College football returns this weekend and with it, college football sports betting. Each week during the NCAA football season, we’ll break down the biggest games of the week from a betting perspective and give you a pick or a lean for the games you, and the rest of America, are going to be watching.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting lines and totals here at PlayPicks. A ‘pick’ is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel good about and could end up in our weekly plays. A ‘lean’ is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we favor over the other side. It could end up in our plays after additional research or information is released.
And finally, a quick reminder to only gamble with money you can afford to lose. Having a little sweat in the game is certainly fun, but if the losses sting, that fun goes away. Be smart, and betting can be a blast.
(9) Auburn vs. (6) Washington
Where: Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta
DraftKings Sportsbook Line: Auburn -2.5 / Total 48.5
The last time we saw Washington playing an SEC school in Atlanta it was the 2016 National Semifinals, and the Huskies got hit so hard at the point of attack that the old timers at the end of the bar at The Houndstooth in Tuscaloosa are still telling stories about what Alabama did to them. Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough ran for 180 yards as the Crimson Tide put up 24 consecutive points to end the Huskies’ season 24-7 and put themselves into the National Title Game against eventual winner Clemson.
While this year’s Auburn team isn’t as good as the No. 1 ranked Tide of 2016, the Tigers defense is as fast as ever. Their offense is led by Jarrett Stidham, a legit pro caliber QB prospect.
Now, Washington QB Jake Browning was just a sophomore when he lost to Alabama. His return for his senior season has Washington fans talking about getting back to the College Football Playoffs and playing for it all. However, going across the country to play an SEC power in Atlanta (a neutral field that’s not so neutral) is going to be an extremely tough test. A test Browning failed the last time. He threw for 150 yards and two picks in the aforementioned Alabama matchup.
Auburn is also trying to rid themselves of two embarrassing performances in Atlanta. The ATL is where they lost the SEC title game last year, only to follow that up by losing to Scott Frost’s undefeated Central Florida team in the Peach Bowl. However, this is basically going to be an Auburn home game. The fans are going to be a problem for Washington.
The Huskies were a top 10 defense last year and return nearly everybody up front. While everyone tends to look at Washington’s size on the D-Line, you can’t sleep on the defensive backs. This game looks like it will be defensive war in the trenches with the winning team being the one that doesn’t make the big mistake.
This is essentially a title game eliminator going down in week 1. Washington has the horses to hang with Auburn, but it’s hard to be a believer in the Pac-12. That could prove to be foolish, but many need to see Washington beat a top 10 SEC team in a hostile environment to buy into the Huskies’ hype for 2018.
Pick: Under 48
Lean: Auburn -2.5
(14) Michigan at (12) Notre Dame
Where: Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana
DraftKings Sportsbook Lines: ND -1 / Total 46.5
Can Jim Harbaugh afford to lose this game?
That seems like a silly question given the love that Michigan poured onto their former QB when he took the job back in 2015. But there has been some real hand-wringing this offseason about the Wolverines’ performances in big games under Harbaugh.
His record versus Ohio State is 0-3. His record versus Michigan State is 1-2. In bowl games, it’s 1-2. That’s…not good.
Those are not the type of numbers Wolverines fans expected to see heading into Year Four of the Harbaugh era. A loss to Notre Dame to start the 2018 season would really jumpstart the speculation about a potential return to the NFL. He’s a coach who has taken a franchise to the Super Bowl and would, without question, be given another chance in the league if he wanted one. Michigan can lose this game and still win the Big 10 title of course. But it would be a very rocky start to the season.
For the Irish, they get to see Michigan again after the rivalry was put on ice since a 2014 blowout win. Notre Dame has a chance to grab a top 15 scalp at the start of the season and begin a march that could get them into the playoffs. That said, they have tough road games against USC, Virginia Tech, and Northwestern. Then, Florida State and Stanford come to South Bend as well. The playoffs basically start in Week 1 for the Irish. Their fans know it.
