The 2015 college season will begin around the country this Thursday on Sept. 3. With point spread, money line and total odds out on most Week 1 game, these five I believe offer the best value.
Michigan vs. Utah (-3)
How much difference does a new coach make? We should find out immediately what impact Jim Harbaugh will have on Michigan, which had one of the worst offenses in the country last season and will have to break in a new starting quarterback here, either Shane Morris or Iowa transfer Jake Rudock. It is not easy to win at Utah, and not just because of the elevation. The Utes went to Ann Arbor last season and thumped Michigan 26-10. Utah brings back a healthy Travis Wilson at quarterback (although he may not win the starting job) and very talented Devontae Booker at running back. As an extra story line here, reports are that Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was Michigan's second choice if Harbaugh said no.
NCAA Free Pick: Utes. I've seen this as high as 5 at some books. I don't love this as much even a half-point higher but do at 3.
BYU vs. Nebraska (-7)
I think people are sleeping on the Cougars as they bring back 14 starters, led by Heisman candidate quarterback Taysom Hill, maybe the best QB you have never heard of (if you haven't). BYU was 4–0 last season (including a blowout win at Texas) and ranked No. 18 before Hill broke his leg in the second quarter against Utah State. That sent BYU into a four-game skid. I think BYU's defense will be better with head coach Bronco Mendenhall taking over that unit. Nebraska has to replace star running back Ameer Abdullah and learn a whole different system under new Coach Mike Riley.
NCAA Free Pick: BYU, although I'm hoping this climbs to 7.5.
Michigan State vs. Western Michigan (+23.5)
Trap game for Sparty! Western Michigan brings back 17 starters and is going to be the Mid-American Conference's most talented team. Running back Jarvion Franklin was one of the best freshmen in the nation last year, rushing 306 times for 1,551 yards and 24 touchdowns. Starting QB Zach Terrell (3,443 yards, 26 touchdowns) and top receiver Corey Davis (78 catches, 1,408 yards 15 TDs) are also back. Western rarely gets to host big-time teams like this so it will be a big deal in Kalamazoo. It's Michigan State's first game playing without defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, plus Sparty has to replace its best running back and receiver. Oh, and in Week 2: MSU hosts Oregon. This is such a look-ahead game.
NCAA Free Pick: WMU all the way.
Wisconsin vs. Alabama (-11)
To be safe, I'd take the points here before the spread drops to 10, which it has at some books. But I think the Badgers can pull the upset at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Alabama was a bit overrated last season if you ask me -- like much of the SEC West -- and was last seen getting run over by another Big Ten team, Ohio State. UW is going to pound away at that defense with its massive offensive line and running back Corey Clement, who gets a chance in the spotlight with Melvin Gordon now in the NFL. In addition, the Tide have just four offensive starters back and whomever their quarterback is (probably Jacob Coker) will be making his first start.
NCAAF Free Pick: Badgers. Remember, they played really well in last season's neutral-site opener against an SEC team (LSU) in Texas (Houston).
Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech (+16.5)
Is it possible for Ohio State to get too jacked up here to deal a little payback to the Hokies after they won in Columbus easily in Week 2 last season? I believe it is. I also think OSU caught lightning in a bottle last season in some regards so the Buckeyes are being slightly overrated entering 2015, although they deserve to be the national title favorites with all that talent back. Might the team's quarterback competition also cause some friction? A lot of questions to ask before locking in your College Football picks, plus Tech brings back 16 starters and has one of the nation's best defensive coordinators in Bud Foster.
NCAA Free Pick: Tech will give OSU all it can handle and only lose by single digits.