The dark curtain that is the offseason is parting. College football has returned. The past few months featured a whirlwind of coaching changes, transfers, realignment, and NIL deals. But that’s in the rearview mirror and it’s time to talk about games. Below, we’ll lay out College football Week 0 odds for every available game on the slate.
Enjoy the ease back into fall Saturdays with Nebraska vs. Northwestern, Wyoming at Illinois, and Vanderbilt at Hawaii as headliners this week.
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College Football Week 0 Slate
Note: Austin Peay at Western Kentucky, Idaho State at UNLV, Duquesne at Florida State, and Florida A&M at North Carolina have odds featured at BetRivers, but don’t have widely-available odds on their games.
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Northwestern Wildcats
Two 3-9 teams on very different paths square off across the pond in Dublin, Ireland. Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers enter a make-or-break season with a roster dominated by transfers. Capable Texas starter Casey Thompson transferred in this season and will lead the offense while TCU pass rusher Ochaun Mathis headlines the defensive newcomers. Last year, Nebraska lost all nine games by single digits and eight of those were one-score games – both NCAA records.
On the other hand, the Northwestern Wildcats seemingly crumpled just a year after making a Big Ten Championship appearance. They return All-American offensive tackle Peter Skoronski but also maligned starting QB Ryan Hilinski. Their lone strength in 2021 was capping opposing teams’ explosive passing plays, something Thompson used to his advantage at Texas.
Nebraska opened the game as a 10.5-point favorite and that’s grown to . Perhaps it was recalling the 2021 beatdown, where Nebraska beat Northwestern 56-7, but the market is bullish on the Huskers in this game.
UConn Huskies at Utah State Aggies
No one’s point spread has moved more in the offseason than UConn’s in this game against Utah State. The Huskies initially opened as 33-point underdogs, but that’s dipped to (at one point as low as +26.5). Power ratings like the SP+ and FPI suggest a spread closer to 22 points in favor of Utah State.
However, the Aggies return much of their corps from an 11-3, Mountain West-winning campaign that included a bowl upset over Oregon State. You won’t find many sharp bettors laying four touchdowns on anyone, but this game pits one of the country’s worst teams against one power ranked alongside Power Five teams.
Perhaps it’s excitement around Jim Mora and a new, experienced coaching staff. Or perhaps the promise around touted Penn State transfer QB Ta’Quan Roberson and what should be a moderately improved offense. Either way, there’s a lot of UConn backers in this game.
Wyoming Cowboys at Illinois Fighting Illini
WynnBet Senior Trader Motoi Pearson highlighted this game, expecting Illinois to climb from their status as a 9.5-point favorite. Sure enough, steam around the Illini pushed them to double-digit favorites. You can read more about that in my College Football Week 0 Best Bets piece.
Wyoming returns the third-lowest roster production in the country and takes a team with an entirely new cast of offensive skill players into Illinois. The Fighting Illini – though they’re projected for just wins – are a scrappy, physical, defense-oriented team with a tough run game. Chase Brown rushed for over 1,000 yards last season behind a middling offensive line (three starters of which return this year).
The Cowboys have to muck this game up and force turnovers to keep it from getting out of control early. They project to be one of the worst passing offenses, per Phil Steele, as well as one that struggles against the run. Aside from being physically out-matched, this is a bad matchup for Wyoming.
Charlotte 49ers at Florida Atlantic Owls
Leading up to kickoff, over the points total in this game took a major jump. On Tuesday, you could find this number at 56.5, but that’s grown as high as 59.5 (currently over ). Both teams feature athletic quarterbacks: N’Kosi Perry for FAU and Chris Reynolds for Charlotte. They also both return a solid core on offense, particularly FAU with their skill positions.
Both teams ran a similarly-paced offense in 2021 (70.3 plays per game each), but FAU was much better defensively, resulting in them beating up Charlotte 38-9. The point spread hasn’t moved all that much this month, but the over has seen a lot of action at WynnBet, per Pearson.
This matchup features a much more talented team (FAU) against a much better coached team (Charlotte). While athleticism and capability is the name of the game in college, Will Healy’s group should contend in this game.
North Texas Mean Green at UTEP Miners
North Texas is favored at most books, but this point spread has been a rollercoaster ride this offseason. Steam from both sides favored both UNT and UTEP at certain points, but midweek action pushed the line in favor of UNT. These two teams were on opposite trajectories last season, with the Mean Green winning their last five games to get bowl eligible. UTEP, on the other hand, lost four of their last five and got smoked in the New Mexico Bowl.
Their divergent situations continues into 2022, where UTEP returns a good portion of their backfield and right side of the OL, while UNT returns outside skill players and left side of their OL. The Miners are strong up front on D, returning a good group of players that led UTEP to a top-35 ranking in points allowed per drive.
UNT plays into the strength of UTEP, running an extremely high-tempo, but surprisingly run-heavy offense under QB Austin Aune. UTEP counters with a strong front six led by All-Conference selection Praise Amaewhule. Their linebacking corps is also terrific with returning starters Tyrice Knight and Breon Hayward (209 combined tackles).
Nevada Wolfpack at New Mexico State Aggies
No team has returned less roster production than this year’s Nevada Wolfpack (22%). Most notably gone is starting QB Carson Strong, leaving behind a two-man race between 6-foot-9 Nate Cox and former Oklahoma State starter Shane Illingworth. Senior back Toa Taua is the team’s leading returning rusher (720 yards) and receiver (296 yards). The offense – before all of their offseason transfers – looked inept in the Quick Lane Bowl against Western Michigan in December.
Aside from their mass roster exodus, coach Jay Norvell ditched Reno in favor of Colorado State, taking a majority of the coaching staff with him. Nevada was truly stripped down to the beams and is in the process of being rebuilt.
New Mexico State is an annual resident of the bottom spot in power ratings like SP+ and FPI, resulting in a -12.5 opener for talent-depleted Nevada. However, steam actually surrounded the Aggies late in the offseason, pushing the spread as low as 8.5. Buyback started here, with Nevada ultimately climbing back to favorites.
Vanderbilt Commodores at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Hawaii returns the second-least production this coming season (27%). However, their mass turnover comes from ex-head coach Todd Graham running a bad ship that “killed [the players’] love and passion for football.” Things got so bad, his own son decided to transfer away from the program.
But that era is firmly in the past. Hawaii legend Timmy Chang now heads the program and is putting the pieces back together. The Bows are in between stadiums, currently playing at the TC Ching Athletics Complex – a converted high school facility that sits less than 10,000. Who will play QB for Hawaii? Uh, well, we don’t know. It’ll be one of either a late-cycle transfer, a QB who downright melted down in limited 2021 action, or an unproven junior.
Vanderbilt, despite all the jokes made at their expense, has been in Honolulu for the entirety of this week. Head coach Clark Lea ensured his team would be good and adjusted to the time change by game day. Vandy also has QB questions, with Mike Wright (53% completion, 8 TDs, 6 INT in 2021) named the starter earlier this month. As talent-deficient the Commodores are in SEC play, they’re bigger, faster and stronger than Hawaii.
Vandy has seen a bunch of steam leading into game day, jumping up from an opening 6.5-point favorite.