If Week 0 was the warm up for the 2022 season, then Week 1 is the start of the marathon. Five days of college football, spanning Thursday through Labor Day, provides wall-to-wall (or screen-to-screen) action that features a little bit of something for everyone.
Getting things underway is the return of a top-10 rivalry in college football: the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and No. 17 Pitt. The old Big East rivals haven’t played since 2011 — a 21-20 win for the Mountaineers in Morgantown — but the passage of time hasn’t diminished the stakes.
The frenzy of kickoffs to start Thursday’s action doesn’t end in the Steel City, though. No. 12 Oklahoma State hosts Central Michigan in the first meeting between the programs since a miraculous, if not controversial, 30-27 Chippewas win in Stillwater back in 2016. Meanwhile, Tennessee opens its season against MAC foe Ball State with the Volunteers carrying high hopes from the offseason into the fall. Then, a Big Ten cross-divisional game between Penn State and Purdue keeps the entertainment going with the Nittany Lions hoping to start 2022 off on the right foot after consecutive disappointing seasons.
Be sure to stick with CBS Sports throughout the evening for college football coverage from the opening kickoff onward. Let’s take a look at our expert picks for the best games on Thursday of Week 1.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern
West Virginia vs. No. 17 Pittsburgh
Featured Game | Pittsburgh Panthers vs. West Virginia Mountaineers
7 p.m. | ESPN, fuboTV (Try for free) — It ain’t called the Backyard Shootout, it’s called the Backyard Brawl. The fabric of this rivalry is made of rock fights; every yard is earned and the defenses rule the day. While two former USC quarterbacks — JT Daniels for WVU, Kedon Slovis for Pitt — will dominate the conversation, both teams are stronger on the defensive side of the ball. There’s also the matter of Pitt’s offense evolving through the loss of Kenny Pickett, Jordan Addison and OC Mark Whipple, and the implementation of a new offense. Signs point to a team that’s going to run the ball a little more than it did in 2021, rely on its advantage at the line of scrimmage and, for our purposes, play a style that sets up well for the under. Pick: Under 51 — Chip Patterson
Central Michigan vs. No. 12 Oklahoma State
Featured Game | Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Central Michigan Chippewas
7 p.m. | FS1, fuboTV (Try for free) — There was a time when Oklahoma State was the king of nonconference shootouts, but it’s a new day in Stillwater. The Cowboys allowed just 18.1 points per game in 2021 and limited opponents to just 2.71 yards per carry. There’s turnover on defense, but the Cowboys should still be able to bottle up the Chippewas and star running back Lew Nichols. Expect a slow, low-scoring game. Pick: Under 59.5 — Shehan Jeyarajah
Ball State vs. Tennessee
7 p.m. | SEC Network, fuboTV (Try for free) — The point total in Ball State’s last seven games against Power Five opposition failed to reach 68 points. In fact, the average point total in the Cardinals’ past 10 games of that variety is just 50.9. Tennessee’s offense is explosive, yes, but the Volunteers have a huge game at Pitt looming in Week 2 and may call off the dogs relatively early if they can. The Vols are certainly suspect defensively, but they did allow just six points against MAC foe Bowling Green in last year’s opener. Pick: Under 68 — David Cobb
Penn State vs. Purdue
Featured Game | Purdue Boilermakers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
8 p.m. | Fox, fuboTV (Try for free) — I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner here. I spent the offseason talking about Penn State being the Big Ten’s most underrated program based on the last couple of seasons, while simultaneously saying that Purdue was overrated after overperforming last season. Well, it looks like my two opinions will clash head-on Thursday night, and I see no reason to back down from them yet. I have legitimate concerns about Purdue’s ability to quickly replace the key parts it lost from last year’s team, and Penn State should have the clear talent advantage. There’s a reason the Nittany Lions are favored on the road coming off a mediocre season. Don’t overthink it. Pick: Penn State -3.5 — Tom Fornelli
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 1, and which big favorite will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,600 in profit over the past six-plus seasons — and find out.