clemson went 7-5 in overs in 2020. Both teams combined for a 4-2 overs record in games with a spread of fewer than ten points. This over seems low to me for two dominant offenses. Public money has been heavily favoring the under. This seems like a standard fade and cheer for points.
Georgia vs. Clemson o51
Rest of the Week 1 picks
Penn State at Wisconsin, u50.5
Badgers took a step back in 2020 as a rushing offense after losing Jonathan Taylor. They need to get Graham Mertz going like he was early on in the season. This offense dominates the time of possession and bleeds the clock like no other. This defense is stout and should dominate a poor Penn State offense. Penn State should be able to hold its own on defense and be an old-fashioned B1G slugfest.
Fresno State at Oregon, o63.5
Fresno State was unstoppable last weekend. Even against UConn, this offense looked good. Uptempo, this Fresno State moves at a great pace to hit this over. Oregon's offense should be able to shred this Fresno State defense.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas, Texas -8
Texas is ready to show a brand new offense under Steve Sarkisian. Freshman Hudson Card beat out Casey Thompson, who showed promise in last year's bowl game. True sophomore Bijan Robinson may be the best running back in the country. Look for Sarkisian to get off to a strong start. Maybe Texas is back?
LSU at UCLA, UCLA +3
Like Fresno, UCLA put up an impressive show on Saturday, even against Hawaii. They dominated the trenches and ran all over them. This Bruins team is one to look out for at home as an underdog that could pull out a win. LSU is going into the season with more question marks at the quarterback position. This LSU defensive front struggles against the run, and we could see another big day from Charbonnet.
Texas Tech at Houston, Houston ML
This game has moved toward a pick-em this week and looks to favor Houston. When the offense is rolling, Houston can dominate. Clayton Tune is experienced and should get off to a strong start. Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough has gotten too much hype, in NFL projection, for practically losing the job at Oregon. His inconsistencies will follow him to Tech, and this Houston secondary is good enough to make big plays.
UTSA at Illinois, UTSA +6.5
Fading Illinois again, you may ask? Well yes. This seems like a perfect letdown game after Illinois beat Nebraska as seven-point underdogs. UTSA is not a team to be taken lightly. They have a strong running game with Sincere McCormick. Illinois found some luck with a punt turned safety and blunders by the Nebraska offense. Arthur Sitkowski stepped in and had the game of his life after being one of the worst quarterbacks in the country at Rutgers. Illinois is due for regression this week and could lay an egg against UTSA.
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