Week 1 college football picks and predictions from Adam Burke

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com Managing Editor) 

August 31, 2023 05:31 PM

Week 1 best bets for USF vs. WKU, UTSA vs. Houston, Northwestern vs. Rutgers

Just like last week, the lines for these games have been up for a long period of time. However, the one major difference is that we have a whole lot more games to pick from after only having seven choices in Week 0. The betting board has been lighting up pretty regularly as influential bettors have their say and move the lines around with increased limits and more certainty about injuries and other position battles.

Week 0 started out with a real bang for me, as Louisiana Tech more than doubled FIU in yards, allowed a total of FOUR PASSING YARDS, and never came remotely close to covering. So, it’s an 0-1 start for me as we look at Week 1.

Be sure to check out my College Football Power Ratings update each week on Sundays. I also wrote about the Friday games for this week.

College Football Odds | College Football Betting Splits

Here are my favorite picks for Week 1:

(odds as of August 31, 3:30 p.m. PT)

South Florida Bulls at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (-11.5, 70.5)

The biggest overlay I have this week in my Power Ratings is the game between South Florida and Western Kentucky. The Bulls should be better as the season goes along, as rookie head coach Alex Golesh takes over following a three-year stint as Josh Heupel’s right-hand man at both UCF and Tennessee. He’ll want to play with some tempo, but he has not officially named a starting quarterback. When “OR” is listed four times at the most important position on the field, that seems like a concern.

Western Kentucky has no question about who will be behind center. Austin Reed threw for over 4,700 yards and racked up 40 touchdown passes. He must have gotten some kind of NIL bag to not transfer to a bigger school, but he and No. 1 WR Malachi Corley are ready to make magic in Bowling Green once again. Corley caught 101 balls last season and had 11 touchdown grabs. Not bad against a USF defense that allowed over 41 points per game last season.

But, as great as the WKU offense was, this was also a defense that allowed just 23.4 points per game and 5.2 yards per play. South Florida’s offense wasn’t bad, but this is a new scheme and mistakes will happen early in the season. The problem is that they are likely to happen at a fast pace. That would give the ball back to Hilltoppers with a good chance to cover this number. My line is -17 and I think WKU starts on a high note.

Pick: Western Kentucky -11.5

UTSA Roadrunners (-1.5, 60) at Houston Cougars

The irony of this game is that UTSA is now a member of the AAC, while Houston, who was in the AAC, is now a member of the Big 12. What is also interesting is that Houston was -3.5 in this game at the Alamodome last season and won 37-35 in triple overtime. UTSA had a solid yardage edge, with over six yards per play to Houston’s 4.6 YPP.

With Clayton Tune now an Arizona Cardinal, Houston turns to Texas Tech transfer Donovan Smith at QB. Tune was not only the leading passer with 4,074 yards and 40 TD tosses, but he was the leading rusher as well. Smith is a big dude, but never really ran much at Texas Tech, so we’ll see how the Houston offense fares without that element.

Meanwhile, UTSA turns to Frank Harris, who is plenty experienced, and an offense that has a lot more returning production. UTSA also has the better defense between these two units, especially as Houston replaces last season’s top five tacklers and over half of last season’s sacks. My line is -3 on this one and I agree with the summer move that made the Roadrunners a road favorite.

Pick: UTSA -1.5

Northwestern Wildcats at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-6.5, 39.5)

This game is pretty ugly at first glance and there are a lot of issues surrounding the Northwestern program. But, let’s just look at the game itself here. We’ve got almost a touchdown underdog with a low-scoring expectation of 39.5 points, so the team totals for the team are roughly around 23-16.

Rutgers averaged 17.4 points per game last season and scored 12 points per game against Big Ten foes. The offense doesn’t really appear to be any better on paper this season, as both QBs that had negative TD/INT ratios are back in Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon. At least Northwestern has a very experienced QB in Ben Bryant, who is starting his sixth season of college football and has a 37/17 TD/INT ratio across 829 pass attempts.

Northwestern only scored 13.8 points per game themselves and 12 PPG in conference action, but Bryant is an upgrade. Brendan Sullivan and Jack Lausch could also play, but the onus will be on taking care of the football. New head coach David Braun got thrust into the head coach role after Pat Fitzgerald’s dismissal, but he was the defensive coordinator at North Dakota State, so I’m not worried there.

This looks like a rock fight of a game with minimal points and minimal scoring chances. I trust Northwestern to take care of the ball enough to keep it close and I like getting a 6.5-point head start.

Pick: Northwestern +6.5

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