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Best College Football Matchups and Picks Week 1

August 16, 2021
Sam Howell leads UNC at Va Tech in week 1 of 2021

The first week of the college football season is less than two weeks away and the lineup of games is a feast for bettors ready to get going in 2021. Five games on Saturday, Aug. 28, start the ball rolling with the first AP ranked teams taking the field on Thursday, September 2.

Here’s a look at the opening week’s best matchups, odds, and picks.


If there is one thing about playing in Blacksburg, it’s the Hokies entrance into the stadium as Metallica’s Enter Sandman blasts through the PA system. Entrances aside, Virginia Tech will have its hands full with North Carolina QB Sam Howell and the Tar Heels offense. 

While UNC lost its top two running backs and its top receiver from last season, the Tar Heels return all five offensive line starters. Howell is projected by many to be the first quarterback selected in next year’s NFL draft and possibly even the top pick overall. Howell threw for 3,586 yards and 30 touchdowns a year ago. 

Neither team was very good defensively last season. Both were among the best in explosive offensive plays too. North Carolina was actually first in the nation in run plays of 10 yards or more. The Hokies were second in “explosive plays” defined as runs of 10 yards or more and passes of 30 yards or more.

Expect both teams to score, but reaching a total of 67.5 is a bit of a stretch this early in the season. The Tar Heels will continue to build upon their last two winning seasons. Back UNC to cover the 5.5-point spread.

PICK: North Carolina -5.5 (-110) – Bet this pick now


#5 GEORGIA vs. #3 CLEMSON (-3)

The best game of Week 1 is probably this matchup of top-5 teams to be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. The Georgia defense matches up against a Clemson offense that will start D.J. Uiagalelei at quarterback. Remember, the Clemson quarterback has two starts under his belt already and proved himself in a win over Notre Dame a year ago. 

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The Bulldogs have one of the best front sevens in college football. In 2020, Georgia ranked No. 1 in the nation against the run allowing an average of just 72.3 rushing yards per game. The next closest team, Texas A&M, gave up 92 per game just to give you an idea of how dominant the Bulldogs can be up front.

Georgia also has J.T. Daniels back to become the full-time starter at quarterback this year. He will lead an explosive offense that returns receivers Kearis Jackson and George Pickens. Also back is leading rusher Zamir White (774 yards). The Bulldogs are only 2-5 ATS in their last seven games, but their defense has the ability to keep this one close. There is value on the underdog in this one as Clemson turns to Uiagalelei to replace Trevor Lawrence.

PICK: Georgia +3 (-110) – Bet this pick now



A few decades ago, an opening weekend Notre Dame-Florida State matchup could have been the game of the year. The Seminoles, who just lost legendary former head coach Bobby Bowden, will try to rebuild in Year 2 under Mike Norvell. FSU did not have the benefit of spring football last season due to COVID-19 and it hurt.

This season, Norvell will have former UCF star McKenzie Milton at quarterback. Milton suffered a horrific leg injury but has returned and is the Seminoles best quarterback since Jameis Winston. While Milton and the Seminoles will have the advantage of playing at home, the Fighting Irish are just too good. 

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Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan takes over at quarterback for Notre Dame. The Irish have leading rusher Kyren Williams (1,125 yards, 13 TDs) back to take some of the pressure off of Coan. Then, there is Notre Dame’s recent history. The Irish have won 32 straight games against unranked opponents. That streak will continue and, with FSU struggling to find its way on offense in 2021, Notre Dame will cover the eight points.

PICK: Notre Dame -7.5 (-110) – Bet this pick now



New QB at N. Illinois

QB Rocky Lombardi takes over at N. Illinois

This matchup will garner no national recognition. The late night Sportscenter show will likely limit coverage of this game to a score scrolling across the bottom of the screen. However, if bettors out there are paying attention to sharp betting action, they would notice that the sharps injection of money on this line caused it to move from -16.5 to -17.5. 

Most bettors will likely miss this move since this is a game buried in the Week 1 schedule. The move leaves the door open for an NIU cover. While most see the Huskies struggling again in the MAC, they do return nine offensive starters and will have former Michigan State QB Rocky Lombardi as the team’s starter. NIU also returns seven starters on defense. Expect a low-scoring affair from two teams that averaged fewer than 25 points a game last season.

PICK: Northern Illinois +17.5 (-105) – Bet this pick now