NCAAF

Beating The Spread: Picking the Top Matchups In College Football’s Week 1

*This is a new segment on Rotoden, which will run every week until the end of the season. This involves me picking the 10 best matchups for each week and predicting if each team covers, or fails to cover the projected spread.

The first full week of the 2018 college football season is upon us. With that in mind, here is a look at the dates and odds (courtesy of VegasInsider.com as of Aug. 31) for Week 1.

San Diego State Aztecs at No. 13 Stanford Cardinal (-14.5): The Aztecs held the Cardinal to 10 first downs and 254 total yards of offense in their 20-17 win last year. It’s hard to envision David Shaw losing to the same team in back-to-back seasons, especially when Stanford offers more firepower in the second go-around. The Cardinal’s trio of KJ Costello, Bryce Love, and J.J. Arcela-Whiteside will be too much for San Diego State to handle. Stanford wins but fails to cover the spread. 

Saturday, Sept. 1

No. 23 Texas Longhorns (-13.5) at Maryland Terrapins: It will be tough sledding out-of-the-gate for interim Maryland coach Matt Canada, as his Terrapins open up against a Longhorns squad that will be looking for payback after last year’s loss in Austin. Unfortunately for Maryland, Texas is simply the better team with 12 returning starters on both sides of the ball. Although Ty Johnson might break a few long runs to keep his team within striking distance, it won’t be enough in the end. Texas wins but fails to cover the spread. 

Washington State Cougars (-1) at Wyoming Cowboys: Leach has overcome a lot throughout his seven-year Washington State tenure. But this upcoming season might be his toughest one, yet. It’s not just the tragic passing of QB Tyler Halinski that rocked the Cougars this off-season, but also the graduation of their entire offensive and defensive lines. Leach’s bunch will be up against it in Week 1 against a more complete Wyoming Cowboys team, projected by some to field a top 10 defense in 2018. Washington State loses straight up. 

FAU Eagles at No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners (-21): Lane Kiffin pays a visit to Norman to face the Oklahoma Sooners in their first game post-Baker Mayfield. And while the Owls’ offense should put a scare into the Sooners’ shaky defense, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and running back, Rodney McAnderson will have big games. Oklahoma wins but fails to cover the spread. 

No. 6 Washington Huskies vs. No. 9 Auburn Tigers (-1.5): Two veteran quarterbacks, Washington’s Jake Browning and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, take center stage in a top-10 matchup which carries significant College Football Playoff ramifications early. On one hand, there’s Browning, Washington’s touchdown leader who enters the contest with a robust pedigree (back-to-back 10-win seasons including two major bowl appearances). And on the other, there’s Stidham, a seasoned veteran like Browning, but still has a lot to prove in the eyes of the national media.

Both teams also pose fantastic defensive units, but in different forms. The Huskies offer a stingy secondary, possibly the best in the nation. Whereas the Tigers feature a powerful defensive line, also labeled as the best in the country. No team that’s started the season 0-1 has made the playoffs, so in that vein, the loser of this matchup digs themselves a very deep hole to start. These types of matchups seem to be old-hat for Gus Malzahn. I’ll go with his experience over Chris Petersen’s. Auburn wins and covers the spread. 

Tennessee vs. No. 17 West Virginia Mountaineers (-10): It’s going to take time for new head coach Jeremy Pruitt to build Tennessee back-up to a respectable power. With that, the Volunteers’ Week 1 matchup against ranked West Virginia and projected NFL quarterback Will Grier will be too much for a young team to handle. West Virginia wins and covers the spread. 

No. 14 Michigan Wolverines at No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1): Jim Harbaugh enters a hot kitchen (i.e., his job security) that’s only going to become hotter with if he doesn’t deliver. Many people are anticipating him to lay another egg, but the reality is he’s got an excellent team back. Coordinator Don Brown’s dominant defense might swallow up Irish QB Brandon Wimbush, while Shea Patterson should help Michigan reach the end zone often. Notre Dame loses straight up. 

Louisville vs. No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (-24.5): Nick Saban has had months to decide who starts at quarterback, and even though it appears he’ll wait until the last possible second to make a decision, the Tide win this game, but not by the margin that many predict. Lousiville’s Bobby Petrino has had time to put together an offensive game plan for new QB Jawon Pass to give Alabama’s young defense some problems. Alabama wins but fails to cover the spread. 

Sunday, Sept. 2

No. 8 Miami Hurricanes (-3.5) vs. No. 25 LSU Tigers: Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow makes LSU a little more dynamic offensively. He may very well outplay his counterpart, Malik Rosier. However, Miami’s ground attack is stronger, and that should be the ultimate deciding factor in this defensive struggle. Miami wins but fails to cover the spread.  

Monday, Sept. 3

No. 20 Virginia Tech Hokies at. No. 19 Florida State Seminoles (-7.5): A lot of questions reside in this ACC crossover game. For Virginia Tech, it’s quarterback Josh Jackson. How much progress will he make in his second season running Justin Fuente’s offense?

And for Florida State, it’s Willie Taggart. The first-year Seminole head coach kicks off conference play with questions concerning his offensive line and quarterback – that is if Deondre Francois is fully healthy. Ultimately, though, Taggart’s all-worldly defense will be too much for Jackson and the Hokies young offense to overcome. Florida State wins but fails to cover the spread. 

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