College Football Week 0 was the appetizer, and we’ve got the main course ahead. There will be no handicapping of Cal, Stanford and SMU’s potential invite to the ACC (but if there was, things are looking optimistic). We’re covering five games and giving picks against the spread from a Week 1 that spreads its wings from Thursday to Monday night as the real football season takes flight.
Florida @Utah (-6.5)
Pat Forde: Florida +6.5. Last year the Gators defeated the Utes in a game that was not indicative of the seasons that would follow for either team. I suspect this may be a repeat of that scenario. Utah is not the same team without Cameron Rising, whose availability is in doubt as he’s recovering from a major knee injury in the Rose Bowl to end last season. If Graham Mertz is functional for Florida, the Gators can cover and perhaps win outright.
Richard Johnson: Florida +6.5. It’s not just that Rising’s a maybe; it’s also star tight end Brant Kuithe. I think both of those things help explain a line that is much different than I expected (and many others) considering how Florida’s been predicted to struggle this season. It’s almost like Las Vegas is telling us something—I’m going to listen.
Colorado @TCU (-20.5)
Forde: TCU -20.5. Colorado is a huge national curiosity for good reason, but the Horned Frogs are the better team and program right now. Sonny Dykes loves Chandler Morris at QB, and the Frogs made some key portal acquisitions at running back and wide receiver. The offensive line is solid. The defense is probably good enough. Bringing the Buffaloes into a Fort Worth broiler for a Big Noon game, this sets up as a TCU blowout.
Johnson: TCU -20.5. Beyond the hype for Colorado there is the reality that I do not believe this Colorado team is ready for prime time yet. The realities of their situation include a team that wasn’t good this year and may struggle mightily in the trenches. That’s not a great recipe for success against anyone, much less a TCU outfit that despite new pieces on defense has a scheme that overwhelmed a Goliath in Michigan last January with its complexities up front.
Boise State @Washington (-14.5)
Forde: Washington -14.5. The hook concerns me here, because I think Boise State is not just the best team in the Mountain West but very much the best. However, I’m bullish on the Huskies, who are going to score a ton of points and put a lot of stress on the Broncos’ secondary with their elite receiving corps. This won’t be a walkover, but it will be a solid Washington win.
Johnson: Boise State +14.5. A young Boise defense gets thrown into the fire early here against a Heisman hopeful in Michael Penix Jr. But there’s a chance that Boise is able to run enough to keep the game within reach and control the tempo. I’m betting on a positive game script to get me the cover.
North Carolina (-2.5) vs. South Carolina
Forde: South Carolina +2.5. Did North Carolina fix its defense? I don’t believe the Tar Heels fixed the defense. Certainly not enough to make me a believer in their No. 21 preseason ranking. Big Game Shane Beamer has had a knack for fan-pleasing victories, upsetting Tennessee and Clemson in consecutive weeks last year—and North Carolina as an 11-point underdog in the Mayo Bowl in 2021.
Johnson: North Carolina -2.5. Spencer Rattler and the Gamecocks still may not be really built for a track meet to the magnitude of the one they’re signing up for in Charlotte. This game has one of the higher totals of any in the country (64) so expect fireworks. I think the Heels edge it out in a who-has-the-ball-last showcase for Drake Maye on a huge stage.
Florida State vs. LSU (-2.5)
Forde: Florida State +2.5. I might be making too much of Maason Smith’s suspension for this one, but I believe it really hurts LSU’s interior push defensively. FSU has gotten progressively better on the offensive line, and if the Seminoles can run the ball to set up deep shots to Johnny Wilson et. al., they’ll move and score. And I don’t think they’ll need to block a PAT at the end to win this one.
Johnson: Florida State +2.5. What can I say, I’m just bullish on the Noles. Of course their continuity and the pieces they bring back are important, but even more so is what I think about Mike Norvell’s ability to develop a roster and talent. Last year’s game was a sloppy mess, but I’m expecting this one to be of much higher quality even if Week 1 has its normal sluggishness.