College football situational betting spots for Week 1

By Adam Burke  ( 


​We got a nice, little appetizer in Week 0 with 18 FBS teams in action, but we’ve got some bigger games and a whole lot more of them in Week 1. Early-season matchups are interesting across the board for a variety of reasons, including a lot of matchups between teams that never really play each other. Bigger games on the horizon may cause coaches to go into a shell a little bit, while other times one team just looks a lot more prepared than another.

As I mentioned last week, a certain situation should never be the sole justification for making a bet. It’s just another part of the handicap and something to consider. We’ve got a lot of intriguing spots this week, so let’s survey the card and see what stands out.

Virginia Tech Hokies (-8.5, 49.5) at Old Dominion Monarchs, Friday

I will always be intrigued by “Little Brother vs. Big Brother” games in non-conference. That’s especially true when Big Brother is willing to travel. The Hokies head from Blacksburg to Norfolk, a spot where the Monarchs won 49-35 back in 2018. Virginia Tech has held serve in both games at home (2017, 2019). The Hokies are in a state of flux with a new head coach in Brent Pry, while Old Dominion was one of the most improved teams in the country last season after missing all of 2020 due to COVID. This will be a fascinating game and one where I kind of like Little Brother.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Indiana Hoosiers (-3, 46.5), Friday

Illinois was one of the 18 teams that played last week and, arguably, the most impressive. The Illini thoroughly dominated Wyoming, covering easily as a two-touchdown favorite. The lookahead line here was 3.5 or 4 and now we see 3 painted across the board. Illinois has a game under its belt. Indiana does not and has a new starting quarterback to go along with a lot of other changes after finishing last season with eight straight losses. It smells fishy that Illinois is still getting a field goal here, but the spot sure seems to help them with those first-game jitters gone.

Utah Utes (-3, 51) at Florida Gators, Saturday

An obvious situational spot here, as the Utes take the long trek to Gainesville to take on the Gators. The weather conditions on Saturday look very muggy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms and temperatures in the mid-80s for the 7 p.m. ET kickoff. Playing in humid weather is a dramatic change from what takes place in Salt Lake City, so there will definitely be some second-half concerns about Kyle Whittingham’s team. BYU (-12, 58) is in a similar spot playing USF in Tampa.

Georgia State Panthers at South Carolina Gamecocks (-12.5, 57), Saturday

Sometimes players will give just a little more effort for the head coach when a game means a lot to him. This game means a lot to Panthers HC Shawn Elliott. The Camden, S.C., native actually played his college ball at App State, but was on the South Carolina coaching staff from 2010-16, including a six-game stint as the interim head coach in 2015. This will be Georgia State’s first-ever trip to Williams-Brice Stadium, a place Elliott has to hold near and dear.

Memphis Tigers at Mississippi State Bulldogs (-15, 56), Saturday

Memphis won 31-29 last season, but the final score only tells part of the story. The Bulldogs ran 83 plays to just 53 for Memphis and outgained the Tigers by 222 yards. Mississippi State had 26 first downs to 12 for  the Tigers and had the ball for more than 40 minutes. Memphis had a fumble return for a touchdown and a 94-yard punt return touchdown on a kick that looked like it was downed by Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are out for revenge here and the line move from -12 to -15 suggests that they will get it.

Florida State Seminoles vs. LSU Tigers (-3, 51.5), Sunday

There is a lot going on here for Sunday’s game. First of all, it’s a college football game on a Sunday, which is unique. It will also be Brian Kelly’s LSU debut in what is technically considered a neutral-site game, but New Orleans is only 80 minutes from Baton Rouge. That said, a little trip to NOLA on a holiday weekend isn’t a big lift for those from Tallahassee that want to make the trek. It will still be a pro-Tigers crowd in what will be a good measuring stick game for both teams. Debuts of new head coaches are always tricky spots to try and figure out and I’ll be curious to see how Kelly fares in this one.

Bonus Spot: South Dakota State Jackrabbits at Iowa Hawkeyes: We don’t have FBS vs. FCS lines widely available yet, but this is a really intriguing game. South Dakota State is a really good FCS program. The Jackrabbits lost in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs last season and lost by two in the National Championship in 2020 to Sam Houston State. Iowa plays Iowa State next week in the annual CyHawk Trophy rivalry game. Kirk Ferentz is a very good head coach, but will he keep his team focused enough here to get the job done by enough margin to cover? SDSU is better than most Group of Five teams, so this could end up being a dangerous game.

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