College Football Week 1 Best Bets: Predictions for Thursday & Friday Games (8/31/23) to (9/1/23)

In this article, you’ll find College Football best bets for Week 1’s Thursday and Friday games. Best Bets include predictions for games such as NC State vs. Connecticut, Louisville vs. Georgia Tech, Central Michigan vs. Michigan State, and Kent State vs. UCF along.

Week 1 Thursday & Friday Best Bets

Week 1 of the college football season has arrived, and there are a handful of intriguing matchups taking place ahead of the weekend. Check out the Lineups YouTube channel for further coverage on all of these games and the entire Week 1 slate. Individuals can also find an in-depth breakdown of the high profile game between Florida and Utah on Thursday night.

NC State Wolfpack at Connecticut Huskies

Author: Jacob Wayne

In his first season as the head coach at UConn, Jim Mora led the Huskies to their first bowl game in seven seasons. It’s fair to say that they took advantage of a weak schedule as four of their six wins were against teams ranked 112th in Bill Connelly’s SP+ ratings. However, there’s reason to believe in further improvement for this team.

After losing starting quarterback Ta’Quan Robinson on the second drive of their opening game, UConn was forced into a very conservative offense with Zion Turner having a measley 7.3-yard average depth of target.

The quarterback position figures to be much improved now as Joe Fagano, a three-year starter for the FCS Maine Black Bears, won the starting role. Fagano follows former Maine head coach Nick Charlton, who is now the UConn offensive coordinator, and that familiarity with Charlton’s system should help ease his transition.

A matchup against NC State’s defense isn’t an ideal way to start Fagano’s season, as the Wolfpack ranked sixth in overall defensive success rate last season. However, they rank just 105th in defensive returning production per Action and lost key contributors such as sacks leader Drake Thomas and run stops leader Isaiah Moore.

NC State’s offense also lost quite a bit, including starting quarterback Devin Leary (Kentucky) and the top two pass catchers from last season. Head coach Dave Doeren turns the offense over to Robert Anae, who worked magic with new starting passer Brennan Armstrong in 2021 at Virginia.

Check out how Armstrong’s stats differed from 2021 to 2022:

  • 2021 with Anae: 64.7% completion, 8.8 YPA, 31 TDs, 10 INTs, 105.1 passer rating
  • 2022 without Anae: 53.8% completion, 6.6 YPA, 7 TDs, 12 INTs, 66.2 passer rating

I’m left with more questions than answers here. Was the 2021 season a mirage? Did a poor 2022 season damage Armstrong’s confidence? Can the Virginia magic be easily replicated in Raleigh? It won’t help that Anae and Armstrong are working with a very inexperienced pass-catching group.

UConn’s defense isn’t perfect, but they ranked 58th in EPA last year mostly by way of preventing big plays – the Huskies ranked 8th in overall explosive plays allowed. The Skis return 12 of 15 players who had 200+ snaps last year, and Mora will continue calling plays on that end.

NC State should come away with the win here, but with a spread over two touchdowns, there’s room for UConn to make things interesting. The Wolfpack also may keep some things close to the vest given they host Notre Dame next week, particularly with their new-look offense.

Best Bet: Connecticut +14.5 (play to +14)

Louisville Cardinals at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Author: Kody Malstrom

In most situations I avoid a quarterback change early in the year. They normally translate to a sluggish offensive start as quarterbacks need to get integrated with their new cast of weapons in real game scenarios.

Not in Louisville’s case as Jack Plummer should have no issue with integrating in his old head coaches system that he ran at Purdue. While Plummer has struggled with consistency, he at least brings a more stable passing presence that the Cardinals were missing when Malik Cunningham was under center.

Better yet, Louisville may not even need to implement their pass attack as they have a massive advantage in the ground game. While Georgia Tech managed to stop the pass at an average rate, they ranked near dead last in Def Rush Success Rate.

Even with Louisville replacing some of their core on the offensive line they should have no issues with generating a push back against a weak Yellow Jacket defensive line. This opens up holes for stud running back Jawhar Jordan, creating opportunistic chances for explosiveness as he can burn past the second level of Georgia Tech’s defense.

As for the defensive end, Louisville will have growing pains as they implement new pieces into their defense. Luckily for them, Georgia Tech serves as no threat on offense as they ranked near dead last in both Pass and Rush Success Rate.

Even with the arrival of failed Aggies quarterback Haynes King, the offense should fail to generate any sort of production. Their offensive line fails to negate any sort of pressure, forcing King into scrambling situations and throwing into dangerous situations.

You can still find the Cardinals as low as -7.5 as this number has slowly ticked up since the open. I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets as high as -9.5 as we near kick off.

