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College Football Picks This Week: Week 0 Predictions and Best Bets

Week 0 doesn't offer a lot of Top matchups, but we do have a conference game in Nebraska-Northwestern, and two other power conference schools playing amongst the nine contests. With only a handful of games to pick from, and needing five here for content, I'd encourage caution when taking these picks confidently.

Nebraska vs. Northwestern under 50.5 (Dublin, Ireland)

Loyal readers from prior seasons know I do not like totals when it comes to picking winners, so why not start the year off with one? Even sillier, the Cornhuskers put up 56 on the Wildcats last year, so why would it make any sense to expect a far lower-scoring game here? It's honestly a fair question, but simply put, I'll bank on Northwestern improving their defense enough to not allow Nebraska to average 8.1 yards per carry this time around. Pair that with tons of new pieces offensively and in the coaching staff for the Cornhuskers, and I'm banking on some growing pains. Northwestern should be vulnerable in their secondary, so a few early big plays could allow Nebraska to play conservatively and grind the clock late.

New Mexico State (+9) vs. Nevada

Both sides are breaking in new coaching staffs, but it's Nevada with a first-time head coach against a veteran in Jerry Kill for the Aggies. Pair that with massive turnover for the Wolfpack on both sides of the ball, and this just seems like too many points. If New Mexico State can find success on the ground, they'll churn clock, further frustrating the Nevada offense as they work to build chemistry.

Illinois (-10) vs. Wyoming

It's all about roster turnover with these early-season games, and while I don't want to trust Illinois with this big number, they've got ample returning pieces on both sides that should allow them to handle a Wyoming team that's replacing a ton. Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito gives the Illini a leg up under center after officially being named the starter Thursday, and Chase Brown is a 1,000-yard rusher. Illinois also has a solid returning pass rush, which should create negative plays often. It's simply a game they have to win and will come focused from the opening snap.

Florida Atlantic (-7) vs. Charlotte

I'm not really understanding this line. Florida Atlantic won 38-9 in Charlotte last season as six-point favorites, so what's changed so much to assume a similar outcome isn't in store? The Owls return N'Kosi Perry under center, who had three TDs last year against the 49ers, and they piled up 202 yards rushing and 5.1 yards per carry. Mix that with four returning offensive linemen, and I don't believe the Owls' offense will be kept down. Charlotte and QB Chris Reynolds likely get more than nine points here, but their defense hasn't improved enough to keep this close.

Vanderbilt (-6.5) at Hawaii

We could almost cut and paste these breakdowns and just changed the teams and player names. Trusting the SEC's bottom feeder to travel to paradise and cover a spread seems like a tall ask, but only Nevada returns less production from 2021 than Hawaii does. The return of Ray Davis to the backfield should help offset the Commodores' offensive line turnover, and quarterback Mike Wright offers dual-threat capabilities and far more experience than whomever Hawaii turns to. There's likely to be a time to back Hawaii as a home dog later in the year, but I don't think the opener with a new regime is it. The Commodores' returning defense will be more than enough to cover this against a rebuilding opponent.

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