College football Saturday is two days away. There is a different energy after you wake up knowing there is a full slate of games ahead. Everyone has his or her morning routines. Coffee? Check. Grab the leash to walk the dog. Once you step outside, regardless of the weather, it feels absolutely perfect for football. The dog's tail is wagging like crazy as you peruse your phone for the latest gameday updates. The neighbors might catch a wave and a grin because that’s all it takes this time of year. The message is conveyed without ever having to speak a word. Everyone is on the same vibe as it slowly sinks in that the best time of year is finally upon us.
The truth is, I really enjoy Week 0, along with the early Week 1 action on Thursday and Friday nights. It’s similar to dipping your feet into the water to check the temperature, knowing you're about to cannonball into the deep end regardless of how shockingly cold it is. Saturday is the deep end. It’s guaranteed to be filled with wild upsets, major blowouts and top programs barely surviving as big favorites. It’s everything that makes Saturdays so special.
For bettors, it’s an even bigger ride. Nobody cares that you aced the quiz in Week 0; Saturday is your first real test. It’s your offseason work against the books. There will be some “oh no” moments, and some that will make us look like geniuses. Laying heavy chalk can make some weak in the knees, but out-of-conference scheduling breeds these types of edges. Here are two big favorites that I am confident can cover the current number.
TCU (-20.5) over Colorado
The ability to cut through the noise is one of the most valuable traits a sports bettor can have. There is no place noisier to start the season than Colorado. Everybody wants to watch the Colorado Buffaloes' season unfold. Make no mistake, head coach Deion Sanders' roster rebuild deserves all the credit and attention it garnered this offseason. Colorado has much more top-end talent than a season ago. The biggest concern with this type of overhaul is having the pieces come together and play cohesively early on. The best time to take advantage of that is Saturday.
TCU lost a lot from the team we fondly followed all the way to the national championship game. Max Duggan, Quentin Johnston and Kendre Miller can’t help the host Horned Frogs when they take the field Saturday. The household names may now be with Colorado, but TCU has the talent where it matters most: in the trenches. TCU steamrolled Colorado last season, 38-13, in a game where Chandler Morris got the majority of work at QB for the Frogs. They did it by relentlessly pounding Colorado's defense for 275 yards rushing on 9.2 yards per carry. I think we see more of the same from Sonny Dykes. It’s going to be 95-100 degrees on the field in Fort Worth, and Colorado doesn’t have the depth to sufficiently rotate players without a major dropoff. I can’t predict how well Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders will adapt to defenses at the FBS level, but playing TCU on the road in these conditions is as tough as it gets. If it’s a situation where Colorado is playing from behind, I can easily see things snowballing against it without the depth to stop the bleeding on defense. Bet the Horned Frogs to literally run away with this one. Let’s lock it in below the key number of 21 while it’s still available. Bet: TCU -20.5
SMU (-20.5) over Louisiana Tech
There is an advantage to opening the season a week earlier than your opponent. You get a chance to knock off the rust and acclimate to the physical intensity of gameday. Louisiana Tech may have been better off getting in another week of practice. The Bulldogs needed a 30-yard touchdown run by Jacob Fields with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter to pull off a 22-17 win over Florida International. FIU was able to stay competitive for a majority of the game despite having a one-dimensional offense due to a completely inept passing game. FIU starter Grayson James finished 5-of-14 for only four total yards passing. The Louisiana Tech defense will face a much tougher task with Rhett Lashlee’s SMU Mustangs.
The Mustangs improved in a big way this offseason by landing several starters from the transfer portal, including five on defense. SMU’s high-powered offense has a deep stable of playmakers that should create numerous mismatches, allowing the Mustangs to put up big numbers in Preston Stone’s debut as the starting quarterback. In their first year under Lashlee, the Mustangs finished in a four-way tie with Alabama, Michigan and Fresno State in explosive plays (20-plus yards) at 17th overall. With Lashlee on the sidelines and plenty of returning firepower surrounding Stone, the former four-star recruit will settle in quickly and crank up the offense. Considering how conservative the Bulldogs' offense was against FIU, I don’t see how it can keep up with the Mustangs. Bet: SMU -20.5
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