It is officially game week! It has been over 8 months since we got to watch a college football game. We have ramped up coverage over the last month and now it’s time to actually talk X’s and O’s for the weekend. We have five games starting at 1:00 PM EST and rolling all the way into Sunday morning with a 10:00 PM EST kickoff. Get your fridge stocked up with your favorite beer and let’s roll.
Nebraska @ Illinois
1:00PM EST on FOX
Nebraska -7 O/U 55
Bad timing for Nebraska as they have to deal with the outside issues from the investigation into the football team. Scott Frost has to be concerned for his job, but the best way to fix that; go win! The reason he is on the hot seat and this investigation is even going on in the first place is that he hasn’t done what was expected of him in his first few years in Lincoln.
Last year, Illinois shocked the Cornhuskers with a 41-23 win in Lincoln. Everything went wrong for Nebraska in the first half of that game. Quarterback Luke McCaffrey had 20 carries in the first half alone. Your QB should never have that many attempts in a whole game! The Illini were able to completely shut out the passing game to get the victory.
New head coach Bret Bielema will try to do much of the same this year to ramp up the pass rush and get after Adrian Martinez. He has not shown that he can handle pressure and get the ball to his receivers consistently. If Lovey Smith were still the coach, I would say Martinez would have an alright game. This would be the fourth time facing his team. The last time he started against them, he threw for a nice 328 yards and three touchdowns while running for an additional 118 yards.
On the other side, nine starters are back for the Cornhuskers on defense and they should be able to get after Brandon Peters. The front seven is going to surprise some people. Ben Stille leads the way there as a 295 pass rusher coming off the end. If they can get in the backfield early and often, it should help save the questionable back end.
Prediction: Nebraska 24 Illinois 13
Best Bet: Under
UConn @ Fresno State
2:00PM EST on CBS Sports
Fresno State -27.5 O/U 62
Uconn is pretty bad. We aren’t quite sure how bad they’ll be with nothing to go off of in 2020, but there probably won’t be much improvement to a defense that allowed almost 500 yards per game and 41 points. But this is a Fresno State team that only went 3-3 last year with losses to Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico. Can that defense give just a little bit of a push to stay within four scores?
Fresno State returns their QB, Jake Haener, who completed 64% of his passes last year with 14 touchdowns. They also return Ronnie Rivers who finished as a Mountain West All Conference first team selection last year. This offense should be able to march up and down the field on this secondary to start the season off strong.
Prediction: UConn 10 Fresno State 41
Best Bet: Uconn +27.5
Hawaii @ UCLA
3:30PM EST on ESPN
UCLA -17 O/U 70
I love that we get to see UCLA play in week zero because they are my big upset pick for week 1. I think they can go in and beat LSU but I like being able to see them in action before making that bet. I already have UCLA +5.5. But I am ready to throw a lot of cash on the moneyline.
It’s year four for Chip Kelly and it’s time to show that he has things ramped up back to his Oregon days. The offense is loaded with weapons. You know he is going to be able to draw up some magic. The good Oregon teams like the national championship team was also very stout on the defensive side of the ball. The front seven is really going to be the difference here. Hawaii doesn’t have the high powered offense that you’re used to seeing and the line was one of the worst in the country last year. They finished 109th in sacks allowed. The Bruins led the Pac-12 in sacks and they return Caleb Johnson, Bo Calvert, and Mitchell Agude.
Prediction: Hawaii 21 UCLA 37
Best Bet: Hawaii +17
UTEP @ New Mexico St.
9:30PM EST on FLOF
Las Cruces, New Mexico
UTEP -9.5 O/U 55
For those of you that aren’t true degenerates, you probably don’t know about this. But the Battle of I-10 is a fun battle between two smaller schools out west that I’m excited to have showcased in Week 0. We unfortunately didn’t get this game last year as New Mexico State cancelled all sporting events on August 13th of last year. This will be their first home game in 21 months so hopefully all 30,000 seats are filled and they can get that stadium rocking.
UTEP had a rough go last year, losing all four of their conference games to finish at the bottom of the Conference USA West Division. They hold a record of 4-16 over the last two seasons. They do have Gavin Hardison back with all of his weapons. There are analysts out there that think this offense could take a big jump in Hardison’s second year. They ranked 92nd in points per play and 97th in red zone scores. I don’t know how much they’ll improve on that this season but they should be able to put up points against the New Mexico State defense.
It’s hard to tell what we should expect but 2019 was not a good showing for the Aggies defense and even FCS teams moved up and down the field on them earlier this year. I think Hardison and the Miners get it done with a couple scores late to take this one.
Prediction: UTEP 31 New Mexico State 17
Best Bet: UTEP -9.5
Southern Utah @ San Jose St.
10:00PM EST on CBC Sports
San Jose, California
San Jose St -20.5 O/U 55.5
To end the night, we go out west one more time for a game that I think can be closer than most expect. Southern Utah has Justin Miller back at quarterback and he threw for 15 touchdowns in only 6 games this spring. Their 1-5 record is deceiving since four of those losses were decided by three points or less.
They’ll look to find a way to crack the San Diego State defense that ranked 26th in the country in total yards last year and return 88% of their team via the TARP rating. Brent Brennan has done a great job slowly improving this team. The pass rush was strong last season and return Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko. They combined for 16 sacks in 2020. My expectation is that this is an up and down game for awhile where both offenses shine but the Spartan’s D comes up with a few big plays late to get the win.
Prediction: Southern Utah 31 San Jose State 41
Best Bet: Southern Utah +20.5/Over