College football Week 1 picks from Steve Makinen

August 31, 2023 03:41 PM

Steve Makinen is our main numbers guy here at VSiN and his weekly best bets are a “greatest hits” compilation of system matches, betting trends analysis, and his proprietary power ratings, which can only be found right here at Follow up with Steve’s weekly content, which is linked in the explanations for his picks.

College Football Odds | College Football Betting Splits | College Football Power Ratings

(odds as of August 31, 12:45 p.m. PT)

Stanford at Hawaii 

Hawaii will have the luxury of having a game under its belt already when it hosts Stanford on Friday evening. The Warriors opened their season at Vanderbilt in a very competitive loss so will not only have a game’s worth of experience to their advantage, but they'll have a massive stability edge as well, as Stanford is one of the three teams beginning 2023 with a ZERO stability score.

While things aren’t supposed to be a whole lot better for head coach Timmy Chang’s second-year team at his alma mater, at least he has a season’s worth of his systems in place as well as 14 returning starters. For the Cardinal, there are just six total starters back for first-time Head Coach Troy Taylor, and while this is a hire that most experts are smiling upon long term, the immediate future is bleak for a program that hasn’t won more than four games in a season since 2018. Considering the Warriors kept it within seven against a better Vanderbilt team, and seem to have something more to play for this season after the Maui tragedy, look for them to challenge Stanford seriously here.

Play: Hawaii +3

Arkansas State at Oklahoma  

Oklahoma was on the opposite end of the stability spectrum last season, as head coach Brent Venables and a new coaching staff were welcomed in, as was transfer QB Dillon Gabriel from UCF. I projected OU to struggle for that exact reason, and it did, 6-7. For 2023, in the second year of the new-look Sooners, the prospects look a lot brighter, and this powerhouse program should be in the running for at least the Big 12 title. Their first opponent is an Arkansas State club that was just 3-9 last season for head coach Butch Jones and brings back just half of its starters for ’23. Quarterback James Blackman is not one of them either, and he was a big reason the Red Wolves put up 25 PPG. This new-look offense will have a heck of a time keeping up with Oklahoma here. The Sooners love pouring it on at home. I expect them in the 50s.

Play: Oklahoma -36

Northern Illinois at Boston College    

On the surface, most bettors would feel a lot of apprehension about betting a MAC team in a season-opening road game at an ACC foe. Well understood. However, if you look under the hood at this particular matchup, it looks a little more favorable for the little guy. NIU was just 3-9 last season but suffered through a number of key injuries. The Huskies were much better with QB Rocky Lombardi under center. He is back for 2023 along with 14 other starters. BC shared that same 3-9 record and scored just 17.8 PPG last season. The Golden Eagles are also replacing starting QB Phil Jurkovec, who has moved on to Pitt. With an offense that already struggled with a highly competent QB last year, getting going this year will be no easy task. Expect NIU to hang around.

Play: Northern Illinois +8.5

Old Dominion at Virginia Tech

The 2019 season was the last one in which Virginia Tech finished with a winning record. Second-year head coach Brent Pry hopes that this is the year it turns around for the Hokies. If so, they need to get out to a big performance in this season opener versus Old Dominion and build some momentum. Pry has named returning starter QB Grant Wells as this season's #1, but Wells and 16 other returning offensive starters need to improve on a 19.3 PPG performance in ’22. Old Dominion was just 3-9 in ’22 despite a strong performance from QB Hayden Wolff. Unfortunately, Wolff left via the transfer portal, and only seven total starters are back for this fall. Could be a rough opening part of the season for fourth-year head coach Ricky Rahne. I’m not sure what the Monarchs are capable of producing early without Wolff. This could be a hidden rout.

Play: Virginia Tech -16

Utah State at Iowa

I don’t disagree with you if you are looking at this matchup between Utah State and Iowa and wondering just how the Hawkeyes can put up enough points to cover a 23.5-point chalk line. Before you get too cute about it though, recall that Iowa shut out Nevada at home last season, 27-0, and in all, allowed a total of 13 points in four conference games. The better question you might want to ask yourself is how many points this Aggies team actually expects to get in Iowa City. They averaged just 22 PPG against far weaker defenses last year and only have four starters back on that side of the ball this fall. Iowa’s offense should be improved from last year, and they start proving it on Saturday.

Play: Iowa -23.5

New Mexico at Texas A&M

It’s been said that head coach Jimbo Fisher is on the hot seat at Texas A&M, and to get off of it, his Aggies are going to have to enjoy a big year in 2023. The talent, coaching staff, and returning experience are in place to do just that. They need to get off to a big start versus New Mexico, and according to the odds (-38), they are expected to. The Lobos have just nine starters back for fourth-year head coach Danny Gonzales, including only two on defense, which was their far better unit last season. UAB transfer QB Dylan Hopkins steps in as the new starter, but he is also new to UNM. If that weren’t enough, huge favorites (-37.5 points or more) have been automatic in the opening week(s) of college football since 2013, going 11-0 SU and ATS! Aggies lay the hammer and get off to a big start.

Play: Texas A&M -38

Texas Tech at Wyoming

Oregon State at San Jose State

I am including both of these games on my first week best bets in the same writeup because in general, I have the same logic for both of them.  First off, these are both heavily favored road favorites on the DraftKings Betting Splits, and my system #3 says: When the majority of the handle was on road favorites for an ATS wager, this majority group was just 58-85 ATS (40.6%). More recreational bettors love road favorites because they are usually the better team. The point spread is the great equalizer.

Second, there has been a massive swing in expectation to win and/or cover when Group of 5 teams square off with Power Five teams in Weeks 0/1 over the last decade. As hosts, the Group of Five teams have gone 27-15 ATS (64.3%). They welcome the opportunity to host these bigger-name schools in early-season action. Both Wyoming and San Jose State are capable programs too, not pushovers. SJSU proved it by putting up 28 on USC last week. My power ratings in the Texas Tech game say the game is overpriced by 1.5 points as well. The Red Raiders and Beavers are both aspiring teams, neither has proved that much yet, however.

Play: Wyoming +14

Play: San Jose State +16.5

For more system matches and key trends, check out the Week 1 College Football Analytics Report.

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