College football picks for Week 1 from Matt Youmans

August 29, 2023 03:42 PM

College football picks for Week 1

It’s easy to see why Texas Tech has become a trendy preseason pick with several college football handicappers. Eleven offensive starters return for Joey McGuire, who upset Texas and Oklahoma en route to eight wins in his first year as coach of the Red Raiders.

Led by senior quarterback Tyler Shough, who’s a former Oregon transfer, running back Tahj Brooks and a line with a combined 142 career starts, Texas Tech will have one of the Big 12’s best offenses.

But it’s not always a good thing to be a trendy team, and it should not be easy for the Red Raiders to open the season on the road Saturday against Wyoming, which will have one of the Mountain West’s best defenses, and cover two touchdowns. Cowboys coach Craig Bohl has 10 starters returning from a defense that allowed 23.9 ppg.

It’s a mismatch when comparing the offenses. Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley is not the next Josh Allen, but three talented running backs and a big, physical line will help the Cowboys grind it out on the ground.

Bohl went 3-1 ATS as a home underdog last season, and in 2019 the Cowboys opened the season as 16-point home ’dogs to Missouri and pulled off a 37-31 win.

I’ll take 14.5 points with Wyoming — the best number is at Circa Sports — and 14 is available everywhere else in the market. It’s easy to sell me on a well-coached home ’dog with a veteran defense and strong running attack.

I’ll probably switch sides and get on Texas Tech next week when the Raiders are small home ’dogs against Oregon.

Pick: Wyoming +14.5.

A note for those who follow this column: A majority of my plays will be underdogs, so expect few favorites and even fewer totals, though I’m testing the waters with two totals this week.

My VSiN Pro plays for Week 0 went 2-1 ATS with winners on San Diego State (-1.5) and UMass (+8) and an ugly loser on Navy (+21). The record for this column starts at 0-0. I will always put in more VSiN Pro plays late in the week, but those plays will not be added to this regular Tuesday column.

Five more plays for Week 1 (home team in CAPS):

Kent State-CENTRAL FLORIDA (Under 56)

Zero starters return on offense and only four on defense for the Golden Flashes, who have a new coach and little hope. UCF opened as a 30.5-point favorite at DraftKings and the line is up to 37. With rain in the forecast for Orlando, it’s probably better to play the total and bet against an inexperienced Kent offense that will be led by Michael Alaimo, a Purdue transfer who has one career touchdown pass.

Stanford-HAWAII (Under 59.5)

Brayden Schager passed for 351 yards and three touchdowns in the Warriors’ 35-28 loss at Vanderbilt last week, but Hawaii was held to 14 points through three quarters and rushed for only 40 yards on 25 carries. New coach Troy Taylor does not have the quarterback or wideouts to run a quick-tempo offense at Stanford, so he’ll feed running back EJ Smith and try to eat clock and yards on the ground. It’s too late to jump on Hawaii, which opened as a 10-point home ’dog and is now getting 3.5, so bet on the Cardinal keeping this a low-scoring game.

COLORADO STATE (+12) over Washington State

In coach Jay Norvell’s second year, the Rams return 15 starters and appear much improved. Sophomore quarterback Clay Millen completed 72.2% of his passes in 10 starts last season and will get help from running backs Avery Morrow and Kobe Johnson, a North Dakota State transfer. Colorado State should not be outclassed in this matchup and probably has the better defense, and the Rams will need to be solid to contain Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward and running back Nakia Watson.

LSU (-2) over Florida State

In his coaching debut with the Tigers, Brian Kelly took a 24-23 loss to the Seminoles in New Orleans, so this is a payback game Sunday in Orlando. LSU has the talent to be a playoff contender and it starts with dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels, who accounted for 28 total touchdowns and threw three interceptions last season. Daniels will be more dangerous in his second year in Kelly’s offense and should make a few more plays than Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis.

SAN JOSE STATE (+17) over Oregon State

Clemson transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei makes his debut for the Beavers, who expect to showcase one of the Pac-12’s top offenses. The Spartans allowed 501 yards and 56 points in a loss at USC, which might have the nation’s top offense, and the experience of that game will benefit the home underdog on Sunday. Chevan Cordeiro passed for 198 yards, ran for 52 and totaled three touchdowns against the Trojans, so San Jose should score enough to cover a big number. Oregon State’s defense is down a notch after losing six starters.

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