Four NCAAF Week 1 Picks To Wager Before Value Dwindles Away

Jay Pryce

Thursday, August 18, 2016 8:59 PM UTC

Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 8:59 PM UTC

The college football season kicks off in earnest in a little more than two weeks. Books have already put up their number, early lines provide great betting opportunities for smart players.

South Carolina vs Vanderbilt (-3.5)
Sophomore Kyle Shurmur, who started five games last season, is one of eight returning first-teamers to Vanderbilt’s offense. But is this a good thing? The team scored a paltry 12.3 points per game last season, better than only Missouri (11.7), Boston College (10.6) and Kent State (10.2). Moreover, do you really want the offense opening the season against a conference foe with a veteran unit led by a newly anointed defensive guru? Well, that’s the case when Will Muschamp leads South Carolina and eight returning defensive starters into Nashville for his first game in charge of the Gamecocks.

South Carolina may have issues moving the ball as well, but chances are the Commodores will too. Expect a low-scoring affair in this SEC opener. The Gamecocks are 20-4 SU in the last 24 meetings, holding Vandy to 17 points or less in all but five. They have been dogs just three times, winning two of them. The 3.5 points could be huge in this one, and an outright upset wouldn’t shock given the talent gap between both programs.

Free NCAAF Pick: South Carolina +3.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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Ball State vs Georgia State (-3)
Sure, this is not the most glamorous game on the docket, but value is what is at stake here, and Georgia State offers it. The Panthers return 16 starters, nine on offense and seven on defense, including five named to the Sun Belt preseason all-conference team. This same bunch walked into Muncie last season and whipped the Cardinals 31-19 as 13-point dogs, passing for 412 yards in the contest. Gone is quarterback Nick Arbuckle, though. Redshirt junior Conner Manning, a transfer from Utah, redshirt sophomore Emiere Scaife and redshirt freshman Aaron Winchester are in the running for the starting gig. Neither has started a collegiate game. Still, the electrifying wide receiver duo of Robert Davis and Penny Hart are back, and can make anyone under center shine in offensive coordinator Luke Huard’s system.

Free NCAAF Pick: Georgia State -3
Best Line Offered: at BetCRIS

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Western Michigan vs Northwestern (-6.5)
Western Michigan returns nearly all of an offense that averaged 34.7 points in 2015, including MAC preseason all-conference team QB Zach Terrell. The Broncos, who galloped for 5.0 yards per carry, though, prefer to run. Regardless, they are efficient on both sides of the ball, picking up 6.5 yards per play last season, 17th best nationally. They’re up against a Northwestern squad returning just 11 starters from a team that won 10 games for only the third time since 1903.

Western Michigan hung tough against the Big 10 last year, covering the spread against Michigan State (-16.5) and Ohio State (-31.5) by 37-24 and 38-12 score lines respectively. The program is just 4-31 SU against the Big 10 in its last 35 matchups, though. It has kept the game within a touchdown in six of nine contests when spotted nine points or less. The line (-6.5) keeps heading in the Wildcats favor, after opening at 5 points. We will let it continue to grow before wagering on the Broncos plus the points.

Free NCAAF Pick: Western Michigan ATS
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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Southern Miss vs Kentucky (-7)
It’s rare to find a Conference USA-SEC matchup within double digits on the spread, but that’s the case here. Kentucky opened as 7.5-point favorites, the line bet down to as low as 6.5 at some sports books. The C-USA is just 24-131 SU (73-80-2 ATS) versus the powerhouse conference in the last 20 years and has kicked off a touchdown dog or less in only four of them. Each game was decided by five points or less, though.

The high-flying Golden Eagles put up 39.0 points per game last season, 11th most in FBS. Senior QB Nick Mullens is back leading the unit after becoming the first Southern Miss player named as C-USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2015. He ranked second in the league in yards (4,476) and TD passes (38), both school records. The teams's 10 wins against the spread last season tied for most in the nation, and one can expect it to better the betting market again in this one.

Free NCAAF Pick: Southern Miss +7
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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