College Football Betting: Week 1 Best Picks and Advice

During the college football season, Stadium’s staff will provide weekly betting picks and advice. Here are our thoughts on the Week 1 slate.

Note: Ben and Nate will discuss all of their college football and NFL bets on the Sharp Lessons podcast. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple for episodes and follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content.

1. What is your favorite pick against the spread?

Ben Wittenstein, Stadium Social Media Producer: UCLA +3 over LSU.

I will admit that Nate convinced me to do this, but it also makes a lot of sense. The Bruins already played in Week 0, and LSU has had an incredibly hectic week, dealing with Hurricane Ida and moving practice to Houston. On top of that, the Bruins get this game at home after looking impressive in the win over Hawaii last weekend. Both coaches have a lot to prove, but with Chip Kelly in this spot, I’ll gladly take the +3.

Kate Constable, Stadium Host & Digital Producer: UCLA +3 over LSU.

As much as I love to say “Geaux Tigers,” the distraction of Hurricane Ida has me taking UCLA to cover. LSU has been practicing in Houston all week, being forced out of their normal routine. It’s difficult to put your entire focus on football when the safety of your family, friends and town is in question. Pair that with a UCLA team that put up an impressive showing in Week 0, beating a middle-of-the-road Hawaii team 44-10.

The Bruins’ offensive line led the way for running backs Brittain Brown and Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet. Brown ran for 78 yards and a touchdown, while Charbonnet went for 106 yards and three touchdowns on six carries. If LSU’s defense doesn’t come to play, UCLA might do more than just cover the spread.

Nate Jacobson, Stadium Sports Betting Analyst: UCLA +3 over LSU.

I hope you are both right, because the Bruins are the standout side for me this week. Remember that the Tigers will be starting Max Johnson after Myles Brennan suffered an arm injury that required surgery a month ago. I like UCLA to win this game outright.

2. What is another bet you like?

BW: Under 50 in Penn State-Wisconsin.

I will happily take Big Ten unders to start the season. Yes, Wisconsin has Graham Mertz back, but they will run the ball and their defense is going to be even better than last year’s. On the flip side, the Nittany Lions still aren’t sure what they have in QB Sean Clifford, and with new OC Mike Yurcich coaching in his first game, I don’t expect a ton of deep shots. Penn State unders hit in three out of its four away games last season, and Wisconsin unders hit in two of its three home games. Defense will rule the day Saturday, so pound that under.

KC: Marshall -2.5 over Navy.

With the best defense in Conference USA last season and the No. 1 scoring ‘D’ in the nation, I really like Marshall to cover. Defensively, their front seven will have no problem slowing down Navy’s ground attack. Offensively, Navy doesn’t have much of a pass rush so Marshall QB Grant Wells should have plenty of time to locate his favorite receivers.

NJ: Under 61 in Alabama-Miami.

The Crimson Tide just had six offensive players drafted in the top 37 of the NFL Draft and lost OC Steve Sarkisian to Texas. Former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien will call plays, and I can see him starting slow with a new quarterback in Bryce Young. Miami quarterback D’Eriq King will return to the field after tearing his ACL in their bowl game. I believe Miami, a 19.5-point underdog, will be cautious with him in his return, as losing this game won’t harm their season-long goals in the ACC.

3. Which underdog of +200 or more on the moneyline has the best chance of an outright upset?

BW: Louisiana (+270) over Texas.

There’s not a ton of good options here, so I’ll just pick Louisiana. Why? Because seeing Texas lose its Week 1 game at home, in Steve Sarkisian’s first season, would be flat-out entertaining.

KC: Arizona (+360) over BYU.

Arizona has a lot of new faces this season, adding several transfers at linebacker and in the secondary, which makes them a bit of an unknown. This is dangerous for a BYU team that has question marks on defense, a new QB in Jaren Hall and a new offensive coordinator. As much as Arizona is building from the ground up this season, BYU will have their fair share of kinks to work out in Week 1. I don’t see either offense taking over, which should result in a grind-it-out type of game. With Arizona at +350, I like the value on the Wildcats.

NJ: Rice (+700) over Arkansas.

I struggled with this question because UTSA is now less than a +200 underdog at Illinois, so I’ll just take a big swing on Rice. Arkansas has one of the toughest schedules in the country this season so they need to win this game, but I can see them overlooking the Owls since they host Texas in one of the marquee matchups in Week 2. Rice can stay within the point spread of 19.5 and is worth a small bet at 7/1 to win straight-up.

4. What is one bet you are tempted to make this week, but know you probably shouldn’t? 

BW: Indiana +4 over Iowa.

I really, really, really want to hit Indiana against Iowa, but realistically know that I shouldn’t. IU had a Cinderella season last year, which was helped by facing teams with injuries and COVID-19 issues. I think this number reflects a bit of inflation regarding IU’s reputation from last year, so add in Iowa being underrated and you get a line that I will give a hard pass on.

KC: Iowa -4 over Indiana.

The Hawkeyes have won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams, including three straight in Iowa City. With Kinnick Stadium being such a tough place to play, Iowa could certainly make that four in a row. That being said, the Hoosiers are 7-0 ATS as a road underdog in the last three seasons under head coach Tom Allen.

Indiana should be motivated to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. They return quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and top receiver Ty Fryfogle, plus the majority of their defensive line. If they can contain Iowa’s run game, which includes RB Tyler Goodson, the Hoosiers can keep this one close. If not, I think Iowa easily covers.

NJ: Louisiana +8 over Texas.

A month ago, I considered making an early bet on Louisiana at +10, but I missed out and the number has continued to drop. Billy Napier has done a great job in Lafayette, as the team enters the season ranked No. 23, returning a lot of production from last year. But when it comes to talent, Texas has a huge advantage and the line feels short now that it is single digits.

MORE: College Football Betting: Preseason Odds and Advice