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Betting Against the Spread: Saturday College Football Picks for Week 1

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen

It's our first college football Saturday of the year as we dive into our selections. A reminder that you should only wager what you could afford to potentially lose and that I'm never going to go 100 percent. Handicappers should range around 55-60 percent to be considered successful and that all the good ones have losing streaks. That said, we will dip our toes in for the first week as there's no need to go hog wild when there's a full season to go. 

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Record: 2-1 

Virginia (0-0) at UCLA (0-0)

The scene shifts to Westwood as Virginia takes on UCLA. Last year the Bruins struggled in Charlottesville on their way to a 28-20 victory in which there were multiple defensive touchdowns. This year's UCLA offense is led by freshman Josh Rosen who is highly touted, but may struggle against a Jon Tenuta-led defense. The Wahoos have a very good secondary. What they don't have is a very good offense, especially without T.J. Thorpe at WR. The Tar Heel transfer is out for this one so it weakens a WR corps that wasn't great to begin with. Any discussion of UCLA's defense begins and ends with Myles Jack, one of the best linebackers in the country. The Bruins have gone under in 13 of their last 20 Saturday games and 15 of their last 26 overall. This one should go under the total. SELECTION: Under 54

Louisiana Monroe (0-0) at Georgia (0-0)

Greyson Lambert gets the call under center for Georgia for the opener. It really doesn't matter who is the starting QB as long as they know to hand it off to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Bulldogs will have one of the best running games in the country. ULM has a very good defense which returns eight starters from the 57th-ranked unit. ULM held LSU to 31 points last year in a 31-0 loss to the Tigers. The problem with the Warhawks is their lack of offense, which returns just five starters. They will find it hard to move the ball against UGA in this one. ULM has played 15 unders in their last 24 games with 13 of their last 21 unders coming on a Saturday. SELECTION: Under 54

Arkansas State (0-0) at USC (0-0)

Arkansas State is one of the favorites in the Sun Belt. The Red Wolves return nine starters from an offense that put up almost 37 points per game. They are led by Fredi Knighten, Michael Gordon and J.D. McKissic. ASU's downfall was on the defensive side of the ball where they gave up 30.5 points per contest. USC, meanwhile, features Heisman Trophy sleeper Cody Kessler under center. This represents a good time for him to start putting up numbers to keep him in the mix. JuJu Smith leads the way at WR while the Trojans' defense tries to replace Leonard Williams. The Red Wolves have played 15 overs in their last 26 contests. This one should be a bit of a shootout with USC providing a boat load of the points. SELECTION: Over 66

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Norfolk State (0-0) at Rutgers (0-0)

The Scarlet Knights enter year two in the Big Ten with a lot more questions then they had in year one. Rutgers has just three returning starters on the offensive side of the ball and will be without Leonte Carroo for a half for this one. Normally, you'd be concerned with a quarterback leaving a program a month before the season, but Norfolk State replaces Terrance Ervin with Florida Atlantic transfer Greg Hankerson. The Spartans return 15 starters from a pretty good FCS defense. Latrell Scott is a solid head coach. Last year, Rutgers beat Howard 38-25 at home to open up their season. This is a lot of points for them to cover so we'll take the underdog. SELECTION: Norfolk State +38

Related: College Football’s Week 1 FCS vs. FBS Betting Lines of Note

Colgate (0-0) at Navy (0-0)

It's a new era for Navy as they begin their time in the AAC with a non-conference affair on Saturday. Keenan Reynolds is back and that instantly makes the Middies a threat on offense. Reynolds has 64 career rushing touchdowns and he has Chris Swain, DeBrandon Sanders and Jamir Tillman back with him. The problem will come on the defensive side of the ball where Navy sustained several key losses including Parrish Gaines, an underrated safety. Colgate started out 4-3 last year before losing its quarterback and four of its last five games. Jake Melville put up some good stats in those seven games he played and he has John Quazza back along with several other passing options. The Raiders are replacing three of the team's top four tacklers so they may struggle with the Naval Academy's option. This is a unit that allowed 45 points to Yale, 37 to Fordham and 30 to Lehigh. SELECTION: Navy/Colgate Over 47

