At long last, the first full week of college football is here, as the calendar flips from Week 0 and its sampling of action to Week 1 and a full menu of appetizing contests. For action-starved fans of the sport, this Saturday slate may be cause to cancel all other obligations for the sake of enjoying the games with a multi-TV setup.
Really, though, Week 1 is about more than just what happens Saturday, as the action begins Thursday and doesn’t stop until Georgia Tech hosts Clemson on Monday night. With a renewal of the Backyard Brawl rivalry between Pittsburgh and West Virginia among the contests on tap for Thursday, we are in store for a run of five straight days featuring power conference action.
For many fans, it’s time to start getting serious on the wagering front. But even for those without a betting interest, the point spreads provide good insight about what’s expected to transpire.
Caesars Sportsbook has released odds for the Week 1 action, so we’ve decided to highlight the spreads from the few week’s biggest games to see how things are shaping up for what should be a glorious week of college football.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
West Virginia at No. 17 Pittsburgh (-7), Thursday: The Backyard Brawl will be renewed for the first time since 2011, as West Virginia makes the 75-mile trek to Pittsburgh for a bitter regional rivalry that should provide a captivating start to the Week 1 festivities. West Virginia won the last three meetings in 2009, 2010 and 2011, but the Panthers own a 61-40 all-time edge in the series and are the defending ACC champions. Despite losing star quarterback Kenny Pickett and Bilentnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison at receiver, Pitt should be among the ACC’s best again. West Virginia is looking to finally break through after under fourth-year coach Neal Brown, and this will be our first look at former USC and Georgia transfer quarterback JT Daniels in a Mountaineers jersey. Pitt’s nastiness up front on both sides of the ball should give it a great chance to cover this spread.
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (-17): Welcome to the head coaching ranks, Marcus Freeman. For your first assignment, you must take on an offense that could be the best in college football. With the trio of quarterback C.J. Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson and receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the Buckeyes have three Heisman Trophy candidates. The Fighting Irish are coming off five straight seasons of 10 or more wins, but this is a tough way to begin a new era as Freeman steps up from defensive coordinator to replace Brian Kelly. You can’t rule out the possibility of a backdoor cover with a line this big, but Ohio State can absolutely score enough to cover.
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia (-17.5), Atlanta: Last season, Dan Lanning was coordinating an all-time great Georgia defense as the Bulldogs broke through for their first national title since 1980. Now, he is coaching against the Bulldogs as he takes over an Oregon program still stocked with plenty of talent from the Mario Cristobal era. Georgia lost 15 NFL Draft picks, including a pool of riches on the defense, but seventh-year coach Kirby Smart has recruited so well that Georgia is a heavy favorite for this game anyway. With Auburn transfer Bo Nix at quarterback and enough front-line talent to compete for the Pac-12 title, the Ducks should be able to keep this one closer than this line suggests.
No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas (-6): Only Georgia and LSU had more players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft than Cincinnati, which bid farewell to nine draft picks from last season’s College Football Playoff squad. Despite the attrition, the Bearcats can immediately reassert themselves on the national stage with a road win over an SEC West foe. The Razorbacks had their best season in a decade last year, finishing 9-4 with a No. 21 ranking in the AP Top 25. But if they are going to match or surpass that win total in 2022, this could be a must-win game as Arkansas faces one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Though you may not recognize a ton of names from this Cincinnati team, the Bearcats should be able to grind out yards on the ground behind a veteran offensive line and keep this tight into the fourth quarter.
No. 7 Utah (-2.5) at Florida: When Urban Meyer left Utah for Florida after the 2004 season, Kyle Whittingham took over the Utes’ head coaching job, and he’s never left. Florida is now on its fifth coach in the same time frame as Billy Napier takes over following a successful four-year run at Louisiana. Coming off a Rose Bowl appearance, Utah can make a statement about the legitimacy of its CFP hopes with a win here. But the Gators will have a significant home field advantage and have enough talent to show that last season’s 6-7 mark under former coach Dan Mullen was just a fluke. In the end, it’s hard to trust Florida’s defensive front enough to stop what should be a fierce Utah running attack.
Best of the rest
Central Michigan at No. 12 Oklahoma State (-21), Thursday
Penn State (-3.5) at Purdue, Thursday
Western Michigan at No. 15 Michigan State (-20), Friday
Colorado State at No. 8 Michigan (-27)
No. 13 NC State (-11) at East Carolina
No. 24 Houston (-4) at UTSA
UTEP at No. 9 Oklahoma (-31.5)
Troy at No. 21 Ole Miss (-22)
No. 25 BYU (-12) at USF
Rice at No. 14 USC (-34.5)
Utah State at No. 1 Alabama (-40)
Florida State vs. LSU (-3), Sunday
No. 4 Clemson (-21) at Georgia Tech, Monday