College Football Week 1 Best Bets for Friday’s Slate
Week 1 of the college football season continues with a handful of exciting games on Friday night. I have you covered with my best bets for the games on tap for the entire week. Check out my favorite bets for Friday’s games below.
Western Michigan Broncos at Michigan State Spartans
Game Info: 7:00 PM EST, 9/2/2022, Coverage: ESPN
Michigan State broke through with an 11-2 season in Mel Tucker’s second year as head coach, and the Spartans are looking to build on that success. The Spartans covered in all four of their non conference games last year, and I believe they are set to do so again.
The Spartans lost Heisman candidate running back Kenneth Walker to the NFL after his 1,636 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, but Colorado transfer Jarek Broussard reunites with Mel Tucker and is expected to have career-best production. More importantly, Payton Thorne and Jayden Reed return to highlight a dynamic passing offense.
In addition, Michigan State returns 51% of their pressures, which puts Western Michigan’s offensive line in a precarious position as it returns just 22% of its snaps. Michigan State also returns 75% of its passes defended in a very deep secondary that added Georgia transfer Ameer Speed at corner along with a few other transfers.
The Broncos’ quarterback position is unclear with no real experience at the position, and Western has the fifth-lowest Transfers and Returning Production (TARP) rating in the FBS. Kaleb Eleby was one of the best quarterbacks in program history. The Broncos must also replace Skyy Moore, a second-round NFL draft pick at receiver.
The Spartans should run up the score in this game as there is no look-ahead situation here, and I’m following the line movement on their spread. By the time I’m publishing this, I’d imagine the number has moved even further, but I’d still likely bet it all the way up until the key number of 24 points.
Best Bet: Michigan State -21 (bet to -24)
Illinois Illini at Indiana Hoosiers
Game Info: 8:00 PM EST, 9/2/22, Coverage: FS1
Sure, they were playing against a Wyoming team that ranks among the worst in the FBS in TARP, but man did the Illini look good last week. Chase Brown was on fire with 151 rushing yards and three total touchdowns while Tommy DeVito was as advertised with an efficient passing performance, although he didn’t have to do much.
Brown should be in great shape again this week against a defense that already ranked 90th in run defense EPA and lost leading tackler Micah McFadden. The Indiana secondary is poised for some positive regression, especially with Tiawan Mullen returning to health, but I still have more confidence in DeVito than I do in the Hoosiers’ quarterback.
Indiana still hasn’t named its starting quarterback, but I’m not expecting much from either fifth-year senior Jack Tuttle or Missouri transfer Connor Bazelak. None of the team’s top four leading rushers return and Javon Swinton, who had 15 catches for 115 yards last year, is the leading returning receiver.
I don’t want to overreact to the defensive performance against a likely terrible Wyoming offense, but Illinois looked to maintain its stout defense from last year. In 2021, the Illini allowed just 21.9 points per game, the 29th-fewest in the country, and ranked fourth in the Big Ten in coverage grade per PFF.
Illinois is roaring after its strong start to the season, and I already had high expectations for Brett Bielema in his second season as head coach. Indiana, meanwhile, has a lot of work to do to regain the spark it had in the 2020 COVID-shortened season.
I believe Illinois should be favored in this game, so I don’t mind their moneyline, but I’ll happily take the three points as one of my favorite bets of the week. I also lean towards the under with Illinois likely being capable of playing a ground-and-pound style with Brown and limiting Indiana’s offense, but I don’t see as much value on that line.
Best Bet: Illinois +3 or Illinois ML, lean under 45.5 points
TCU Horned Frogs at Colorado Buffaloes
Game Info: 10:00 PM EST, 9/2/22, Coverage: ESPN
With Sonny Dykes taking over as head coach, the Horned Frogs are one of my favorite sleeper teams this season, and I wrote about them as a dark horse Big 12 championship team. Meanwhile, sharp money has been all over the under on the win total for Colorado as they enter a full-scale rebuild.
The Buffaloes lost almost all of their best players in the transfer portal, including leading rusher Jarek Broussard and six of their top players on defense. Keep in mind, they weren’t even competitive for most of last season, and they finished just 115th in the country in EPA margin.
TCU, meanwhile, leads the country in TARP and has tons of exciting talent. Quentin Johnson is an elite wide receiver who is firmly on the NFL draft radar while First-Team All-Big 12 cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson joins former Colorado safety Mark Perry in a highly talented secondary.
I don’t love that TCU is planning on utilizing both of its quarterbacks in this game, but they are both very talented. Max Duggan has a career TD:INT ratio of 41:20 while Chandler Morris is a former Oklahoma prospect with a terrific pedigree. Perhaps the quarterback competition will coax great play out of both passers.
This is another game that illustrates the importance of getting bets on the board early for Week 0 and Week 1 games as the line has moved all the way from 10 to 13.5. The odds are much more in line with where they should be now, but I project TCU as being the much better side and I’d still bet them until the key threshold of 17 points.
Best Bet: TCU -13.5 (bet to 16.5)