NCAAF Best Bets, Aug. 28
In a year where time has been flying by, the countdown to college football season has seemingly moved at a sloth’s pace, but at last we have arrived at the first football filled Saturday of 2021. Although this slate does not have the most riveting matchups, the fact that it is now the official start of football season makes these games extra special. There will be some interesting Power Five team appearances along with Group of Five action that should be a blast. For all the football lunatics and degenerates out there, I will be navigating you through this fun week 0 kickoff.
The opening snap of the season is an electric Big Ten contest in Champaign, Illinois as the Illini plan to at least cover against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. This game opened up with Nebraska as seven and a half-point favorites and the latest odds from Fanduel Sportsbook list Illinois as seven and a half-point home underdogs with a +220 ML. Illinois comes into this one with first year head coach Bret Bielema alongside an experienced roster who will be motivated to start his tenure with a W. Contrastingly with the Huskers, the NCAA recently launched an investigation into the Nebraska program over practice violations which puts into question whether or not head coach Scott Frost will be on the sidelines. The Illini boast a whopping number of 18 super seniors and 22 seniors so they’ll have plenty of experience on both sides of the ball. Despite Nebraska having a majority of their offense returning, including senior quarterback Adrian Martinez, in 2020 they averaged a mediocre 23 points per game, so Illinois should have no problem keeping pace with the Husker’s O. Nebraska lead Division 1 teams during last season in total under point percentage where 87.5% of their games ended below the total point line. Since Nebraska merged with the Big Ten in 2011, the Illini have been fully competitive against them in the lower tier of the Big Ten, notably with their win in Lincoln last season. To have a full touchdown and extra point against an Illinois squad at home in a game they can win, versus a discombobulated Husker team, makes this +7.5 play extra juicy along with slight hesitancy to put something down on their ML.
In an exciting appearance by another P5 school, the Pac-12 conference hopeful UCLA Bruins take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. This line has only moved slightly with the opening point spread posted at UCLA -16.5 and the current spread favoring the Bruins by 17.5. In a wide open Pac-12 conference, UCLA aims to make a run at the South division against its surrounding subpar competition. Bruins head coach Chip Kelly, who is known for his reign with the Oregon Ducks, is on the hot seat for his place as coach after a couple lousy seasons with the team, so his players will be fired up to get the season started on the right foot. They are returning 20 starters from last year, along with their quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who helped the Bruin offense average an outstanding 35.4 ppg. When there is a matchup between a Power Five school and a Group of Five school, the result is usually the same. The previous meeting between these programs in 2017 ended up in UCLA clobbering the Rainbow Warriors, 56-23. Give me the Bruins by a landslide where they will raise eyebrows with their overall play.
To finish off this slate we have a late night thriller in the Group of Five conferences between the UTEP Miners and New Mexico State Aggies. The spread for this game has bounced around a lot with the opening line set at UTEP -7 and now the Miners find themselves as nine and a half-point road favorites. Last year the Miners played eight games against FBS teams in an adjusted schedule, whereas the Aggies did not play at all last Fall and only played two games in the spring against weak FCS competition. This UTEP squad will not only be an upgrade from what the Aggies did see last year, but the Miners hope to lead a successful 2021 campaign. With NFL hopefuls on the defensive side of the ball, especially defensive end Praise Amaewhule who has high chances of playing on Sundays, UTEP is looking to dominate an outmatched NM State offense. Although this is a pretty heated rivalry between these schools, considering NM State has not played a real game in two years combined with their disappointing spring performance, I have to give the edge to an experienced UTEP crew to safely hold off the Aggies.