College Football Best Bets: Backing Texas Tech, Penn State In Week 1
College football is all the way back this weekend with Week 1. However, it’s a tough week to bet or offer best bets at this juncture. Opening college football odds were released back in May and, over the course of four months, these lines have moved a great deal and are now hammed firmly into place. But some college football picks I made this offseason still have value. Others moved into value territory.
Spoiler alert: You won’t see picks on LSU vs. Florida State or North Carolina vs. South Carolina. Those games are so high-profile and have been available for so long, it’s like betting into the most mature NFL market (a.k.a., a losing struggle). Let’s dive into the bargain bin to find some real good bets for Week 1 of the college football season.
College Football Week 1 Best Bets, PIcks
Compare odds from the best college football betting sites in the tables below. Click on odds anywhere in the post to place a bet.
Kent State at UCF, 7:00 p.m. (THURS)
Kent State turns over an entirely new leaf. Head coach Sean Lewis departed to call the offense at Colorado and just 11% (!!!) of their production on offense returns from last season. Their top players – QB Collin Shlee, dynamic receivers Tez Walker and Dante Cephas, and RB Marquez Cooper – all transferred elsewhere. Many projections have them not just at the bottom of the MAC, but the bottom of the country.
All that said, 37 points is a huge number to cover for a team that focuses on running the football. Under Gus Malzahn, UCF rushes at about a 54% clip. Last season, their 55.5% rush rate was the 35th-most in the country. Under the new clock rules, run-heavy teams are more heavily impacted than those that throw more frequently.
My aggregated power ratings make UCF a -27.5 home favorite and Kelley Ford’s KFord Ratings show UCF -28. Rain is in the forecast, bringing the total down considerably (60.5 to 55.5). Of course, with a lower total comes fewer expected scoring opportunities and less of a chance to cover an enormous number.
Brett’s bet: Kent State +37 (-110)
Best available number: Kent State
UMass at Auburn, 3:30 p.m. ET
Building off the theme of clock rules disproportionately affecting games that feature run-centric teams, I’m taking Under 52.5 with UMass at Auburn. Under new quarterback Taisun Phommachanh, the Minutemen rushed on 68.5% of their offensive plays en route to a 41-30 road win over New Mexico State. Hugh Freeze also leans into the run, particularly with RB Jarquez Hunter (6.5 yards per carry in 2022) at his disposal. Against a seriously out-matched UMass defensive front, I expect Auburn to line up, run the ball, and get out with a sound victory.
But, as we saw in Notre Dame vs. Navy, lining up and running the football milks exponentially more clock than it did in the past.
Auburn also fields the 24th-ranked defense, per KFord Ratings. They should hold UMass to peanuts, with FEI projecting just 4.9 points for UMass. That’s one half of the bet; the other is that Auburn runs enough that they don’t have time to cover 52.5 points themselves.
Brett’s bet: Under 52.5 (+113)
Best available number: Under
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Texas Tech at Wyoming, 7:30 p.m. ET
Wyoming was an offseason “watch out” candidate for Texas Tech. War Memorial Stadium sits 7,220 feet above sea level, the highest elevation in the FBS. Tech hosts the vaunted Oregon Ducks in Week 2. Laramie is a weird place to play.
But Wyoming also suffered a slew of injuries to their backfield – a potentially-devastating slew to an offense that relies on the run and wasn’t able to complete a forward pass in 2022. Their top top backs – Dawaiian McNeely, Harrison Waylee – are both out for the season. Third in line, DQ James, is reportedly back to full health, but spent the offseason recovering from an ACL tear last season. For a team that ran the ball at the 10th-highest rate (among non-service academies), running back depth is a must.
The Cowboys finished 127th in in pass EPA and dead last in fourth down profit, resulting in an unsurprising 109th in points per drive. With no upgrades to the passing game, no fundamental changes in the coaching philosophy, and those injuries in the backfield, I genuinely wonder where the scoring opportunity comes from.
On the flip side, Texas Tech fields the projected No. 22 offense nationally, per KFord Ratings, more than capable of scoring points in Laramie.
Brett’s bet: Texas Tech -13.5 (-110)
Best available number: Texas Tech
Northwestern at Rutgers, 12:00 p.m. (SUN)
Sunday’s blockbuster between two titans in the sport kicks off at noon on CBS. Throughout the process of firing Pat Fitzgerald, power ratings on Northwestern stayed more or less stagnant. The line in this game moved from Rutgers -3.5 to -6.5 – a three-point move that represents just a 16% change in win expectancy and moves through zero key numbers.
Rutgers fielded a respectable defense last season and eight of those starters return. According to KFord Ratings, the Scarlet Knights project to field the 57th-ranked defense in the country. Against Northwestern’s 124th-ranked offense – and one that may very well end up worse than that, given the noise and departures in the program – Rutgers should be able to hold the Wildcats to few points. FEI projections pin this game for just 26 total points, including 11.5 for Northwestern.
You can find Northwestern’s team total at 16.5 points at DraftKings Sportsbook. I‘ll happily bet against one of the worst projected offenses nationally to score fewer than three times against a serviceable-to-stout defensive unit in Rutgers.
Bonus: West Virginia at Penn State, 7:00 p.m. ET
Like last week’s section, the number I have on Penn State is beyond unactionable. But, at its current price, is there any value left in Penn State?
The spread rose quickly from its -16.5 opening mark to its current -20.5 mark. But there, bumping up against a notable number (21), the line stalled. According to my aggregate power ratings, -20.5 is exactly the expected spread. KFord Ratings are a bit more conservative, making this game around Penn State -18.5. Therefore, there’s not much value left on Penn State, according to TheLines’ projections.
West Virginia’s team total sits north of 14 points at FanDuel Sportsbook. Rising starter Garrett Greene has two career starts at QB with a 55% completion rate. Heading into Happy Valley at night against a regional rival may spell disaster for the Mountaineer offense. Penn State projects to have one of the top defenses in the country. Instead of taking the points with Penn State, taking under West Virginia’s team total may be the more savvy move at this point in the game.