Free Picks for College Football Week 1 Games For 9/4/2021
The highly anticipated college football season is upon us! Last Saturday was a preview with a few games taking place, but this Saturday is truly the first week of games and there is a full slate to take a look at.
Week 1 always has an interesting mix of tune-up games and tough matchups that will already have an impact on conference championship possibilities at the end of the season. Just remember that college football can see plenty of volatility from year to year. So take a look at how teams did last year but use it with a grain of salt.
There will be plenty of opportunities this weekend to win without getting too fancy, so let’s take a look at some spreads, moneylines, and over/unders this weekend.
All lines in this article are referencing the BetMGM Sportsbook.
Free Picks for College Football Week 1
12:00 PM EST Saturday, September 4th, 2021
I’m sure Penn State and Wisconsin would both like to forget the strange 2020 season. James Franklin and the Nittany Lions started 0-5 before winning four straight to end the season, and Wisconsin’s COVID issues caused three canceled games and played a part in three losses to ranked Big Ten opponents.
Neither team was impressive against the spread last year. Wisconsin went 3-4 and Penn State went 4-5. Over/unders have pretty similar records, with the Badgers going 3-4 again and the Nittany Lions going 4-4-1.
History of the Rivalry
These two team’s histories are just as even against each other too. Wisconsin holds a 9-10 all-time record against Penn State, with the series dating back to 1953. Wisconsin is 6-4 at home in the series, though. Penn State currently holds a four-game winning streak in the series.
That makes this week one test all the more interesting. Penn State has senior Sean Clifford under center, and Wisconsin has sophomore Graham Mertz starting his second year. The Nittany Lions and the Badgers did not play against each other last year, so this will be Mertz’s first time against the conference opponent.
Mertz has a tough task against a Penn State defense that has stayed remarkably consistent under defensive coordinator Brent Pry. Expect Clifford to face a similar challenge against a Badgers defense coached under former Badgers safety Jim Leonhard.
For me though, Mertz still has too much to prove. And I like backing senior quarterbacks in Week 1 scenarios like this. The fact that this is a Week 1 Big Ten matchup between two teams that both hope to be contending for a conference championship makes it a risky game to bet on. But I will take the senior leadership of Clifford over Mertz, who has never suited up against Penn State.
The Bet: I will be backing the underdog, betting 1 unit on Penn State Moneyline (+180).
3:30 PM EST Saturday, September 4th, 2021
I will start this off by saying most of you reading this pick will probably think I am crazy and fade me, and that is fine, but I am expecting this game to be really fun to watch.
For the past decade, Alabama has opened its season against another Power 5 conference opponent. And the Crimson Tide started every year with a win. With the spread
favoring Alabama by 20 points, they are expected to win again to start the 2021 season, but ranked Miami is no opponent to look past.
With D’Eriq King back under center for the Hurricanes again this season, I expect another strong season from an offense that averaged 36 points per game last year. It’ll be a tough task against an Alabama defense that brings back eight starters. If Miami’s offense can play comfortably, though, then this could be anyone's game.
The challenge in handicapping this game is with Miami’s defense and Alabama’s offense. Saban lost a lot of firepower, but we have seen year after year how he is able to reload rather than rebuild.
Alabama has a lot of question marks though after losing multiple offensive linemen, quarterback Mac Jones, two wideouts, and a running back. All of these players were drafted in the top 40 picks of the NFL draft, though, so their replacements have big shoes to fill.
There are just too many questions around Nick Saban’s offense for me to back them in Week 1, especially with Alabama sitting at -1200 on the moneyline.
The Bet: I think Miami keeps this game close but doesn’t necessarily win so I am riding with Miami +20 (-110).
3:30 PM EST Saturday, September 4th, 2021
You may not know it, but we have a rivalry game in Week 1. And this time, there is a chance that the 125th meeting between the Miami (OH) RedHawks and the Cincinnati Bearcats ends the day with the all-time series being tied.
Currently, Miami (OH) holds a 59-58-7 all-time record against Cincinnati in a football series that started with a 0-0 tie in 1888. The teams have played nearly every year since, with Cincinnati winning the last 14 times.
The Bearcats come into this game ranked #8 in the nation and favored by 22.5 points. Based on the scores in recent years, the spread and over/under (set at 50) are both sharp lines. In Cincinnati’s 14 consecutive wins, the Bearcats have won by an average margin of 20.43 points. The average total points scored were 43.57 points.
History also shows that a Cincinnati spread of -22.5 would cover seven of the past 14 games, but only one of the past seven. History also shows that the over would have hit in just five of the 14 most recent matchups.
Actually looking at this year's matchups though, Cincinnati seems to have the advantage across the board. Quarterback Desmond Ridder is the staple of the Bearcats’ offense. But after losing all-conference tackles James Hudson and Darius Harper, there are questions entering the season about the Bearcats line.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati defense lost coordinator Marcus Freeman but returned strong pieces at each level. The Bearcats defense will look to stop a Miami (OH) offense that is largely unknown due to a QB battle in training camp and a running game that includes a transfer from Northwestern and two rushers that sat out in 2020.
The Bet: Overall, I’m not too concerned about the Miami RedHawks, so I am taking the Cincinnati Bearcats -22.5 (-110).
Other Games of Interest
Now, there are plenty of intriguing games on Saturday that I will also be eyeing as Saturday gets closer. Fresno State vs. #11 Oregon, #17 Indiana vs. #18 Iowa, #23 Louisiana vs. #21 Texas, #5 Georgia vs. #3 Clemson, and so many more.
Join me on Twitter @SnakeJiggs as I share more picks leading up to Saturday and possibly even some live plays. Who knows!