College Football Week 1 Best Bets: Predictions for TCU vs Colorado, Michigan vs East Carolina & More
Week 1 of the college football season has finally arrived, and the Lineups crew has you covered with both written and video content covering predictions for all of the top games. Check out the Lineups YouTube channel for discussion of best bets for the Saturday slate as well as individual game previews for LSU vs. Florida State and Clemson vs. Duke.
College Football Week 1 Best Bets
Week 0 was a struggle for our crew as we went 0-4 on our best bets article, but we’re off to a much better start to Week 1 and we have a long season ahead of us. In this article, we’ll provide best bets for some of the most intriguing games of Week 1 including Colorado vs. TCU, East Carolina vs. Michigan, and North Carolina vs. South Carolina.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 1-3 (-1.7 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 1-1 (-0.1 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 0-1 (-1.1 units)
Best Bet 1: Colorado Buffaloes at TCU Horned Frogs
Author: Jacob Wayne
Much has changed in Fort Worth since TCU’s loss in the national championship just under eight months ago. The Horned Frogs lost a lot of last season’s offensive production, including quarterback Max Duggan, running back Kendre Miller, and wide receivers Quentin Johnston, Taye Barber, and Derius Davis, all of whom are off to the NFL.
Offensive coordinator Garrett Riley also headed east to Clemson with former Arkansas OC Kendal Briles taking over play calling duties. There’s still plenty of talent on offense for the Horned Frogs, including quarterback Chandler Morris who actually won the starting job last year over Duggan before getting injured in the opening game.
Morris is joined by some high-upside transfer talent including wide receivers Warren Thompson (Florida State),JP Richardson (Oklahoma State), and JoJo Earle (Alabama). Running back Trey Sanders (Alabama) also joins a backfield that returns Emani Bailey, who ran for 8.1 YPC last year on limited touches.
More of Emani Bailey, please, TCU.
Oh my goodness! pic.twitter.com/FOygpO8WxZ
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 29, 2022
Kendal Briles is probably a downgrade from Riley, but he’ll make up for any decreases in efficiency with an increased pace. Briles’s Arkansas offense averaged 23.1 seconds per play last season, which ranked 18th in the FBS. Expect an RPO-heavy spread offense that operates at a high tempo.
The Deion Sanders era in Colorado kicks off with a whopping 51 total transfers added to the roster. While the defense will likely take some time to come together, the offense should produce right away. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, Deion’s son, is a sizzle reel king with impressive playmaking ability outside the pocket. He threw for 40 touchdowns last season and added 373 rushing yards.
Shedeur sanders runs it in for a touchdown! Jackson state up 21-17 pic.twitter.com/j97v413Atn
— Shannonnn sharpes Burner (PARODY Account) (@shannonsharpeee) December 17, 2022
Sean Lewis, Colorado’s new offensive coordinator, orchestrated some very productive offenses at Kent State where he ran his patented “Flash Fast” offense. The Golden Flashes averaged 20.7 seconds per play last season, which ranked sixth in the country. Lewis has said he will be bringing the same scheme to Boulder this fall.
The Buffs added some intriguing offensive talent to support Sanders. Wide receivers Jimmy Horn Jr. and Xavier Weaver come over from South Florida where they both averaged over 2 yards per route run last season. TCU’s defense ranked 125th in explosive passing allowed last season, so these receivers should have opportunities for big plays.
Both teams come into this game with something to prove. Sonny Dykes’s TCU is hungry to put their embarrassing 65-7 loss to Georgia in the national championship in the rearview mirror while Sanders has a lot of talking to back up this season. Don’t expect either coach to take their foot off the gas in this game, especially since both offensive coordinators ranked top 25 in plays per game at their previous stops.
65 is a very key number for totals in college football, and I’d bet this over up to that number. If the number breaks through that key threshold of 65, I’d look to play a TCU team total over as I expect them to have plenty of offensive success against this mash unit defense for Colorado.
Best Bet: over 63 points (play to 65)
Best Bet 2: East Carolina Pirates vs. Michigan Wolverines
Author: Will Schwartz
Michigan had one of their best seasons in recent memory last year, as they finally strung everything together and won all of their rivalry games in the same campaign- in fact, they won every game in regular season play, before falling to TCU in a CFP semifinal upset.
This team was different from those in seasons past due in large part to the offense; we’ve seen a good handful of elite Michigan defenses, but few were paired with a unit that could score at an elite level. In fact, you could even say the offense was the stronger unit, at least when it mattered most; they hung 45 points against Ohio State, 43 in the Big Ten Championship Game, and 45 against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, a contest in which the defense allowed 51.
The Wolverines averaged over 40 points per game last season, and they did it with a style that lends itself to early-season dominance in non-conference “warmup” games, like this one against ECU. They ran for nearly 240 yards per game at an average of 5.6 per carry, as they were led by the superstar running back duo of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, who averaged 5.9 and 7.1 yards per carry, respectively. Big programs like to keep it simple in these early clashes; run downhill and control the ball. Michigan’s offense will be able to do just that against ECU, and likely score efficiently on nearly every single drive.
They’ll be squaring off against an ECU defense that ranked outside of PFF’s top 100 last year, and has to replace some serious pieces, including run-stopping linebacker duo Chance Bates and Xavier Smith. Conversely, all of the talk about last year would have been moot if Michigan were in the same place, but they’re not; almost the entire offensive line is coming back, as are Corum, Edwards, and dual-threat QB J.J. McCarthy.
In their early season non-conference games last year, Michigan scored 51, 56, and 59 points. In 2021, they tossed up 47 and 63 points against Group of 5 opponents. Suffice it to say that this year’s team should be even better with all of the same pieces with a year of added experience, so there’s absolutely no reason to believe that they’d fall short of that output.
Best Bet: Michigan Team Total o43.5 (play to 48.5)
Best Bet 3: Buffalo Bulls vs. Wisconsin Badgers
Author: Will Schwartz
With Paul Chryst out the door, it’s a new era in Madison. The Badgers will be changing their style of play, with new offensive coordinator Phil Longo in the building. The New Jersey native made a name for himself in North Carolina over the past four years, as he has served in the same position under the legendary Mack Brown and fostered the development of superstar quarterback Drake Maye. In the duo’s last year together in Chapel Hill, Longo called a whopping 517 pass attempts for Maye, nearly 37 per game.
There’s really no replacing Maye, but Longo has secured another quarterback who is capable of running his system. Former Oklahoma recruit Tanner Mordecai is the new Wisconsin QB, after slinging 72 touchdowns and over 7,000 yards over two seasons at SMU. Mordecai also averaged over 37 pass attempts per game, so he’s shown an ability to take on the pace-pushing workload that Longo will expect of him.
Here’s a Tanner Mordecai throw from last season vs the eventual CFP runner ups
— OberSports (@obersports) August 31, 2023
Buffalo has also shown an ability to push pace, as they averaged 77.1 offensive snaps per game last year, more than Longo’s North Carolina squad. Around 35.5 of those were passes for QB Cole Snyder, a Rutgers transfer who has had a heavy workload since becoming a Bull. Unlike Wisconsin, there’s no reason to expect this team to approach offense differently this year, especially in a game where they’re overwhelmingly likely to be playing from behind; I’d expect a lot of quick possessions in this one.
This is an excellent number, one Wisconsin could nearly cover on their own against a very questionable Buffalo defense. It’s hard to overstate the advantage held by major teams in these early-season “warm up” games, and this one is no exception. It’s also worth noting that 55 points is the most common total for a college football game to end in, making 53.5 or 54.5 a great spot to play the over. If the line creeps up a bit, consider taking an alternate line all the way up to 57.5, to grab some extra value, as 58 and 59 are also extremely prevalent totals.
