Week 0 is here.
The college football season opens with five FBS games, including a Big Ten West showdown to start the season between Nebraska and Illinois.
There are no games involving teams ranked in the Top 25, but this as a warmup week for my weekly picks against the spread. I finished 107-101 (.514) ATS last season, a drop from 153-123 (.554) the previous season.
New season. New attitude. The matchup between the Huskers and Illini should draw interest given the recent NCAA allegations against the program and Scott Frost’s continued struggles since arriving in Lincoln. Illinois will begin the Bret Bielema era looking for a home victory. UCLA is the other Power 5 team in action in Week 0, and they have a home matchup against Hawai’i.
Will we get off to the right start in our picks?
Week 0 picks against the spread
Saturday, Aug. 28
Nebraska (-6.5) at Illinois
The Huskers have lost their opener two of the last three seasons under Frost, so the pressure is on quarterback Adrian Martinez to deliver. Illinois routed Nebraska 41-23 last season and has an experienced quarterback in Brandon Peters. Bret Bielema is making his return to the Big Ten, and it would be fitting to start the season with an overtime classic. We’ll order it up.
Pick: Nebraska wins 30-27 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Connecticut at Fresno State (-27.5)
UConn is back on the field after a one-year absence, and they face a Fresno State team looking to click before a Sept. 4 matchup with Oregon. Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener averaged 336.8 passing yards per game last season, but the Bulldogs struggled on the defensive side. Perhaps UConn can control some clock with running back Kevin Mensah, who stayed last season after rushing for 1,000 yards in 2019 and 2020.
Pick: Fresno State wins 42-16 and FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Hawai’i at UCLA (-17.5)
Chip Kelly is another coach looking to break through in his fourth season, and this is quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s time to shine. The Bruins have LSU next week, too, so it has to come together quickly. UCLA is 2-6 as a favorite under Kelly, and that gives us pause. Hawai’i was 4-2 ATS as an underdog last season. This will play right on the line, but we’ll go with the Bruins trying to make a statement.
Pick: UCLA wins 38-20 and COVERS the spread.
UTEP (-8.5) at New Mexico State
New Mexico State is another school that is back on the field after opting out of the 2020 season. UTEP was 3-5 last season, but only one of those victories was against a FBS opponent (UL-Monroe). If you’re staying up late for this one, then you might get a thriller in the end. The Miners are 2-3 ATS as a favorite the last four seasons.
Pick: UTEP wins 34-28 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Southern Utah at San Jose State (N/L)
Quarterback Nick Starkel is back to lead the Spartans’ offense, and senior defensive end Cade Hall was a SN All-American selection in 2020. San Jose State will tune up against the Thunderbirds, which finished 1-5 in 2020, before taking on USC next week.
Pick: San Jose State wins 41-10.