Maine (0-0) at Boston College (0-0)

It's a rematch of last year's BC 40-10 win over Maine. Boston College returns just three starters and is breaking in Darius Wade at quarterback. The Eagles figure to be ground and pound once again, which will play into Maine's defensive strength. This is a Black Bears team that held New Hampshire and Richmond to just 20 points each. Both teams had better offenses then BC does this season. Last year BC was led by Tyler Murphy at quarterback. This year, I think both teams play it close to the vest and struggle to score. SELECTION: Maine/BC Under 46

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Savannah State (0-0) at Colorado State (0-0)

This one's going to get ugly. The Tigers have been cannon fodder for FBS opponents the last few years. In 2014, MTSU beat Savannah State 61-7 while BYU picked up a 64-0 victory. Go back one more season and the Tigers lost 66-3 to Troy and 77-7 to Miami. It should be noted that year that they also fell to Georgia Southern 77-9 the year before the Eagles joined the FBS ranks. Colorado State has 15 starters returning and will be breaking in a new QB in Nick Stevens. He's got Rashard Higgins out wide and he's one of the most underrated WRs in the country. This one will get ugly so take the Rams to roll. SELECTION: Colorado State -49

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Florida A&M (0-0) at South Florida (0-0)

The Rattlers may not be the sexiest team to play on Saturday but neither is USF. FAMU has posted back-to-back 3-9 seasons, but return a lot of talent. They are going to be running a no-huddle offense with several transfers from Iowa State coming over to help. On defense Akil Blount leads a group that will have to hone in on Marlon Mack and the Bulls' running game. Last year this team struggled to a 36-31 home win over Western Carolina to open up the season. USF scored more then 20 points just twice. I think this one is a slam dunk for the road team to cover. SELECTION: Florida A&M +28

Alabama A&M (0-0) at Cincinnati (0-0)

This one is going to be an ugly contest on Saturday. The Bearcats are led by Gunner Kiel, who put up some good stats last season and has a lot of weapons back again this season. Alabama A&M allowed around five touchdowns per game last year to lesser competition. Cincinnati's defense can be a bit leaky themselves so a late touchdown by the Bulldogs will help push this one over the total. SELECTION: Over 57.5

Notes:

* Penn State and Temple play in one of the more underrated games of the day. The Owls are considered to be sleepers across the country and have a defense that doesn't get a lot of publicity despite very good statistics. Tyler Matakevich made 117 tackles last year for a unit that was ranked fourth overall in scoring defense. Their game in Happy Valley was 6-3 at halftime in favor of the Nittany Lions. Christian Hackenberg is a very good quarterback, but could struggle if the O-line isn't better then it was last year. The under in this one was definitely a consideration.

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* Southern Miss gets a chance to put themselves on the map as Mississippi State comes to town. Ironically, this is a matchup between two of the schools who showed up in my season win total article. I'm a fan of the Golden Eagles and think they keep this one closer then expected. The one thing that kept me from making this an official play is that their defense will need time to grow. While I don't believe in Mississippi State, the Bulldogs should be able to move the ball in this contest.

* Another close unofficial play was the over in the Ole Miss/UT-Martin game. The Rebels are breaking in Chad Kelly at quarterback and he'll be able to throw to Laquon Treadwell, who is back after a gruesome injury last season. The Skyhawks got blown out in both of their SEC games last year, but return a bunch of starters from an offense that scored more then 20 points in eight games in 2014. Because Ole Miss will be looking to get Kelly work, he may not leave early in a blowout.

* Keep your eye on Youngstown State potentially in the matchup with Pittsburgh. Bo Pelini leads the Penguins against a Panthers team that will be without several starters including a All-ACC WR Tyler Boyd. The team suspended him for this contest. Pitt also will be without projected starter Rori Blair as well as an offensive line that is really banged up. YSU beat Pittsburgh in 2012 and won't be too afraid in this one.

— 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.