It’s that time of the year again to start sharpening up your college football handicapping skills. The majority of the college football betting public is often so infatuated with the marquee matchups on opening weekend that they often overlook the tremendous value that can be found in some games that are way “under-the-radar” for the first week of the season.
Starting with Week 1 and continuing with every week of the college football season, I will search for these mid-major “diamonds in the rough” and give you free college football picks. Here are my three best bets that you can take to the bank for this week.
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Troy Trojans (-6) vs. UAB Blazers (Saturday, Sept. 1, noon)
Troy is coming off another rough campaign in the Sun Belt Conference with an overall record of 3-9 and a 2-6 record in conference play. After a promising 2-2 start, the Trojans went a dismal 1-7 straight up and 2-6 against the spread in their next eight games. Corey Robinson is back at quarterback after throwing for 3,411 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2011, but the problem with Troy is a defense that gave up 33.7 points per game last season.
UAB’s 2011 season was not much better, with just three SU wins in 12 games and a 3-5 SU record in Conference-USA games. The Blazers never even got off the ground last season with six-straight losses, but they did show some signs of life down the stretch with two wins both SU and ATS in their last three games. Look for beefed-up vertical passing attack from the Blazers that can quickly put points on the board with Garrick McGee at the helm as the team’s new head coach.
This will be the fourth-straight season these two team have met. The home team has won the first three games SU and the Blazers have a 2-1 edge ATS. Troy comes in 1-4 ATS in its last five games as a favorite on the road, while UAB is 18-7-1 ATS in its last 26 games as an underdog at home. I actually like the Blazers SU in this game, but they will definitely cover with the six points.
Pick: UAB +6
Florida International Golden Panthers vs. Duke Blue Devils (-3.5) (Saturday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m. EST)
This season could be a coming out party for FIU as Bovada’s 5/2 favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference this season. The Golden Panthers’ program continues to develop under the guidance of head coach Mario Cristobal. They won eight games last season and seven games in 2010 after posting a combined nine victories in the previous four years.
Duke is still one of the bottom-feeders in the ACC as basketball will always be the focus on campus. The Blue Devils bring a seven-game losing streak into this contest, and there’s not much hope for improvement for a team that will have a number of new faces on both sides of the ball to start this year’s campaign.
The Golden Panthers are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games in September, while Duke is 2-5 ATS in their last seven September games. These two met last season with the Blue Devils squeaking-out a 31-27 victory as 3.5-point road underdogs, but the programs are much closer in talent this time around. Stick with FIU to make an early statement that Bovada is right on the money by beating Duke on the road SU.
Pick: FIU +3.5
Texas State Bobcats vs. Houston Cougars (-36) (Saturday, Sept. 1, 8 p.m. EST)
This game is really off the grid as Texas State makes its debut in the Western Athletic Conference after jumping up to Division-IA from the D-IAA Southland Conference. The Bobcats finished an even 6-6 last season, but they stumbled down the stretch with a 1-4 SU record in their last five games.
Houston comes into this season as one of the favorites to win this year’s Conference-USA title after going 13-1 SU last year, but the Cougars have a number of question marks on offense after the departure of quarterback Case Keenum to the NFL. David Piland, who took over the starting role for Keenum when he got hurt in 2010, is expected to be the starter on Saturday night.
Handicapping games like this can be a bit tricky given a number of unknown factors with both teams, but the fact remains that Texas State’s highly-ambitious football program has an eye towards bigger and better things after this season with the apparent demise of the WAC. By no means will the Bobcats be able to keep this game close, but they will cover he 36 points against a new-look Cougars’ offense that may need a few games to work out the kinks.
Pick: Texas State +36
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