Another season of college football means another season of Vegas making tons and tons of dough. If you are a betting person, hopefully you make the right selections to kickoff the 2017 season. If you aren’t a betting person (like myself) and want to play along, that’s more than okay.
Here are my picks for the first week of college football.
Ohio State at Indiana
Line: Ohio State -21; O/U: 56.5
This game, along with the next game on our list, kickoff on Thursday. It is quite unusual we get a Big 10 game so early in the season, but to have it be the Thursday before our first Saturday of football is even more strange.
However, I don’t think the result of this game will be strange. Ohio State is going in as a big favorite to win this game and to win the league this year. The Buckeyes should be able to get by easily, especially with former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson the new offensive coordinator for J.T. Barrett and Ohio State.
Pick: Ohio State -21
Buffalo at Minnesota
Line: Minnesota -24.5; O/U: 50
P.J. Fleck did nothing but win last season in the Mid-American Conference at Western Michigan. Coincidentally, he begins his journey as head coach of Minnesota by playing a MAC school. Funny how things work out sometimes.
Fleck is a great coach and will be one of the most interesting story lines of the Big 10 season, but I don’t think his Golden Gophers will win by as large a margin as Vegas is setting this one up to be. Fleck and WMU took down Buffalo 38-0 last season in Kalamazoo, but that was a completely different team at a completely different time of the year (late November). Minnesota wins, but by 17 points, give or take.
Pick: Buffalo +24.5
Washington at Rutgers
Line: Washington -30.5; O/U: 52
Rutgers lost 48-13 at Washington to open the 2016 season. They also lost 78-0 at home to the Wolverines. They also lost 58-0 to Ohio State. They also lost 49-0 to Michigan State, who just so happened to go 3-9 last season (people forget that). This pick is too easy.
Pick: Washington -30.5
Utah State at No. 9 Wisconsin
Line: Wisconsin -28; O/U: 48.5
I know nothing about Utah State, but Wisconsin lost a fair amount this off-season both to the NFL Draft and to injury. Linebackers Jack Cichy and Zack Baun are both out for the season after suffering a knee and foot injury, respectively.
Alex Hornibrook at QB is still a giant question mark for me. He played well to begin last season, but really dipped down the stretch and was replaced by Bart Houston, who started the Big 10 Championship and the Cotton Bowl. Not all of these big spread lines can be covered, so I am going to take a risk here and take Utah State with the points.
Pick: Utah State +28
Bowling Green at Michigan State
Line: Michigan State -17; O/U: 56.5
Both these teams won their respective conference in 2015, and both teams had really down years in 2016. MSU went 3-9 (don’t forget that) and Bowling Green went 4-8 (you can forget that if you want).
If any of these teams has a better year in 2017, it will be the Spartans. I think Lewerke at QB is their best chance to win games. He, along with L.J. Scott, will be heavily relied on. I am confident in MSU winning this game, but I am just a little more confident in taking the under.
Pick: Under 56.5
Wyoming at Iowa
Line: Iowa -11.5; O/U: 52.5
Everyone will have their eyes on Wyoming QB and NFL Draft prospect Josh Allen, who passed for more than 3000 yards last season. Meanwhile, Iowa lost its starting quarterback in C.J. Beathard to the NFL and will have the task of replacing him.
Luckily for Iowa, running back Akrum Wadley is back for his senior year and ready to build off his 1081 rushing yards from last year. He also put up 10 rushing and three receiving TDs. He’s a damn good football player, and a running back not named Saquon Barkley to pay close attention to in the Big 10.
Honestly, I would not be surprised to see Iowa drop this game. They always seem to drop one early non-conference game and this is the most probable game for them to do that. I think Wyoming, at the very least, keeps this game close because of the experience they have at quarterback.
Pick: Wyoming +11.5
Akron at No. 6 Penn State
Line: Penn State -30.5; O/U: 63.5
This game could be ugly. Very, very ugly.
Akron lost five of its last six games in 2016, while Penn State swept the competition up until the Rose Bowl after its big loss at The Big House last September. Injuries played a factor in Akron’s tough ending to its season, but that still doesn’t make it any better confidence-wise heading into a new season and having to play against the No. 6 team in the country.
Penn State has the play-makers on both sides of the ball for this game to get out of hand by halftime.
Pick: Penn State -30.5
No. 16 Louisville at Purdue
Line: Louisville -26; O/U: 67.5
Purdue has a new head coach in Jeff Brohm and he has a tough challenge ahead of him to begin his tenure with the Boilermakers — 2016 Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville.
Purdue went 3-9 last season, but I expect them to be a bit better in 2017. David Blough is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the Big 10 and he put up pretty good numbers last year (3,352 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 21 interceptions). I expect Blough and the Boilermakers to be pass-happy all season long yet again.
This is probably going to be a really high-scoring game. I expect Lousiville to get the W, but don’t be shocked if Purdue puts up 4+ touchdowns.
Pick: Over 67.5
Arkansas State at Nebraska
Line: Nebraska -16.5; O/U: 47
Another Week 1 barn burner. Man, some of these games are baaaaaad.
Anyway, Nebraska is favored by a pretty good amount. I’m surprised it’s not by more, though. I understand Arkansas State won the Sun Belt last year...but it’s the Sun Belt for crying out loud. Being the greatest team in a horrible conference isn’t particularly a good thing. They got blown out by Auburn and Toledo and also lost to Utah State in the non-conference last year.
This is an easy pick. But because I say and think that, it’ll naturally be close.
Pick: Nebraska -16.5
Nevada at Northwestern
Line: Northwestern -24; O/U: 58.5
Northwestern was favored at home in last year’s opener against Western Michigan. We all know how that turned out.
Now Northwestern is favored by even more points against Nevada. This seems fishy; do I dare say Northwestern will lose its opener again to the underdog? I want to so badly, but I think they inevitably win big.
Pick: Northwestern -24
Ball State at Illinois
Line: Illinois -7; O/U: 58
This line is embarrassing. But so is Illinois’ football program right now.
Three of Ball State’s four wins last season came against non-conference teams, and its one loss was to Indiana by just 10 points. Meanwhile, Illinois lost by 24 points to Western Michigan, another MAC school. Illinois could very well lose this game, but I have no clue how either team will look on Saturday. For that reason, I am picking the over/under.
Pick: Under 58
Maryland at No. 23 Texas
Line: Texas -17; O/U: 56
I am really intrigued with this game. Texas starts fresh with new head coach Tom Herman and Maryland gets another year from former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin.
Y’all remember this? “TEXAS IS BACK, FOLKS!”
Meh, them being back didn’t last too long last year. Until Texas proves something, I don’t think they should be favored by 17 points. I’ll take Maryland with the points, but I do believe Texas wins by a slight margin.
Pick: Maryland +17
No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 17 Florida
Line: Michigan -3.5; O/U: 45
The game we’ve all been waiting for.
This game will go one of two ways: A blowout in favor of the Wolverines or a close game that either team wins.
I am leaning towards a really close game, however. With Michigan’s inexperience in the secondary and receiving group, I think there will be struggles and mistakes early on. However, Florida’s quarterback issue and the suspension to Antonio Callaway and seven other players evens out Michigan’s problems.
Expect a close game. I hope I am wrong with this pick and that it’s a blowout for U-M.
Pick: Florida +3.5