College football Week 1 picks against the spread for every top-25 matchup
The first full week of the 2018 college football season is here.
That, of course, includes the first matchup featuring a top-25 team, when No. 21 UCF travels to UConn. Week 1 also features four matchups between ranked teams, including a top-10 matchup between No. 6 Washington and No. 9 Auburn.
The weekend runs through Labor Day, concluding with a fantastic matchup between No. 20 Virginia Tech and No. 19 Florida State.
With that in mind, here is a look at the dates, times, TV and odds (provided courtesy of VegasInsider.com as of Aug. 28) for every top-25 matchup in Week 1.
Thursday, Aug. 30
No. 21 UCF (-23) at UConn
Josh Hepuel’s debut is on the road against a UConn program that ended last year on a five-game losing streak. McKenzie Milton gets off to a good start with an AAC road victory. The nation’s longest winning streak goes to 14. UCF wins 38-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Friday, Aug. 31
Utah State at No. 11 Michigan State (-23.5)
7 p.m., Big Ten Network
The Spartans remain the under-valued power in the Big Ten East, and they’ll jump out to a quick lead against a Utah State defense that allowed 219.9 rushing yards per game in 2017. Brian Lewerke throws for two touchdowns and runs for two more. Michigan State wins 38-10 and COVERS the spread.
Western Kentucky at No. 4 Wisconsin (-36)
9 p.m., ESPN
The Badgers have two receivers out because of suspensions, but Alex Hornibrook should be able to pick at the Hilltoppers’ secondary. Jonathan Taylor will have a big game too. The Badgers were 4-3 at home against the spread last season. Look out for the back-door cover. Wisconsin wins 41-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
San Diego State at No. 13 Stanford (-14.5)
9 p.m., Fox Sports 1
The Aztecs beat the Cardinal last season, something that won’t be lost on David Shaw heading into a tough September slate. Bryce Love’s Heisman Trophy campaign begins in style with a pair of touchdowns, and he’s helped by an efficient performance from K.J. Costello. That half-point hook makes it a tough call right on the line. Stanford wins, but that half-point hook is a difference maker.
Stanford wins 31-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Saturday, Sept. 1
Oregon State at No. 5 Ohio State (-38.5)
Urban Meyer won’t be on the sideline, but it won’t matter. Ryan Day leads the Buckeyes to a victory in the home opener in which quarterback Dwayne Haskins and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber all score multiple touchdowns. It’s a rough opener for Beavers coach Jonathan Smith. Ohio State wins 52-10 and COVERS the spread.
FAU at No. 7 Oklahoma (-21)
There will be a few upset alerts here because Lane Kiffin is in the building and the Owls have a high-scoring offense, but quarterback Kyler Murray will be the dominant headline after the game. Running back Rodney Anderson will have a big game on the ground, too. We think Kiffin will keep it within four scores, however. Oklahoma wins 41-24 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Southern at No. 16 TCU
Noon, Fox Sports Southwest
We’ll get a look at Shawn Robinson, a talented quarterback TCU fans have been waiting for, and we’ll see how the Horned Frogs’ defense looks without defensive lineman Ross Blalock. This is a tune-up for TCU. TCU wins 55-10 with no spread.
No. 23 Texas (-13) at Maryland
Interim Maryland coach Matt Canada has a tough opener against a Longhorns team that will be looking for payback after last year’s loss in Austin. These teams combined for 92 points last season, and Sam Ehlinger will shine for Texas in another shootout. Senior Ty Johnson will have a big game for the Terps, too. This will be the flip-to game before the 3:30 slate starts. Texas wins 38-28 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Furman at No. 2 Clemson
12:20 p.m., ACC Network
It’s a pick-your-score game for the Tigers against the Paladins. Expect running back Travis Etienne to bust through for a couple long touchdowns early, but all eyes will still be on Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence in a tune-up before Texas A&M. Clemson wins 55-3 with no spread.
Austin Peay at No. 3 Georgia
3:30 p.m., ESPN
Same deal here. The Bulldogs begin their SEC championship defense, and the offense likely won’t show its full hand with a pivotal SEC East showdown looming at South Carolina in Week 2. This will be good experience for the Bulldogs’ young playmakers. Running backs D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield score early and often on the ground. Georgia wins 45-7 with no spread.
