Preview and picks for NCAA Football Week 1
I cover college football and the NFL throughout the season for a number of media companies and online platforms, including Forbes. I'll be updating the Top 25 each week with betting lines, key match-ups and information you can bet on and look forward to adding some insight, line moves and odds updates from leading online sportsbooks along with other information you can bet on.
You can follow along and decide if you want to bet on the picks, opinions and leans provided each week, as available.
I'll be pulling stats and data from leading sources, industry colleagues and football newsletters which provide ATS info and other stats that can be so time consuming to research. But I'll use my own insight, intuition and years of experience and research as a proven football handicapper and point spread prognosticator to try and guide you towards more winners. I like to dig into stats and have provided information and insight for years looking for match-up edges, along with stats and situational plays that can often be overlooked when evaluating the games and match-ups.
Winning bets is always the goal and how we keep score. But developing a process in your handicapping approach, while understanding the betting market and searching for value, should be of great significance. As you shoot for more birdies and green on the gridiron, recognize there are plenty of hazards and rough along the way as you navigating and manage all the information put in front of you each week.
Understand there are no sure things when betting on sports and my input is for news and entertainment purposes with an added goal to help you learn while you earn. I don't sell picks or work for any company where I tout and ask people to buy picks. I did at one time, and have turned down many offers as my history and results were often top of the leaderboard, and that includes in both NFL and college football as documented independently years ago. That's before I moved on to better opportunities in the changing sports betting market with other ways to provide my talents, skills and services while better controlling my time and interests in sports and betting.
Also understand that while the top teams in the Top 25 rankings draw most the headlines, attention and betting action, those games often don't offer the best value or betting opportunities. The online sportsbooks take the most bets on those games, which in turn drives the handle on the top teams and match-ups.
But since those games are of most interest to many fans, I'll try to cover those college football games from tee-to-green and chip-in information you can bet on. As available or through social media, I'll provide added sportsbook betting data as benefits and update later in the week to my picks and information so you can see which teams are attracting more bets and money (handle).
Week 1 Top 25 Match-ups
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 11 Oregon (Atlanta, GA) | 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Line: Georgia -17 and Total 53 at BetOnline
Reload, but not rebuild, for the defending National Champion Georgia Bulldogs, who lost a record 15 players to the NFL Draft. Head coach Kirby Smart also lost his defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, who happens to be on the other sideline as Oregon's new head coach. Auburn transfer QB Bo Nix starts for the Ducks, who were a stronger balanced offense last year running and passing for 200+ yards per game. Oregon is projected to win the Pac-12 South, and the Ducks also added some key players to join 1st team Pac-12 performers DE Brandon Dorlus and Noah Sewell. Still, Georgia has been bet up four points from the opener and now dropped to settle at -17, with a few 17.5 still available. The Bulldawgs dominating defense from last year lost many players, but still appears top-level. The Ducks defense has potential to be as good as 2019 edition that allowed just 16.5 points and 329 yards per game and ranks top-3 across the board in the Pac-12 in positional groups. Since 2019, Georgia has held its five Power 5 non-conference opponents to a total of 35 points, covering all five games.
Opinion: Under the total and Lean Oregon
No. 19 Arkansas vs. No. 23 Cincinnati | 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Line: Arkansas -6.5 and Total 52 at LooseLines, offering reduced juice
Arkansas was -8 back in May, and Cincinnati took some money despite losing six players to the NFL, including 2-time All American CB Ahmad Gardner and replacing a QB, RB and WR. But the Bearcats offensive line is still solid, and returns all five starters, including three All-Conference players and 78 combined starts. Arkansas exceeded expectations last season with a '200 club' balanced offense that rushed and passed for at least 210 yards per game. The Razorbacks return four offensive lineman and sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson, who led the team in rushing (838) and passed for 2600+ yards with a 21/4 TD-to-INT ratio. Losing the key number of 7 makes Cincinnati less desirable, and both teams figure to focus on the ground game. A first half under the total bet may be the best option.
Opinion: Under 52
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Notre Dame | 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Line: Ohio State -17 and Total 59 at BookMaker
Ohio State has been taking money throughout the summer ahead of the opener, and the Buckeyes are 4-0 SU/ATS vs Notre Dame in their most recent meetings. Heisman favorite QB CJ Stroud operates behind an elite offensive line, and the Buckeye's WRs and RBs rank best in the Big Ten. But PFF ranks the Fighting Irish offensive line as the 2nd best in the nation and its defensive line as the 10th best in the country. New Irish coach Marcus Freeman, a former Ohio State player, has a first time starter at quarterback in Tyler Buchner, who can really put pressure on a defense with his legs and his arm. Limit turnovers, and the Irish should hang tough enough to cash in. Over the last 30 years, only six times has there been a point spread of -14 or higher between top-5 teams and the favorite is 1-5 ATS. Alabama was the most recent three since 2018 and went 1-2 ATS, including an ATS loser versus Notre Dame in 2020. The Irish are 0-10 SU vs top-10 opponents on the road in their last 10 tries.
Lean: Notre Dame
The other Pac-12 / SEC match-up to draw more interest and live betting action is No. 7 Utah (-3) at Florida. The Utes are the Pac-12 South favorites with the conferences top ranked offensive and defensive lines. Utah has taken money with some -2.5 still available at select online sportsbooks. A win by the Gators in the Swamp would move them into the top-25, and they'll lean on the performance and NFL potential of QB Anthony Richardson to make plays with the Gators defense not yet up to par.
FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Read more great insights from FairwayJay and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay