College Football Week 1 Lines & Predictions

College football is finally back. After a 2020 season that saw some of the unprecedented (opt-outs, canceled games, and empty stadiums) and some of the expected (Nick Saban winning a National Championship), 2021 looks to get back on track. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been major changes to college football, though. The NCAA changed up its transfer rules, allowing players to transfer and play immediately without the need to sit out for any period of time. Plus, a new rule change allows college athletes to receive payment for their name, likeness, image, and even social media presence. In a new college football season full of possibilities, let’s take a look at some Week 1 matchups you need to put on your calendar.

Saturday, Sept. 4th

Penn State Nittany Lions @ Wisconsin Badgers

Penn State is undoubtedly trying to avoid starting the season anything like last year. The team began 0-5, complete with three double-digit losses. However, they did rally to finish the year 4-5 after that near-disastrous stretch. QB Sean Clifford’s numbers were down from the previous year, although there is talent on the offense. The defense needs to level up after allowing 27.7 points per game last year.

Head coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers are looking to improve from 2020’s 4-3 record. QB Graham Mertz cooled down quite a bit after a promising start to the season, finishing with just 9 TDs to 5 INTs. Receiver injuries were a contributing factor, so it will be interesting to see how the offense rebounds this season. Wisconsin’s defense brings back 8 2020 starters, and there’s a lot to like about the linebacking crew.

The Nittany Lions might not start 0-5 again, but they also shouldn’t bank on starting 1-0. The defense looks to be a bright spot for Wisconsin after allowing 17.4 points per game last year. Plus, Badgers QB Mertz will be excited to light it up with WRs Kendrick Pryor and Danny Davis III back from injury. Look for Wisconsin to put some points on the board and cover in this early Saturday matchup.

Best Bet Pick: Wisconsin -4.5
Prediction: Wisconsin beats Penn State 27-20

Saturday, Sept. 4th

Alabama Crimson Tide @ Miami Hurricanes

After winning their sixth National Championship under Nick Saban, Alabama is a team in transition. Gone are the offensive powerhouses of last year such as QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris, and WRs DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Gone too is offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, with former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien in to replace him. On the bright side, the defense looks to continue its positive streak, with 8 starters returning.

The Miami Hurricanes finished with an 8-3 record, a definite improvement on 2019’s 6-7 mark. Now in year three, it’s time to see how head coach Manny Diaz rallies his team. Dual-threat QB D’Eriq King is a definite name to watch. With a talented receiving corps, King could build on last year’s stats (23 TDs, 5 INTs). On the defensive side, the Hurricanes are questionable when it comes to the line and linebacking crew.

The Alabama defense facing D’Eriq King and the Miami offense is going to be the key matchup here. While the Bama defense lost star Patrick Surtain, they still retain 8 starters from the Championship season. Meanwhile, it’s likely we’ll see some growing pains on display as O’Brien tries to get sophomore QB Bryce Young and the offense gelling. Expect some fun moments in a game that overall goes under the total.

Best Bet Pick: Under 62
Prediction: Alabama beats Miami 35-20

Saturday, Sept. 4th

Georgia Bulldogs @ Clemson Tigers

After going 7-2 last year, Georgia’s hoping they can fly over their 10.5 win total. The offense could be a force to be reckoned with, combining QB JT Daniels with a strong offensive line and the RB duo of Zamir White and James Cook. The defense had some hiccups last year, such as allowing 44 points to Florida at home, but looks to be a solid unit overall.

Like Alabama, Clemson lost some major firepower to the NFL this year. QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne are Jacksonville Jaguars now, and head coach Dabo Swinney (140-33 with Clemson) is hoping his replacements can live up to the hype. QB D.J. Uiagalelei gave the Tigers reason to believe in a few starts last year, throwing 5 TDs without a pick. The defense lost some key starters like CB Derion Kendrick, but the majority remains.

Even though they’re favored, let’s not forget that Clemson only has 5 offensive starters returning for 2021. Meanwhile, Georgia’s offense put up 32.3 points a game last year with three different QBs. That should improve with more stability in 2021. This is currently the only game on the schedule where Georgia isn’t favored, and it should be a close one. Don’t be shocked if they pull off a gritty statement win to start the year.

Best Bet Pick: Georgia +3
Prediction: Georgia beats Clemson 31-30

Saturday, Sept. 4th

LSU Tigers @ UCLA Bruins

LSU’s 2020 squad didn’t replicate the dizzying highs of the 2019 Championship season, but not many expected them to. Losing Heisman-winning QB Joe Burrow was destined to slow down the offense. Meanwhile, a young heir has been found in sophomore QB Max Johnson, son of Super Bowl QB Brad Johnson. Meanwhile, the defense is hoping to build back with new defensive coordinator Daronte Jones after some rough outings last year, punctuated by allowing 55 points to Alabama last December.

Chip Kelly faces a put-up or shut-up year at UCLA after going 10-21 since being named UCLA’s head coach. There is room for optimism about the offense this year, with QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson passing for 12 TDs with just 4 INTs last year. His continued growth, combined with a solid rushing attack, could get Chip Kelly’s offense revved up after years of uncertainty.

This game has the potential for fireworks. Expect Thompson-Robinson and company to take advantage of LSU’s defense as it recalibrates under a new defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, Max Johnson will want to build off his superb showing last year, where he tossed 8 TDs and just one pick.

Best Bet Pick: Over 69.5
Prediction: LSU beats UCLA 41-37

Sunday, Sept. 5th

Notre Dame Fighting Irish @ Florida State Seminoles

Notre Dame enjoyed a 10-2 2020 season under Brian Kelly, who is now 81-39 with the team. The Fighting Irish lost starting QB Ian Book, now a New Orleans Saints backup. Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan looks to replace Book. As long as he keeps up his 2019 stat line (18 TDs, 5 INTs), that shouldn’t be an issue. He’ll be joined on offense by RBs Kyren Williams and Tyree Williams, who combined for 1,621 yards and 17 TDs on the ground last year.

The Seminoles are looking to shake off a rough season in Mike Norvell’s second season as head coach. Injuries and opt-outs did no favors for Florida State, who finished the shortened year with a 3-6 record. The defense was one of the weak spots, allowing an alarming 6.46 yards per play along with 37.5 points per game. Plus, there’s still no leader in the starting QB battle between Jordan Travis and McKenzie Milton.

It’s tough to be optimistic about Florida State in this matchup. There are simply too many questions at QB and on defense to feel like they’re going to compete in this opening matchup. Expect Notre Dame to run it early and often, resulting in a short but dominant game. While it might not be a repeat of last year’s 42-26 romp, the Fighting Irish should come out of the gates with a simple win in this one.

Best Bet: Notre Dame -8
Prediction: Notre Dame beats Florida State 35-21

Anthony Elio is a CU Boulder graduate with a degree in creative writing and advertising. He is the lead Industry Betting Writer at, where he has spent over a year covering industry news in sports betting, casino, and poker.

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