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WE DID IT!
We went through the tease that was Week Zero. We saw our first night of real action on Thursday and the Backyard Brawl did not disappoint in the least. Depending on when you are reading this, either Friday Night Lights is about to begin or if you’re reading this Saturday morning, hopefully it lived up to the hype as well. Now it’s time for the real deal. A full Saturday slate of games. Ohio State-Notre Dame. Oregon-Georgia. Cincy-Arkansas. Utah-Florida. Caleb Williams, Quinn Ewers, Dillon Gabriel, and Spencer Rattler all in new settings. It should be an unbelievable kickoff to the season.
There are obviously a lot more games to recap than in the weekday preview so there is no time to waste… Every week I try to write a real preview on any ranked-on-ranked matchup (and this week I’m adding Florida/Utah to that group) then give the full card with a quicker take at the end. Let’s go.
Oregon (+17.5) vs. Georgia (netural field) o/u 53.5
The champs look to start their title defense here. I owe a lot of my success last season to the Dawgs as they cashed my 10/1 future I touted all year along with my monster bet in the National Championship game. However, this is a new year and I’m betting against my boys straight away. The Dawgs only return 3 starters on their defense that produced an insane amount of NFL talent last season. Of course, Georgia instantly reloads but there is something to this new group having to gel a little bit, especially under new DC Will Muschamp as their former DC, Dan Lanning, is now the head coach of these Oregon Ducks (more on that later).
Georgia does return more on offense including 36-year-old Stetson Bennett. I said it all year last year that I was not a Stetson believer and I thought JT Daniels should have been QB1. Now Stetson won the Natty so you can’t argue with the result but I am still not a believer in Stetson carrying a team himself. There was a major difference between Stetson with George Pickens and without him last season and I think that could hurt him early in the season here.
For Oregon, they scored Bo Nix in the transfer portal who has played this Georgia team three times before at Auburn. So the usual fear of a west coast QB not being able to handle the speed of an SEC defense is not there. Of course, Bo Nix could always Bo Nix and lose a game or cover for you on a bonehead play, but Bo Nix could also have the game of his life and win this game- that’s the Bo Nix effect.
This Oregon OL is STACKED with all five starters returning and they should be able to protect Bo Nix as well as anyone in the country against this Georgia front. Dan Lanning’s familiarity with how this defense works and also how Stetson Bennett and the offense work should prove very helpful for the Ducks. I can’t see Georgia putting up 40+ here offensively and I think Bo Nix can do enough behind this OL to put 21-24 on the board and cover the number.
Pick: 1u Oregon +17.5 (still good at 17)
Ohio State (-17) vs. Notre Dame o/u 59
From last year’s champs to this year’s champs (hopefully). I’ve waxed poetic about the Bucks so there isn’t much more for me to say here. I think CJ Stroud and his stable of weapons will be nearly impossible for any defense in college football to stop this year. They will get theirs no matter what and I actually lean to their TT over as a good play here.
Notre Dame is starting the very inexperienced Tyler Buchner at QB this weekend. Buchner has never thrown more than 14 passes in a college game before and in that game 2 of his 14 passes were INTs. Jim Knowles has moved from OK State to Ohio State as the DC and looks to be the guy to turn Ohio State into a National Champion-level defense (Okie State gave up 44 points to Central Michigan in their first game without him). I think he will have a lot of different things to throw at the young QB and force some mistakes.
I think Notre Dame will be alright over the course of the season but I am taking the more experienced Bucks to make a statement against the team with the first-year head coach and first-year starting QB. Stroud for 400 yards, please.
Pick: 1.5u Ohio State -14.5 (still like at 17 for 1.5, like to 20 for 1u)
Cincinnati @ Arkansas (-6.5) o/u 53
Cincy shocked the world by making the college football playoff last season. They even held their own against Bama better than Michigan did against Georgia. But that game also demonstrated what an elite SEC team looks like compared to an elite AAC team. Now, Arkansas isn’t Alabama, but this Cincy team is not last year’s Cincy team.
Cincy is having to replace an NFL quarterback in Desmond Ridder with Ben Bryant. Ben Bryant was at Cincy for three years as a backup, transferred to Eastern Michigan last season, and had a pretty decent year, then transferred back to Cincy to finally have his shot at the starting job. I don’t think he will be close to Ridder’s level, especially early in the season, especially especially against an SEC defense.
