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10 College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 1

College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 1: Khalil Tate

College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 1: Khalil Tate

The Week 1 edition of college football picks against the spread (ATS) features a nice sampling of games throughout the five-day holiday weekend. There are some big-time matchups (most notably Michigan’s trip to Notre Dame), some rivalry games (Colorado-Colorado State), a game involving the No. 1 team in the nation (Alabama) and several under-the-radar showdowns that have piqued my interest. Here are 10 predictions for games against the spread.

Arizona (-12) over BYU

BYU played four games against Power 5 teams last season, losing to LSU, Utah, Wisconsin and Mississippi State by an average score of 30–4. The Cougars were awful on offense last season, and there aren’t many reasons to believe they will be significantly improved in 2018. Arizona, on the other hand, should score a ton of points. Dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate leads an attack that led the Pac-12 in both scoring (41.3 ppg) and total offense (489.5 ypg) a year ago. This one could get ugly. Arizona 40, BYU 13

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Louisville (+24.5) over Alabama

Alabama opens the season with a neutral-site game for the seventh straight season. The Crimson Tide are 6–0 in previous such games, with the closest win coming by 10 points over West Virginia in 2014. So this is a tough spot for Louisville. But it’s also a pretty high spread. The Cardinals’ offense, despite the loss of QB Lamar Jackson, should be good enough to create a few (not a lot, a few!) problems for the Alabama secondary. Winning this game would be a monumental upset for Louisville. Covering the spread is a bit more realistic. Alabama 41, Louisville 17

College football rankings: Louisville

Michigan (+1) over Notre Dame

I believe the wrong team is favored. Notre Dame no doubt has talent, but the Fighting Irish have a lot of production to replace at running back and wide receiver; they lost two elite offensive linemen; and they have a first-time defensive coordinator in Clark Lea, stepping in for a proven commodity in Mike Elko. Michigan, too, has some issues (who will step up and make plays at wide receiver?), but the Michigan defense is rock solid and should make things very difficult for Brandon Wimbush and the Notre Dame offense. Michigan 24, Notre Dame 20

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan

Vanderbilt (-3) over Middle Tennessee

Vanderbilt has defeated neighboring Middle Tennessee in each of the past three seasons, including by scores of 28–6 and 47–24 the past two years. The Commodores were only a 3-point favorite in each of those games as well. Last year’s game was particularly one-sided; Vanderbilt raced out to a 21–0 lead in the second quarter and cruised to a 22-point win. Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill threw for a season-low 166 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt, the second-lowest output of his career. The Blue Raiders will have a tough time winning this game unless they made significant improvement at the line of scrimmage. Vanderbilt 34, Middle Tennessee 23

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Colorado (-7.5) over Colorado State (Friday)

The good news: Colorado State rolled up 653 yards and averaged 8.6 yards per snap in its 2018 debut. The bad news: The Rams’ defense gave up 617 yards on 8.5 per play. The really bad news: CSU lost 43–34 at home to a Hawaii team that suffered significant personnel losses — including its QB and best WR to graduate transfer — from a team that went 1–7 in the Mountain West. The performance of quarterback K.J. Carta Samuels (537 yards, five TDs) in his debut was encouraging, but keep in mind that Hawaii was one of the worst defensive teams in the nation in 2017. Colorado 41, Colorado State 30

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Army (+13.5) over Duke (Friday)

Duke should be improved after last season’s topsy-turvy 7–6 record that featured winning streaks of four and three games and a losing streak of six games. The final game of the losing streak was at Michie Stadium, where Army topped the Blue Devils 21–16. This game is in Durham, but I think the result could be the same. Army seems to be undervalued despite winning 10 games last season. Sure, the schedule wasn’t too taxing, but the Black Knights beat Temple, Duke, Navy and San Diego State. This is a good team. Army 28, Duke 24

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Houston (-25) over Rice

Rice is one of four FBS teams in the nation that can claim a 1–0 record. But that one win wasn’t overly impressive. The Owls rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter to beat Prairie View A&M, an average FCS team, at home. Last year, Rice stumbled through a 1–11 record that included a 38–3 loss to Houston. And that loss could have been much worse; the Cougars jumped out to a 38–0 lead late in the second quarter before shutting things down in the second half. There is a huge talent disparity in this game. Houston 44, Rice 10

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Northern Illinois (+10.5) over Iowa

There are legitimate reasons for concern at Iowa for the opener. The Hawkeyes will be without their projected starting left tackle (Tristan Wirfs) and right tackle (Alaric Jackson), both of whom have been suspended for one game. The short-handed Iowa line must deal with the underrated Sutton Smith, a junior defensive end who recorded 14 sacks in 2017 and was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year. As a team, Northern Illinois played well last fall against quality competition, losing by three to Boston College, winning by four at Nebraska and losing by six at San Diego State. Iowa 24, Northern Illinois 21

College Football Rankings: NIU

Ole Miss (+2.5) over Texas Tech

This game might not be too relevant nationally — both teams are picked to finish near the bottom of their respective conferences — but it figures to be one of the most entertaining games on the Week 1 slate. Ole Miss is lacking in depth, but the Rebels’ starting 11 on offense is among the best in the SEC, especially in the receiving corps. Texas Tech showed significant progress on defense last season, improving from 7.05 yards allowed per play in 2016 to 5.78 last fall. If the defense can replicate that effort, or even show a bit more improvement, the Red Raiders can surprise in the Big 12. If there is some regression, however, this team will struggle to win more than four games. Ole Miss 47, Texas Tech 44

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Central Michigan (+17.5) over Kentucky

Kentucky has had its struggles against Group of 5 opponents in recent years. The Cats have lost only one such game in the last four seasons (at home to Southern Miss in 2016), but far too often the games have been closer than expected — 24–17 over Southern Miss and 24–20 over Eastern Michigan in 2017; 62–42 over a bad New Mexico State team in 2016 in a game that was closer than the score indicates; and 40–33 over Louisiana in 2015. Central Michigan has some big holes to fill on offense, but this is a solid program that won eight games last season. Kentucky 27, Central Michigan 24

College Football Rankings: Central Michigan

Last season: 70–56–4