Best Bet: over 53.5 points (play to 57.5)
Best Bet 4: Washington State Cougars at Colorado State Rams
Author: Jacob Wayne
Colorado State football was a mess last season in Jay Norvell’s first year as head coach, but after their Year 0, I’m expecting significant improvements for this team. Norvell went to work in the transfer portal, adding talent on both sides of the ball, and is building the roster he wants in Fort Collins.
The Rams’ offensive line was a huge part of their issues last season as they allowed 59 sacks, the most in the country. The line was bottom ten in pass and run-blocking per PFF. Only one starter returns from that group, and three experienced starters were added in the portal.
Despite the awful offensive line play, Clay Millen somehow managed to set the FBS freshman record with a 72.2% completion rate. Millen returns Tory Horton, who’s coming off a season with over 1,100 yards and 8 touchdowns. Fellow wideout Justus Ross-Simmons is poised for a breakout and tight end transfer Dallin Holker (BYU) offers further production.
Tory Horton is DYNAMIC! pic.twitter.com/JJsJ97YhxJ
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 13, 2022
The Rams should have opportunities to get the deep ball working against new Wazzu defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding’s group. The Cougars lost a lot from their defense last year including three of their better coverage players in linebacker Daiyan Henley and cornerbacks Armani Marsh and Derrick Langford.
The Cougars are also implementing a new offensive system with new OC Ben Arbuckle, who’s just 27 years old. He’s tasked with helping Cam Ward improve despite losing the team’s top four receivers from last season. While the new system should be a good fit for Ward, some growing pains are to be expected.
Colorado State’s defense had a strong season as they ranked 42nd in pass defense EPA and 4th in passing explosiveness allowed. With edge Mohamed Kamara (16 TFLs, 8.5 sacks) and four of the top five starters in the secondary returning, don’t expect that to change.
I gave this play out on Twitter at +14.5 about a month ago, but the best odds currently available are +12. I’d still play it at that number and I see value down to 10. I’d also endorse a Moneyline sprinkle if you can find over 4-1 odds as I believe there’s a strong chance the Rams pull off the upset win.
Best Bet: Colorado State +12 (play to +10)
Best Bet 5: North Carolina Tar Heels at South Carolina Gamecocks
Best Bet: North Carolina -2.5 (play to -3)
Author: Kody Malstrom
New year, new UNC. At least on the offensive end as OC Phil Longo has left for Wisconsin. North Carolina’s new OC heading into this season is Chip Lindsey and a drastic change of pace is expected to come with the new hire. A sharp contrast from what we saw last year.
While at first I thought that this move may be a downgrade for the offense as a whole as it should limit star quarterback Drake Maye’s downfield progression, it’s actually a blessing in disguise.
Drake Maye’s 3 touchdown passes vs Oregon 🔥!
Dude has an easy arm and his accuracy is real. 2024 QB1 is not a closed case imo!pic.twitter.com/LqLTdAHO7J
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) January 6, 2023
North Carolina is known for their high powered offense, yet surprisingly their success is more backed by their consistency rather than their big play ability. UNC’s pass attack ranked 20th in Success Rate and 58th in Explosiveness.
Better yet for the Tar Heels, their growing pains early in the year may be subsided as they open the season against a weak South Carolina defense. The Gamecocks defensive identity mirrors that of UNC’s strengths, struggling to defend against consistency. While they do a great job at letting no one behind them for the big gain, they struggle to make the open field tackle and limit small gains at a time.
As for the defensive end, Mack Brown returns a majority of his defense. While the continuity isn’t a sign for immediate success, it is a signal for at least some improvement. Any improvement will go a long way for a unit that ranked near dead last in Success Rate, Explosiveness, Havoc, and PPA.
Luckily for the defense, Spencer Rattler and company relied heavily on their ability to connect on the big gain as his offensive line was weak and forced him into scrambling situations. UNC’s defense shockingly excelled at limiting explosive plays and their continuity should put them in a position to find that same success.
With the offense getting the opportunity to ease into their new identity, as well as their defense being capable of limiting South Carolina’s big gains, the Tar Heels should be in a friendly position to cover the spread, Take them no higher than -2.5.