Even more important than Ridder, Cincy is replacing the duo of Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant in the secondary who were maybe the best CB duo in all of college football last season. In total, Cincy lost 7 NFL-caliber players from last year’s defense and that is not something you can just replace at a school like this. They still have some good talent and Luke Fickell is a great coach but I think it will take the Bearcats some time to get going.
I like KJ Jefferson a lot and I think he ensures that the Hogs start their season with a win here at home. Just to be safe, I’m pairing them in an MLP in case of a backdoor. I think Tulsa’s line has gotten too inflated but I think Wyoming is a bottom-5 FBS team and I would love to fade them here to lose the game.
Pick: 1u Arkansas/Tulsa MLP (+104)
Utah (-3) @ Florida o/u 51
I love the Utes this year. This line opened with Florida as small home favorites and has since bounced between Utah -1 to Utah -3, but has never gotten over that key number. This is a true coinflip game but there are a few edges I like on the Utes’ side.
#1- Coaching. Kyle Whittingham is consistently one of the best coaches in the country and this Utah frequently overperforms. Of teams that have been in the FBS since 2005 when Whit took over, Utah is the 5th best ATS team in the nation. No matter the situation or circumstance, this team is always ready. Billy Napier has been one of the hottest names in coaching the last few years and finally got a big job here at Florida. However, he has had a tendency to make very questionable decisions in big moments late in games and this is maybe the biggest game of his career so far.
I really like both of these QBs but you can’t deny Cam Rising has proven more at this level. Utah started 1-2 last year with Charlie Brewer starting at QB and Rising came in and went 8-1 the rest of the regular season and led the Utes to a Pac-12 Championship over Oregon. AR15 has all the talent in the world and I think he will have a great year, but I think this is a really tough opening matchup for him.
I like both of these defenses and think they will both have success, especially early on. However, at the end of the day, I am taking the more sure thing at both HC and QB to find a way to win.
Pick: 1.5u Utah -1.5 (like to 3)
Those are the four big games of the weekend! Here is the full card:
1u Oregon +17.5 vs. Georgia
1.5u Ohio State -14.5 vs. Notre Dame
1.5u Utah -1.5 vs. Florida
1u Arkansas/Tulsa MLP (+104)
2u Pitt/BC MLP (-120)- First leg already hit but in case you missed the weekday write-up then I would pair BC with someone else.
1u NC State -9.5 vs. ECU- Don’t like this as much at the current number but I think ultimately NCSU offense will be too much. NC State won their last two against ECU 58-3 and 34-6.
1u Michigan -27.5 vs. CO State- Another one I don’t like as much at current number but I think Harbaugh will start his “biblical” season with a trouncing of a lesser opponent.
1u App State ML (-106) vs. UNC- This was a huge scheduling mistake for UNC. I think they are on a major downhill without Sam Howell and this is such a tough place to play.
1u Troy +22.5 vs. Ole Miss- I am not yet sold on Jaxson Dart. I loved Matt Corral and I love Lane but I think this partnership could take some time. Troy is one of the most experienced teams in the nation and returns 8 starters on a defense that was top-25 nationally in total defense last year.
0.5u Texas State ML (-110) vs. Nevada- Nevada is next-level horrible. They needed 5 turnovers from NMSU to narrowly cover last week. Bobs win this one.
1u Army +4.5 vs. Coastal- Coastal’s defense is gone. Other than Grayson McCall, there is no one left from the past couple of years. Army as a dog is always a great bet and I think they go in and win this game.
1u Southern Miss +3.5 vs. Liberty- No Malik Willis is detrimental to a program like Liberty. I think they will struggle early. Southern Miss was a shit show with injuries and new players last year. They finally have a QB again which means Frank Gore Jr. can finally run again instead of running the wildcat.
1u South Carolina -13.5 vs. GA State- You all knew this one was coming. I actually do like this GA State team but the Rattler train is about to start riding away and I’m not missing out on getting on board.
1u Miss State -15.5 vs. Memphis- This team is going to rule. This is a revenge spot after Memphis beat Miss State on a fluke punt return TD that should have never been allowed. They also had a fumble return TD last year. Will Rogers threw for 420 yards last year and I think he matches it (if he doesn’t top it) this year. This defense is stacked and Memphis should have a tough time.
1u Clemson/GA Tech u49- This number has moved the wrong way on me but I still like it. If GA Tech scores more than seven points I would be blown away. With so many new pieces at the skill positions, I think Clemson will take it easy and try some new things on offense instead of running up the score.
That’s it for Week One! Make sure to follow on the Action app and Twitter to get any last-minute adds or live/2H plays. And as always…