Best Bet: Louisville -7.5

Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan State Spartans

The Michigan State football program is in a bit of disarray. After an 11-2 campaign in 2021, the Spartans forked over a 10-year, $95 million extension to head coach Mel Tucker and immediately tailspun to a 5-7 record. This offseason already promised turnover, but things got even worse when QB Payton Thorne and WR Keon Coleman transferred out after the spring game.

Noah Kim is expected to get the first crack at quarterback, but he has just 19 career pass attempts to his name since arriving in East Lansing in 2020. Four of the Spartans’ top five receivers in snaps from last season are no longer on the team, leaving barely any proven production in this team’s passing game.

Central Michigan’s defense relied on a lot of freshmen and sophomores – 11 of 18 players with 150+ snaps from last year – and were still 63rd in EPA per play allowed. Those players got plenty of experience last year, and while that came against MAC competition, this Michigan State offense isn’t too much of a leap up in competition.

The Chippewas could also boast a much improved passing game this season with the addition of quarterbacks coach Jake Kostner. Most recently, Kostner orchestrated an incredible offensive leap at Limestone University, improving the offense from 13.2 points per game to 34.8 in just one season.

In Mount Pleasant, he’ll be working with Bert Emanuel Jr., who ran for a whopping 293 yards in one game last year, and Jase Bauer, a dynamic runner in his own right. This matchup provides opportunities for both quarterbacks to take some shots downfield as Michigan State ranked 127th in passing success rate allowed last season and lost three of its top five starters in the secondary.

Central Michigan is a team I’m looking to back early this year as turnovers told a large part of the story in their failures last season. The Chippewas ranked 131st in turnover margin and 125th in fumble recovery rate. I’m expecting some positive regression in that department, and that starts here.

Jim McElwain has been a profitable head coach to back throughout his career, and according to Brett Gibbons of the Lines, he has an ATS win rate of 60%. I love this spot for him against a floundering Michigan State team I believe is still overvalued in the market.

Best Bet: Central Michigan +14.5 (play to +14)

Kent State Golden Flashes at UCF Knights

Author: Will Schwartz

Nobody lost more this offseason than Kent, between outgoing transfers and catastrophic coaching turnover. Gone is head coach Sean Lewis, who inherited a 2-10 Kent team, but in just two seasons, secured the program’s first-ever bowl win and ripped off three consecutive winning or .500 seasons, including a MAC East division title.

He turned everything around and pulled Kent football into probably its best era of all time with his “Flash Fast” offense that pushed pace and scoring into a stratosphere rarely seen in Northeastern Ohio, but now he’s taking his talents to Colorado to be Deion Sanders’s offensive coordinator, while his own coordinators at Kent have also moved on.

The roster turnover itself was brutal as well, as Kent lost effectively their entire offensive skill group to the transfer portal. Key guys took off for greener pastures, like starting QB Colin Schlee to UCLA, 1300-yard rusher Marquez Cooper, and a solid wideout room has broken up, with four-star transfers Devontez Walker and Dante Cephas headed to North Carolina and Penn State. Less-elite groups like the offensive line and secondary were decimated by the portal as well. If you look at the team’s depth chart on OurLads, not even the first string is filled out; there’s simply too much for the Flashes to figure out.

Screen Shot 2023 08 29 at 10.26.01 PM

This will be UCF’s first game as a Power Five team, although you could argue that the Knights have been acting like a major program for quite some time. With former National Champion head coach Gus Malzahn at the helm, they’ve reloaded again with the undefeated seasons, McKenzie Milton, and Scott Frost a distant memory. The Knights lost QB Dillon Gabriel to Oklahoma, but John Rhys Plumlee came in from Ole Miss and has not missed a beat; he’s back this year and will hope to replicate his successes in the Big 12.

UCF has cultivated a great home atmosphere at the so-called “bounce house,” which will be on fire for the team’s first game of a new era. It’s definitely a very different setting than most places Kent will play in their MAC schedule, and a daunting first test.This pick is mostly about Kent; they’re not an FBS-level team, and are fortunate to play a low-end FCS team in a couple of weeks so they can at least secure a single win.

The -36.5 line might be a product of the fact that even though we can see on paper how bad this team is, it’s hard to fathom just how brutal the on-field product will be until we see it. Any competent Power 5 program should be able to score at will, and keep Kent off of the scoreboard. The weather could be a factor with some potential for high winds in the area, but the Knights have every ability to pick up double-digit yardage per rush via Plumlee and halfback R.J. Harvey. This one should be a total laugher, even once the UCF second string gets in the game after halftime.

Best Bet: UCF -36.5 (play to 38.5)

CFFB Week 1 Thursday & Firday Slate Breakdown

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I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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