NCAA Football Predictions: Week 1 Opening Line Report and Picks
Welcome back college football! While we had two games on Saturday night in Week 0, things really get going this weekend in the official Week 1, and we'll be here with an Opening Line Report every Monday to potentially recap any big news from the previous weekend as well as to look ahead to some of the biggest matchups in the coming week. Of course, Doc's will have you covered with previews of all the major matchups as well as Heisman updates, etc. It should be your football headquarters, college and pro.
It feels like we should simply skip ahead to Jan. 13, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and presume that Clemson and Alabama will be meeting for yet another national title. Those two programs are so far ahead of everyone else that it's almost boring at this point. Ohio State won the first-ever CFP title game, and the Tide and Tigers have split the next four. Several of the Doc's-affiliated sportsbooks are offering a prop on Alabama/Clemson vs. the field for this year's title. Not even sure I'd take the field there, which sounds ridiculous.
Shoot, you can even bet a Tua Tagovailoa/Trevor Lawrence prop vs. the field for the Heisman. On that, I would definitely take the field because the preseason Heisman favorites rarely win it. Had you even heard of Kyler Murray this time last year? Or Lamar Jackson this time a few years ago?
I will say this: One trend says the Tide will win it all this season. That's because since the start of the College Football Playoff, the New England Patriots and Alabama have alternated titles each season - Nick Saban and Bill Belichick are friends, incidentally, and coached together with the Browns in the 1990s. Of course, the Patriots won yet another Super Bowl this past February, so it's apparently Saban's turn (I actually don't think so).
Here are a few Week 1 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted. Picks are ATS.
Florida A&M at No. 17 Central Florida (-47.5), Thursday: Obviously not much intrigue on who wins this game as Florida A&M is an FCS program and not a very good one (but with a world-famous band), while UCF is arguably the best Group of 5 program going right now. The Knights haven't lost a regular-season game since Nov. 26, 2016, at rival South Florida. They did have their overall 25-game winning streak snapped in last season's 40-32 loss to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl. This is just a reminder that UCF star quarterback McKenzie Milton isn't playing this season off a very serious leg injury suffered in last year's regular-season finale. Notre Dame transfer Brandon Wimbush has won the job over true freshman Dillon Gabriel - presumed starter Darriel Mack Jr. hurt his ankle over the summer. Pick: Florida A&M (Knights will let up in second half).
Boise State vs. Florida State (-5.5): This line has jumped 2.5 points toward FSU with the game being held in Jacksonville. Rather weird not seeing either program ranked entering a season. Florida State imploded to a 5-7 mark (ending the record 36-year bowl streak) last season under first-year coach Willie Taggart, and he's probably on the hottest seat in the country this year east of USC's Clay Helton. If FSU were to lose this game, wow, it's going to be crazy already in Tallahassee. Taggart booted starting quarterback Deondre Francois off the team this past winter and will go with James Blackman under center. He started one game last year and most of 2017 when Francois was hurt in Week 1. Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook was right there in the competition, though, so Taggart may give Blackman a short leash. BSU, meanwhile has to replace four-year starting QB Brett Rypien, who finished his career as the Mountain West's all-time leader in passing yards (13,581), completions (1,036), and 300-yard passing games (21). Pick: FSU.
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn (-3.5): Being honest, the Week 1 schedule is rather weak, and this one from AT&T Stadium in Arlington is the only ranked matchup. This line has dropped from an open of Auburn -6.5 and some books have it as low as 3. Frankly, I don't understand why the Tigers are even favored. The Ducks bring back 17 starters, fourth-most in the country. That group is led by senior quarterback Justin Herbert, who turned his back on millions of dollars as the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He still might go first next year as some scouts like him better than Tua. Auburn does bring back 14 starters but did lose two-year starting QB Jarrett Stidham. True freshman Bo Nix, son of former Auburn starting QB Patrick Nix, won the job in camp, beating out Joey Gatewood. Nix, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class, will become the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener for Auburn since Travis Tidwell in 1946. I like Oregon to win this game outright, and I'll gladly take the 3.5 points. Pick: Oregon.
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