College Football Week 1 Preview: Predictions and Odds
The first week of the college football season is always an interesting blend of potential blowouts and marquee games between big-time programs. More often than not, games land solidly in one bucket or the other, though there are usually a few conference matchups thrown in for good measure. No matter the matchups, there are always a ton of good games on tap for opening weekend. Here's your college football week 1 preview, including game odds and predictions for the most exciting matchups.
Utah at BYU (Utah -4.5)
Unless you're a Utah native, you may not fully appreciate the intensity of this rivalry. And this year will be the first time in nearly a century that The Holy War opens the season for both Utah and BYU. The Utes are among the favorites in the Pac-12, as they have an elite defense and an offense that’s brimming with potential, but the BYU defense is nearly as good, and sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson is a potential breakout star. While Utah has an eight-game winning streak in this rivalry, it won’t be easy to keep that streak alive on the road – they're likely to come out of it with a win, but some are betting on BYU to keep it close and beat the spread.
Auburn vs Oregon, Arlington, Texas (Auburn -3)
This game will be one of the more intriguing matchups of opening weekend, especially given that it’s on neutral ground at AT&T Stadium. Auburn vs. Oregon is a highly-anticipated rematch of the 2010 National Championship Game, which Auburn won behind Cam Newton... but a lot has changed for the Tigers since that game. Auburn is coming off a disappointing 8-5 season that has head coach Gus Malzahn in the hot seat, and they've yet to name a starting quarterback for the season opener.
Meanwhile, the Ducks return Justin Herbert – who could have been a top-10 NFL draft pick if he had left after last season – and they look better at the receiver position than they did a year ago, with talent returning in the backfield, as well. Auburn has a strong defense, but the smart money is betting on Oregon as the underdog.
Fresno State at USC (USC -13.5)
If you look at the names, this seems like a big brother vs little brother matchup. Don't be so sure, though – Fresno State is 22-6 over the last two seasons under Jeff Tedford, emerging as one of the top mid-major programs in the country. Meanwhile, USC went 5-7 and failed to reach a bowl game last year, putting Clay Helton squarely in the hot seat heading into 2019. To be fair, the Trojans were incredibly young last season and should be better with everyone having a year to develop, particularly quarterback JT Daniels.
On the other side, the Bulldogs have to replace 13 starters from last year’s team, including star quarterback Marcus McMaryion. Fresno State might have some growing pains early in the season, so most are betting on USC’s talent eventually helping the Trojans pull away and cover the spread.
Boise State vs Florida State, Jacksonville, Florida (Florida State -6.5)
Speaking of mid-major programs, Boise State is still among the best, and the Broncos will open their season by heading to the Sunshine State for a “neutral site” game with Florida State in Jacksonville. The Seminoles, of course, have a lot to prove after going 5-7 in Willie Taggart’s first season at the helm. Without any preseason games, it’ll be hard to know how far the Seminoles have come since last season given their issues, specifically on the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball.
Meanwhile, Boise State keeps plugging along, winning at least 10 games in four of five seasons since Bryan Harsin took over. Of course, they have to replace quarterback Brett Rypien, who was a four-year starter. The good news is that the Broncos have a lot coming back on defense, which could be important if the FSU offensive line hasn’t improved since last season. Winning will be tough, but look for Boise State to do enough to beat the 6.5-point spread against Florida State.
Northwestern at Stanford (Stanford -6.5)
No, this isn't an academic decathlon, it’s a football game between two elite universities that aren’t too bad on the football field. Stanford has some work to do after a disappointing season in 2018 – they weren’t able to dominate teams physically and no longer have Bryce Love in the backfield. However, quarterback K.J. Costello played well late in the season, so the Stanford offense should be able to move the ball, even if they can’t re-establish their dominant rushing attack.
As for Northwestern, they’ll be replacing four-year starter Clayton Thorson at quarterback, but they have Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson, who sat out last season and should be ready to lead the offense. Talent-wise, Johnson is an upgrade over Thorson, which could be a problem for a Stanford defense that has some holes. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are looking strong on defense heading into the season, which should keep them in the game, even if Hunter struggles in his Northwestern debut. The road team may be the better team in this game, so fans are betting on Northwestern to at least beat the spread, if not win outright.
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