College football predictions Week 1 from Wes Reynolds

August 31, 2023 11:00 PM

College football expert betting picks for Week 1

Wes Reynolds is on VSiN Tonight (9 p.m.-12 a.m. ET / 6-9 p.m. PT) and will be posting his weekly college football and NFL best bets for us. He is also one of the hosts of our Long Shots golf betting podcast. He also writes weekly golf previews 

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(odds as of August 31, 2:15 p.m. PT)

Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan State Spartans (-14. 45.5)

Matchup Analysis

Two years ago off an 11-2 season, Michigan State and head coach Mel Tucker agreed to a 10-year, $95 million contract extension. Last season, the Spartans went 5-7 and failed to reach a bowl game. After one season post-extension, it is premature to say that Tucker is on the hot seat. Nevertheless, the Spartans were a major disappointment in 2022.

Injuries, suspensions, and transfers helped lead Michigan State to rank 101st in FBS for total defense. 27 players earned starts for the Spartans defense last season. 

Offensively, Michigan State ranks 111th (per ESPN's Bill Connelly) is Returning Production with QB Payton Thorne (Auburn) and leading WR Keon Coleman (Florida State) hitting the transfer portal after spring practice. Tucker has not named a starter at quarterback, so it could be likely that junior Noah Kim and redshirt freshman Katin Houser both see action early in the season.

Jim McElwain and Central Michigan dipped to 4-8 last season courtesy of losing both starting tackles to the NFL and learning a new offensive system under first-year offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. The group was also buried by injuries.

This season, the Chippewas are likely to use two quarterbacks with Jase Bauer and Bert Emanuel Jr., who is a dynamic runner.

Aside from injuries, Central Michigan went 4-8 largely to ranking dead last in FBS for turnover margin (-18). In 2023, there should be more continuity on offense with Petrino's scheme and nine starters returning on defense should bring some positive regression with the turnovers.

CMU is 10-5 ATS in its last 15 vs. the Big Ten and are 11-3 ATS in their last 14 road openers including a cover at Missouri in 2021 and covering last year at Oklahoma State.

With the under moving downwards six points from the opener, there is a bit of value taking the two touchdowns here with the Chippewas traveling 60 miles south on US 27 to East Lansing and the smaller in-state school with that extra bit of motivation against "big brother".

Pick: Central Michigan +14

South Alabama Jaguars at Tulane Green Wave (-6.5, 52)

Matchup Analysis

Tulane's 2022 season wins total was 6. The Green Wave greatly exceeded expectations and ended the season with a 12-2 record, a Top 10 national ranking (No. 9), and a comeback win over USC and Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams in the Cotton Bowl (46-45). Tulane had just a 0.2% probability to win that game having trailed by 15 points with 4:30 left.

Now Tulane has to deal with a different level of expectations being the favorite to win the AAC. Willie Fritz and the Green Wave also may find out that success can come at a cost as nine players left for this past year's NFL Draft. They also have to replace both coordinators.

The cupboard is not barren at Tulane with QB Michael Pratt and C Sincere Haynesworth, an Outland Trophy candidate, along with eight defensive starters. However, they are now in the position of being the hunted this season instead of being the hunter.

Meanwhile, South Alabama had its best season since transitioning to FBS in 2012. Kane Wommack's Jaguars went 10-3 and nearly pulled off an upset at UCLA. His club returns 18 starters (9 offense, 9 defense) including QB Carter Bradley (3,343 yards with a 28/12 TD/INT ratio). 16 "super seniors" (sixth-year players) are back from a team that improved its offense by 11 points and 65 yards per game, and its defense by 5 points and 104 yards per game over the past two seasons.

Tulane has the biggest game in the short history of Yulman Stadium (opened in 2014) with Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss coming to campus next weekend. South Alabama is a hungry bunch looking for a signature victory over a ranked program.

Bet: South Alabama +6.5 (bet to 6)

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at UCLA Bruins (-14.5, 66.5)

Matchup Analysis

When Jamey Chadwell left to take the Liberty job, it looked like three-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Grayson McCall was heading off to another school or to the NFL. He entered the transfer portal in December only to return to Coastal in January. McCall has some help at receiver with All-Sun Belt wideout Jared Brown and Georgia State transfer Sam Pinckney.

New Coastal head coach Tim Beck has had offensive coordinator/QB coach stops at Nebraska, Ohio State, Texas, and most recently at NC State. He brings in Travis Trickett as offensive coordinator who has held that same role at Samford, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, and most recently South Florida. Craig Naivar was on the Texas staff with Beck several years ago and takes over as defensive coordinator having been most recently at SMU as the special teams and safeties coach.

Meanwhile, UCLA looks to replace Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who started 48 of his 50 games at QB. Ethan Garbers will get the start, but Kent State transfer Collin Schlee and highly touted freshman Dante Moore will also play in the opener. Garbers has the most experience in Chip Kelly's system, but Schlee ran an uptempo offense of his own at Kent, and Moore is the second-highest-rated recruit in program history. This is a lot for Coastal to prepare for defensively.

The quarterbacks should get help from Ball State transfer RB Carson Steele, who ran for 1,556 yards and 14 touchdowns.

D'Anton Lynn takes over as defensive coordinator having most recently spent time on one of the better defensive staffs in football with the Baltimore Ravens, who had both current defensive coordinator Mike McDonald and Jesse Minter elevate Michigan into one of the better defenses in college football. Lynn also inherits nine returning starters.

Last year, UCLA got a major scare from a Sun Belt team with South Alabama. This time around, don't expect the Bruins to take another Sun Belt team lightly.

Bet: UCLA -14.5 (to -16.5)

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