Notre Dame will look to the hero of the Citrus Bowl win over LSU in QB Brandon Wimbush. He’ll lead the offense against Michigan’s tough defense. Wimbush is talented, but he is very inconsistent throwing the ball. Michigan’s D was No. 1 against the pass last year. Plus, they have nine returning starters on defense. Notre Dame lost 1st round picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey off last year’s offensive line. That could be too much to overcome against a stout Michigan defensive front.
Picks: Michigan +1 / Under 46.5
(25) LSU vs. (8) Miami
Where: AT&T Stadium in Dallas
DraftKings Sportsbook lines: Miami -3.5 / 48 Total
It might be only the first real weekend of the college football season, but this matchup of Southern powers has massive implications for the playoffs and the future of one head coach.
Ed Orgeron is a Cajun through and through, but even after a nine-win season a year ago, Tigers fans are still aren’t sure if he is the right man for the job. LSU has an extremely tough schedule with road games at Auburn, Florida, and Texas A&M. Then, they play Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama in Baton Rouge. A loss to Miami in the first game of the season would be extremely disappointing and really heat up in the seat underneath Orgeron.
On the other side, Mark Richt has pumped fire back into The U. After a season filled with Turnover Chain highlights and an Orange Bowl appearance, the Canes are in search of an ACC Championship and more this year.
Miami will look to pound the rock with their stable of running backs and control the line of scrimmage to slow down the speed of LSU. That’s easier said than done against a SEC team, but LSU has lost their last 10 games in a row when they give up more than 200 yards on the ground. Stopping the run was a problem for the Tigers in all four of their losses last year.
LSU’s offense is a work in progress, but Miami’s defense won’t have to face an NFL-ready running back like the Tigers have featured over the last several seasons. New QB Joe Burrow is a transfer from Ohio State. He has to prove he is capable of running the Tigers offense, and his inexperience with his teammates may provide Miami’s defense plenty chances to break out their favorite piece of jewelry.
However, there is something about being the underdog that fits LSU for whatever reason. All summer, they heard the talk that they aren’t that good and Orgeron is on his way out. This could be a dangerous spot for Miami on a neutral field against an opponent with something to prove. Getting the hook makes the difference here.
Picks: LSU +3.5 / Under 48
(20) Virginia Tech at (19) Florida State
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee
DraftKings Sportsbook Line: FSU -7.5 / Total 57.5
Monday Night Football gets a college game for this week only as ESPN goes all out to broadcast this clash of ACC titans on multiple channels. We even get live commentary from the blimp!
Florida State will debut their new head coach in Willie Taggart. He takes over for Jimbo Fisher after he bounced to Texas A&M. To say that Seminoles fans are excited about this season would be an understatement, and they have reasons to be optimistic.
Redshirt-junior QB Deondre Francois is back after getting injured last season against Alabama. He won the job in a heated battle for the starting spot this fall. One of the top dual-threat QBs in the country before his knee injury, Francois accounted for 25 touchdowns in 2016 and will have plenty of talent around him in 2018. FSU fell well short of the preseason hype last year, but don’t sleep on their roster in 2018.
Like most Hokies teams, this one is led by its defense. Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster has a unit that could eventually be better than one which only gave up 119 yards rushing per game last year. That said, it’s had to replace seven starters. The Hokies are young on defense, but they have playmakers all over the field and will be hungry to make an impression in the first game of the year.
Offensively, avoiding turnovers against FSU’s secondary full of NFL prospects might be the biggest key to this game. QB Josh Jackson must protect the football if the Hokies want to take a victory with them back to Blacksburg.
The environment is going to be crazy. It’s the first game of the season, the first ACC game, with a new head coach for Florida State, and it’s a stand-alone game in primetime with a national audience watching to see what the Seminoles will look like this year. This game is shaping up to be a slugfest. But the home team might have just a little more juice when it matters.
However, the line is too large in this one. FSU wins by a field goal, but doesn’t cover.
Pick: Va Tech +7.5
Lean: Under 57.5