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Betting Against the Spread: College Football Picks for Week 1


Welcome to the 2016 college football season and another year of Betting Against the Spread. For those not familiar with this exercise, I will give you some of my best bets for each week of the college football season. A lot of people love to pick games in the Power Five conferences and I certainly will from time to time, but my specialty is the games that don't really make the radar of the common bettor.

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As is usually the case, we see a ton of games between FBS teams and those in the FCS to open the season. To most, these are games to ignore, but there is value out there in these matchups. Early on in the season, I like to lean to the more experienced teams and those in highly motivated spots. I'll even throw in an early winner for a game that will be played Saturday morning overseas.

Record: 0-0

William & Mary (0-0) at NC State (0-0)

Thursday, Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Every year there's a ton of week one FCS/FBS battles with some of them ending up being a lot closer then people think. NC State gets to host William & Mary on Thursday night. The Wolfpack enter this one with two quarterbacks and two kickers scheduled to play. Dave Doeren said that Ryan Finley and Jalan McClendon will alternate series, which means that neither really has separated themselves as the clear-cut starter. NC State has six returning starters on offense and eight on defense. On the other side, you've got one of the best teams in the CAA, which is the equivalent of the SEC in FCS football in terms of depth of quality teams. Last year the Tribe lost 35-29 at Virginia so they won't be intimidated at all by playing in Raleigh. William & Mary traditionally has been known for its defense, but Luke Rhodes and DeAndre Houston-Carson are each trying to make NFL rosters. Instead, this team will come at you with a potent offense led by Kendall Anderson and DeVonte Dedmon. I think the team from the FCS level has a shot to keep this one close. SELECTION: William & Mary +23

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Weber State (0-0) at Utah State (0-0)

Thursday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. ET
There's a lot to like about the Wildcats, which their opener as an underdog at Utah State. Weber State returns 17 starters from a team that went 6-5 overall last year, including the top three running backs and top three wide receivers. The trio of RBs accounted for more than 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. This is a team last year that went into Corvallis to open up the year and came away with just a 26-7 loss to Pac-12 member Oregon State. The Wildcats did earn a victory over then-No. 12 Montana (24-21 OT) in FCS play. Defensively, Weber State led the Big Sky in total defense and was really good against the rush. On the opposite side, you've got Utah State, which is led by Kent Myers under center and eight other returning starters on offense. The problems come on the defensive side where several players left for the NFL, leaving just three returning starters. Last year the Aggies opened up the year with an ugly 12-9 win over Southern Utah. They also have a road tilt with USC on the horizon (Sept. 10) so maybe they aren't 100 percent focused for this one. As long as this line stays above 21, I want the Wildcats, which won't be intimidated by this road trip. SELECTION: Weber State +22

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Colgate (0-0) at Syracuse (0-0)

Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
Colgate is the preseason pick to win the Patriot League after doing so last year. This team made it to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs and returns 17 starters. Defense is the name of the game with the Raiders, which are led by Kyle Diener, the Patriot League's preseason defensive player of the year. Yes, they lost to Navy last year 48-10, but this is a Syracuse team learning a new system on both offense and defense. Just two years ago the Orange beat Villanova in double overtime. Offensively the Raiders return nine starters and won't be intimidated by the Carrier Dome. They won last year at New Hampshire and James Madison. Syracuse has a lot of talent returning, especially on the offense, but as has already been mentioned, it may take time to fully learn new head coach Dino Babers' system. I think this is a lot of points to ask Syracuse to cover. SELECTION: Colgate +28

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Boston College (0-0) vs. Georgia Tech (0-0)

Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 a.m. ET (Dublin, Ireland)
The ACC opener for Georgia Tech and Boston College takes place in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday morning. The Yellow Jackets went 3-9 last year and it was mostly because of a poor defense that struggled at times. On offense, the triple option got bogged down more than it had in recent seasons. In 2016, Justin Thomas is back to run things. This is the first time the Jackets open up with an FBS opponent since 2012, when they lost in overtime to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Boston College also went 3-9 last year, but you can point to its offense for that reason. The Eagles had the No. 1 defense in FBS in 2015, but lost coordinator Don Brown to Michigan. The good thing is that seven starters are back so there's continuity. Hopefully quarterback Patrick Towles coming over from Kentucky can help jumpstart this offense and give running back Jon Hilliman a little room to operate. There are a lot of reasons to stay away from this one especially since it's being played overseas. I really like giving a good defensive unit plenty of time to prepare for the triple option of Georgia Tech. I think the Eagles can get the win on Saturday and start their season off 1-0. SELECTION: Boston College +3.5

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Savannah State (0-0) at Georgia Southern (0-0)

Sat., Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET
I hate laying a ton of points especially in matchups like this, but Savannah State is the gift that keeps on giving. The Tigers are one of the worst teams in the country and they already have losses of 77-9 and 83-9 to Georgia Southern in two of the last three seasons. Georgia Southern's offense is absolutely incredible, scoring 40 points or more seven times in 2015. Matt Breida is an underrated running back while Favian Upshaw and Kevin Ellison are very good signal-callers. One concern is Tyson Summers taking over as head coach for the departed Willie Fritz (now at Tulane), but even he can't screw this up. The Tigers will get smoked terribly in this one. SELECTION: Georgia Southern -54.5

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— I came really close to playing Liberty plus the points. It's nothing against Virginia Tech, but the Hokies have a huge matchup against Tennessee next Saturday and are breaking in a new quarterback in a new offense. The problem with the Flames is that they also have a relatively new quarterback, which is not the recipe for an FCS upset.

— Another one I came close to was Northern Iowa, which is Iowa State once again. Last year, UNI got smoked in Ames as a seven-point underdog. I think this is a better Panthers team, but something is keeping me from taking them.

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.