No. 6. Washington vs. No. 9 Auburn (-1.5)
3:30 p.m., ABC
A huge game with College Football Playoff implications and two experienced quarterbacks in Washington’s Jake Browning and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. We anticipate this to be the most exciting game of the weekend with a last-minute finish. It could go either way, but we’re going with the team that’s closer to home in Atlanta. Auburn wins 31-27 and COVERS the spread.
Appalachian State at No. 10 Penn State (-24)
3:30 p.m., BTN
Appalachian State comes to Beaver Stadium with a well-earned reputation for the upset, but the Nittany Lions will settle in under veteran quarterback Trace McSorley and new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne. Miles Sanders will trend on Twitter after a big opener at running back. Penn State was 4-2-1 against the spread at home last season, and this a tough one to cover. Penn State wins 38-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
No. 17 West Virginia (-10) vs. Tennessee
3:30 p.m., CBS
A fun opener in Charlotte. Will Grier and a loaded offense will throw it around the yard against first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. The Vols will have success on the ground with the trio of Ty Chandler, Tim Jordan and Madre London, but the Mountaineers will tack on a touchdown late for the cover. West Virginia wins 36-24 and COVERS the spread.
UNLV at No. 15 USC (-26)
4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Life without Sam Darnold begins for the Trojans, and freshman JT Daniels might be the answer under center against the Rebels. Running back Stephen Carr figures to get a lot of work while Daniels (or whoever starts) settles in. The Trojans enjoy a win in the opener after a slow start. USC wins 38-13 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
No. 22 Boise State (-10.5) at Troy
6 p.m., ESPN News
Two Group of 5 busters clash in what should be a fun game. Veteran quarterback Brett Rypien will have success against the Trojans’ secondary, and Troy is breaking in a new quarterback. Otherwise, we’d like Neal Brown’s chances here. Boise State wins 30-20 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
No. 14 Michigan at No. 12 Notre Dame (-1)
7:30 p.m., NBC
This game has the high stakes and GameDay setting, and the Wolverines have a chance to score a big victory on the road in South Bend. All eyes will be on Shea Patterson, who will rally the Wolverines in the second half after an uncomfortable start. Expect late-game theatrics, too. Michigan wins 26-21 in an UPSET.
Stephen F. Austin at No. 18 Mississippi State
7:30 p.m., ESPNU
Joe Moorhead makes his debut in Starkville, and Nick Fitzgerald will be the focus after suffering a season-ending injury in the Egg Bowl last season. We like them against the Lumberjacks, who finished 4-7 last season. Mississippi State wins 51-3 with no spread.
Bowling Green at No. 24 Oregon (-31.5)
8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
The Ducks begin a new era with Mario Cristobal, and it’s a chance for quarterback Justin Herbert to put up big numbers against a Bowling Green defense that allowed 38.0 points per game in 2017. Look for the Ducks to pile up the points. Oregon wins 52-17 and COVERS the spread.
No. 1 Alabama (-24.5) vs. Louisville
8 p.m., ABC
We’ll find out who takes the first snap between Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, and we’ll get a first look at Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass. The Cards will test the Tide’s young secondary early, but now isn’t the time to bet against Nick Saban in an opener. He’s 11-0 in that situation with Alabama. Alabama wins 41-17 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Sunday, Sept. 2
No. 8 Miami (-3.5) vs No. 25 LSU
7:30 p.m., ABC
Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow will make his debut at LSU, and he will be the difference in a game dominated by defense on both sides. The team that doesn’t commit the fatal turnover will win, and we like the Tigers to come up with that game-changing play late at Jerry World. LSU wins 24-23 in an UPSET.
Monday, Sept. 3
No. 20 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Florida State (-7.5)
8 p.m., ESPN
Willie Taggart makes his debut as Florida State’s head coach in an exciting ACC crossover game with the Hokies, who have several injuries on defense. Quarterback Josh Jackson will keep Virginia Tech in it, but a late touchdown by FSU running back Cam Akers seals a victory for the Seminoles. Florida State wins 27-21 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.