College football is FINALLY here and even though Week 0 was a tease with the matchups largely being horrible, we were still able to cash in on Northwestern +12 against a Nebraska team that can't help but shoot themselves in the foot. The clock is ticking on Scott Frost and suddenly North Dakota and Georgia Southern get a lot more nerve-racking then intended. That was the best game of the first week, the second largest storyline was Hawaii losing by 53 points to lowly Vanderbilt. We knew that both teams were going to be horrible but by golly the Rainbow Warriors will be a late night fade all season long if we can get them as single digit underdogs again.
Where Week 0 teased, Week 1 should perform. Thursday night brings us the return of the Backyard Brawl between reigning ACC Champions Pittsburgh and the Mountaineers of West Virginia in a matchup where we should learn a lot about both sides. The noon slate on Saturday provides us with some testy matchups in North Carolina, with the Tarheels traveling to Boone to take on Appalachian State as potential underdogs, and the highly touted North Carolina State Wolfpack traveling to Greenville to take on the ever-fiesty East Carolina Pirates.
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The 3:30 slate is where everyone should sit down with their buffalo chicken dip and enjoy as Oregon travels to Samford Stadium to take on the reigning National Champions in Georgia. While there's a lot of turnover on that iconic Bulldog defense, they'll replace them with blue chip prospects and be ready to make another run at the title. An upset win for Oregon could go a long way in changing the perception of that team and the Pac 12. Elsewhere, Cincinnati travels to Arkansas in what should be an interesting Top-25 matchup. Cincinnati loses a lot of personnel of their stellar roster from last year so we'll have to see how they replace them, and going into Fayetville is no easy task. Woo Pig Sooie has something to cheer about again and that stadium will be ROCKING.
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The evening slate brings us another SEC-Pac 12 battle as the Utah Utes look to pickup where they left off and dominate first year head coach Billy Napier in the Swamp. They return 8 starters across the offense so we'll find out quickly just how much Napier was able to accomplish in the summer. As only 3-point underdogs, Vegas clearly has some confidence in the talent the Gators recruit. The biggest game of the day is in Ohio Stadium as the Fighting Irish travel to take on Ohio State in what should be a game-of-the-year contender. Heisman hopeful(s) C.J. Stroud, Treveyon Henderson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba look to make their mark on the season as now 17.5 point favorites.
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We should be in for a treat in the first week of the season so lets get into my best bets of the week!
West Virginia @ Pittsburgh (7:30 PM Thursday)
Favorite: Pittsburgh -7.5
Pittsburgh welcomes JT Daniels and the West Virginia Mountaineers to town for the return of the Backyard Brawl. The rivalry has been put on hold since 2011 and thankfully for football it's back and granted to us on Thursday night. The reigning ACC Champions in Pittsburgh lose some major players on the offensive side of the ball in Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison, but return their entire offensive line and running back core. They also return 7 starters on the defensive side of the ball, most notably Calijah Kancey and SirVocea Dennis, but will have to make strides in the secondary if they want to be able to lean on their defense to make it back to Charlotte for the championship game.
The Mountaineers have struggled to do much better than just make a bowl game over the past few years, and I foresee much of the same here in 2022. They return only 3 starters from their defense a year ago, losing players to graduation and transfer, and if they can't find a good push from their front seven (other than Dante Stills) then Pitt will run it down their throats for 60 minutes. The Mountaineers are expected to improve leaps and bounds on the offense behind JT Daniels and returning starters across the offensive line. If they can protect Daniels and get the ball out wide to a decent receiving core they could see some success, but I doubt they'll be able to do so. Losing star running back Leddie Brown hurts, and I'm eager to see how his replacements fair against this front seven of Pitt.
Pat Narduzzi will get back to basics after losing Kenny Pickett, but returning their entire offensive line, defensive line, and defensive backs should provide Narduzzi and company the core to give them a real shot at going back-to-back in the ACC. Expect that defense to stifle a lot of the hype from the West Virginia offense and the offense to chew clock as they run it down the Mountaineers' throats.
Pick (Teaser): Pitt -1.5 & u56.5 -105 (1u)
Cincinnati Bearcats @ Arkansas Razorbacks (3:30 ET, Saturday)
Favorite: Razorbacks -6
The Cincinnati Bearcats did the unthinkable and made the College Football Playoff last year. Something teams like UCF were so close to doing, Desmond Ridder and that phenomenal secondary were able to achieve. Most of those players are gone to the NFL, and unlike the regular Power 5 players they can't just reload with 4 and 5-star talent across both sides of the ball. Losing Desmond Ridder, Jerome Ford, and Alec Pierce on offense and Sauce Gardner, Coby Bryant and Bryan Cook on defense hurts immensely and while they still have their entire offensive line and handful of players on the defensive line, they're missing the key guys that made them as good as they were.
It's no secret that I'm high on the Razorbacks this year, as you can read in my preview here. Losing Treylon Burks to the NFL hurts, but they were able to utilize the transfer portal to hopefully replace that production. KJ Jefferson will be one of the best QBs in the SEC and that dual-threat ability will keep safeties closer to the line of scrimmage than they'd like. Defensively they lost a good bit of talent but replaced it phenomenally with transfers incoming from the likes of Georgia and Alabama. Expect the offense to tear apart a Cincinnati defense looking to refuel and give me a double-digit win in Fayetteville behind a raucous crowd.
Pick: Arkansas -6 (1u)
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Utah Utes @ Florida Gators (7:00 ET, Saturday)
Favorite: Utah -3
It's criminal that this Utah team is only getting 3 points against first-year head coach Billy Napier's squad. I'm not even as high on Utah as others are since I have Oregon winning the conference, but this team is one of the most well-coached bunches in the country and with 8 starters on offense returning I think they'll have no trouble carving up a Gator's team that lacks depth up front. Expect the running game to be roaring and the Utes to seperate themself as the game goes deeper. They'll win the game in the trenches on both sides, even with defensive turnover.
Kyle Whittingham has shown year in-year out that he can replace defensive starters and he'll show just that again on Saturday. Expect Mohamoud Diabite - a transfer from the Gators - to fill the shoes of Devin Lloyd and be motivated to stick it to his old teammates. They still return two fantastic run-stoppers in Junior Tafuna and Devin Kaufusi as well as some phenomenal defensive backs, so while there are holes in the defense, they'll have solid players at all three levels to welcome in the newcomers and help them adapt.
Pick: Utah ML -145 (1.5u)
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Be on the lookout for additional plays tweeted out by me @RickHHSports , Andy @AndyHHSports , and Deej @DeejHHSports . If you've gotten to this point, I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read my plays and analysis, and look forward to cashing some tickets and watching some football this week. It's good to be back!