The first week of the 2021 college football season is upon us. A tremendous slate of games commences today highlighted by several ranked matchups.
#5 Georgia (+3) vs. #3 Clemson (Charlotte)
One of the biggest games of the year is the crown jewel of today’s slate. Clemson loses #1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence, first round RB Travis Etienne, as well as several other key starters. But, great programs don’t rebuild they reload. QB DJ Uiagalelei is a stud and was solid in relief of Lawrence last year (see Notre Dame game). He is a load (6’4”, 250 lbs) and will be a great challenge for Georgia’s talented defense.
Georgia QB JT Daniels has a lot to prove. He was mediocre at USC but has a lot of talent and a slew of options at UGA to help him succeed. Clemson’s defense will be a difficult test, especially with DT Bryan Bresee at full strength.
I have gone back and forth with this pick and normally I would choose the team with a little more to prove (Georgia), but in this case, I think the reloaded Clemson Tigers get it done in a classic.
Final Score: Clemson 27, Georgia 23
#1 Alabama (-19.5) vs. #14 Miami (Fl.) (Atlanta)
Alabama is routinely in a ranked matchup to begin the season at a neutral site and this year is no exception. They are also routinely difficult to beat having never lost a game like this under Nick Saban. Of course, they will need to replace a stud QB, but again this is something they are used to,
QB Bryce Young is a dual-threat phenom that is next in the long line of high end Alabama signal callers. He has limited experience but a ton of talent. I think he will be elite from the get-go.
This game is essentially going to come down to whether or not Miami is up to the task. QB D’Eriq King is also a dual-threat maven having put up video game numbers while at Houston. His effort will be the difference in whether or not Miami covers this large number.
Final Score: Alabama 38, Miami 20
#19 Penn State (+5.5) @ #12 Wisconsin
This game should be a real slobberknocker. Two physical squads with Big 10 title hopes (especially after OSU looked mortal on Thursday night) should provide us with an exciting game.
Wisconsin has lost 4 straight to Penn State, and while being a favorite in this spot, they don’t project as a much better team than the Nittany Lions.
QB Graham Mertz had an up and down season last year in relief of the injured (and new Notre Dame QB) Jack Coan. He had a monster game against Illinois (20-21, 5td), but was substandard the rest of the year. His development in the spring could be the difference in whether or not Wisconsin is able to jump into the top 5 in 2021.
On the other side, Penn State QB Sean Clifford has also been up and down. He went back and forth with former PSU QB Will Levis who has now departed. The job is Clifford’s but will he rise to the occasion. We shall see.
With a win here, Penn State is in a great spot to get into the top 7-8 by Mid October. They don’t play a road game after this until Oct. 9 @ Iowa.
Final Score: Wisconsin 27, Penn State 20
#2 Oklahoma vs. Tulane. This game got moved to Norman and while I don’t have a play, I am excited to watch Sooner QB Spencer Rattler
#11 Oregon (-20) vs. Fresno State:
Fresno State is coming off a massive 45-0 win against Uconn. Can they keep the momentum in a possible lookahead spot for Oregon? I think so.
I’m no picking FSU to win, but with a game @Ohio State coming next week for Oregon, I think this is a very tough spot for them to cover almost 3 td’s. I’m not thinking too hard on this one and taking the Bulldogs and the points.
Final Score: Oregon 35, Fresno State 27
#8 Cincinnati (-22.5) vs. Miami (Oh)
Cincinnati begins the year in the top 10 and stands as a large favorite in their first game against an in-state rival. Not thinking too hard on this one, as the Bearcats are just too good.
Final Score: Cincinnati 38-10
#17 Indiana @ #18 Iowa (-3.5):
Yet another physical Big 10 battle. I envision the Hawkeyes (notoriously tough to beat in Iowa City) to win a close game. Indiana is a really quality team, but this is a very tough spot for them.
Final Score: Iowa 24, Indiana 19
#16 LSU (-3.5) @ UCLA:
LSU was very underwhelming last season (5-5) after a 2019 National Championship. Coach Ed Orgeron has always been a little suspect outside of the title run and this year presents a real challenge against a formidable UCLA offense.
Last week, RB Zack Charbonnet racked up 106 yds and three td’s on only 6 carries (!) I think Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense, mixed with LSU attempting to find an identity in a recipe for success for the Bruins. The wrong team is favored here and I will happily take the Bruins and a field goal in a game I think they win outright.
Final Score: UCLA 34 LSU 30
#20 Washington (-22.5) vs. Montana: No real play here, but I think Washington wins handily.
Northern Iowa (+31.5) @ #7 Iowa State: This game will come down to one thing. As a massive favorite, will Iowa State take this game seriously or not. A showdown with #18 Iowa looms and call me crazy, but while Matt Campbell is a tremendous coach, he does better as an underdog than a favorite. Give me the points and the Panthers and sprinkle a little on the moneyline as well. Could be a shocker.
#23 Louisiana (+9) @ #21 Texas: This is Texas Coach Steve Sarkisian’s first game at the helm and it is a doozy. The Rajin Cajuns are a very good team and I think there is a good chance they spoil Sarkisian’s inauguration. With 20 starters back and no other nationally relevant game (perhaps a Nov 20 date at Liberty), this is Billy Napier’s best chance to make a splash.
Final Score: Louisiana 30, Texas 27
San Jose State (+14) @ #15 USC: San Jose State beat Southern Utah by more than #25 Arizona State did so they are a legitimate team. I am intrigued to see how USC comes out with 5 conference games in a row after this game. I think they will win and win handily against a solid Spartan squad.
Final Score: USC 38, San Jose 21
Florida Atlantic (+23) @ #13 Florida: I think Florida may be a little overrated but they should crush here. No real play.
Kent State (+29.5) @ #6 Texas A&M: Texas A&M gets a very sneaky Kent State team with too many points in my opinion. I think this is a high scoring game and RB Isaiah Spiller dominates, but too many points.
Final Score: Texas A&M 45, Kent State 24
Other Interesting Games:
Stanford @ Kansas State (-3): Stanford is a bit overrated in my opinion, and this is a tough place to play. Give me Kansas State by 10.
West Virginia @ Maryland (+3): The wrong team is favored here. Give me the Terps to win straight up (homer pick lol).
Texas Tech @ Houston (+1.5). Really even matchup, no pick but it will be entertaining.
UTSA (+4) @ Illinois: Illinois expended a TON of energy in their win over Nebraska last week. Nebraska also made them look better than they are. Utsa is a solid team and I’ll speculate on the roadrunners plus 4 and also on the moneyline