College football will waste no time in providing gamblers with a phenomenal lineup to kick off the season. It all begins with “Week Zero” on August 28 when the Fighting Illini of Illinois host the Nebraska Cornhuskers with a national telecast on FOX. What’s the big deal about that game? Nebraska remains a historic name-brand program that is desperate for a breakout season. Illinois will welcome native son Bret Bielema in his debut as the new head coach. Overall, there are strong matchups looking more appropriate for mid-November than opening day.
Nebraska -7 at Illinois, Aug 28, 1 p.m. ET, FOX
Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL
Nebraska coach Scott Frost enters his fourth season needing to move the needle. Fourth-year starting quarterback Adrian Martinez could spark that resurgence. Bret Bielema returns to the Big Ten as Illini coach. He had a highly successful run at Wisconsin but inherited an empty cupboard in Illinois.
Boise State at Central Florida -4, Sept 2, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bounce House, Orlando, FL
The Boise State Broncos and Central Florida Knights are two of the power programs from the Group of Five. Gus Malzahn makes his UCF coaching debut, as does Andy Avalos for Boise State. When all else is even, take the points.
Pick: Boise State
Ohio State -13.5 at Minnesota, Sept 2, 8 p.m. ET, FOX
TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Of course, powerhouse Ohio State is the class of the Big Ten. In comparison, Minnesota looks to row the boat back after being sunk by COVID-19 last year. In 2019 head coach PJ Fleck led Minnesota to their best season in 57 years. The number is big enough for the Gophers to be Golden.
Stanford -1.5 vs. Kansas State, Sept 4, Noon ET, FS1
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Stanford head coach David Shaw has vowed to go back to the future with the old Cardinal blueprint of brains and brawn that worked so successfully in the past. K-State is a big game hunter, as evidenced by wins over the Oklahoma Sooners the past two seasons. Injuries wiped out the Wildcats last year, setting up a market correction for 2021.
Pick: Kansas State
Penn State at Wisconsin -4, Sept 4, Noon ET, FOX
Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, WI
Camp Randall Stadium is one of the toughest venues in all of college football. But the Penn State Nittany Lions may be up to the task. PSU head coach James Franklin and the Nits are eager for a bounce-back campaign. This matchup of Big Ten powers should go down to the wire.
Pick: Penn State
Indiana at Iowa -5, Sept 4, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
Indiana is coming off their best season since 1967 and has most of their key players back. But Kinnick Stadium is as tough as it gets for a college football venue. In an even matchup, Indiana is the better value.
Georgia vs. Clemson -3.5, Sept 4, 7:30 p.m. ET
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
This is the marquee matchup of the first weekend and is a virtual national championship game. Georgia is touted as a power recruiter on the level of Alabama and Clemson. But the Tigers are the proven brand.
LSU -4.5 at UCLA, Sept 4, 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
LSU is coming off a tumultuous 2020 season after the Football Gods blessed them with a perfect 2019 national championship. LSU Head coach Ed Orgeron feels some heat but brings the typically loaded roster of an SEC power. UCLA head coach Chip Kelly is discovering a much different college football landscape than his days with Oregon. LSU’s depth should bring home the bacon.
Notre Dame -9.5 at Florida State, Sept 5, 7:30 p.m. ET
Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has finally cracked the code at South Bend and is maxing out a program that still emphasizes elite academics. Florida State head coach Mike Norvell is coming off a season from hell but will begin his second year with a roster comprised more of his kind of guys. Norvell was aggressive at raiding the transfer portal to jumpstart the Seminoles program. Notre Dame’s offense is in transition with a new quarterback.
Pick: Florida State
Check out all the Week 1 college football odds.