WASHINGTON (-23) vs. Kent State
Although the Huskies have a new staff and quarterback, I would venture to say that Michael Penix is a good upgrade for the team. This game is one of those classic Week 1 mismatches, but the spread isn't so massive that we can't take the favorite. Kent State is simply outclassed in almost every category, and they're also beginning the season without a clear-cut replacement for Dustin Crum, who was the centerpiece of the offense in previous seasons. They also don't do well against Power 5 opponents, losing by an average of over 30 points to these teams over the past few years.
The major questions for both of these teams highlight the reason why I think this game will hit the Under. While I do think the Utes will prevail here, Utah's offensive line has some gaps of inexperience, and Florida's front seven are much improved. Additionally, both teams have good to excellent pass coverage, which will limit the number of breakaway plays that often inflate a score quickly. Anthony Richardson is much-hyped but injury-prone and unproven, and it'll be a challenge to get the ball out to playmakers against a smothering defense.
LSU -3 vs. Florida State
The Brian Kelly era begins with a sort-of-home game in the Superdome. Kelly has stayed mum on whether he'll begin the season with Jayden Daniels or Garrett Nussmeier, and he may very well have packages prepared for both to play. Daniels displayed true dual-threat capability during his tenure at Arizona State, but Nussmeier is a four-star prospect who is more of a pocket passer with a stronger arm. Although the QB situation is more fluid, the greater concern is at running back where the Tigers will have to contend with John Emery's suspension. Despite these concerns, FSU's defense will face a massively talented squad that's nothing close to its Week 0 opponent, and they will immediately be tested on the ground and through the air. The experts are split on this game but I'm solid on the Tigers.
USC -32 vs. Rice
It's going to be a whole new look for the Trojans in Memorial Coliseum, and the Lincoln Riley era should begin with a bang. The offense is a virtual NFL preview with Caleb Williams, Jordan Addison, Travis Dye and Mario Williams ready to make a statement early. Although there are some questions on defense, Rice should be completely outmatched and USC won't hesitate to run up the score.
OHIO STATE -17 vs. Notre Dame
I might not take this bet in South Bend, but I am fairly confident in the Buckeyes despite a bit of sticker shock at -17. Without question, the Buckeyes have one of the best offenses in the country, and they have multiple ways to burn you. Notre Dame has a strong running game and a fierce pass rush, but coach Marcus Freeman will have his hands full at the Horseshoe. It's a harsh environment, and this is a heck of a game for youngster Tyler Buchner to make a debut. I don't doubt Notre Dame's defensive capability, but I just don't think they'll score enough points to keep this close.