CFB Week 1: The 'Saturday Seven'
Who doesn't love a charcuterie board? Cured meats, cheeses, legumes, and spreads - something appetizing for everyone. For college football bettors, we get Week 0 and Week 1 palate-testers on Thursday and Friday night, but we're all really waiting for the main course.
Following a successful 2021 season flirting with 60% in this space, we are back with our seven underdogs with value against the spread.
North Carolina @ Appalachian State (+1, 56)
One game into our underdog premise, and we're cheating already! Technically, the Tar Heels are the favorite now, but the Mountaineers spent some time as the favorite earlier in the week before the market looked around and collectively said, "Wait, what?"
I was looking to bet on North Carolina then, and with the line just -1, I still am. There wasn't anything legitimate to take away from the Heels overwhelming a Florida A&M team in disarray. That said, Drake Maye was supposed to throw for something like five touchdowns, and he did.
App State is a fade for me this season, particularly against ACC-level talent. The program's getting credit for knocking off UNC during the Zac Thomas era, but with Chase Brice under center, this isn't that.
Pick: North Carolina -1
No. 13 North Carolina State @ East Carolina (+11.5, 52)
For a team with some buzz to make a run at the ACC title this season, you'd think the Wolfpack would be able to handle the Pirates with relative ease. However, Holton Ahlers is back for what feels like his 11th campaign at ECU, and the offense cooked last year, averaging almost 30 points per game and getting the Pirates into a bowl game.
More importantly, the defense was the big difference in 2021, knocking nine points off their opponents' average. An in-state game in Greenville means more to ECU than just a tune-up to start the season. Visiting a bowl team that's returning a fearless veteran quarterback and in the early stages of a coaching regime is a dangerous recipe for NC State.
Pick: East Carolina +11.5
No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia (-17, 53.5)
People will reference Oregon's win at Ohio State last year as the reason this game is close, but I'll point to Georgia's matchup with Clemson in Week 1 of 2021. This contest won't be 10-3, but it will pit two legitimate defenses against one another, making every point worth that much more.
Former Bulldogs defensive coordinator Dan Lanning has to have some inside information on how to handle Stetson Bennett and the Dawgs' offense. Assuming Bo Nix gets the start - he's familiar with the step-up that is a top SEC defense - the Ducks could hang with the defending champs.
Pick: Oregon +17
Arizona @ San Diego State (-6, 47)
If you know me, then you know I'm a Jayden de Laura fan from last year's late run with Washington State before Jedd Fisch wooed the quarterback to Arizona. The Wildcats went 1-11 last year, but I'll blame the record on the roster Fisch was saddled with. With the excitement of a solid recruiting class, Arizona could start the season fresh by going toe-to-toe with the Aztecs. And I'd wait to see if +7 becomes widely available before I bet.
Pick: Arizona +6.5 (wait for +7)
Liberty @ Southern Miss (+3.5, 50)
Malik Willis had flashes for the Titans in August, but that doesn't do Liberty any good now. Hugh Freeze needs a litany of transfers to mesh, including Charlie Brewer, who will be quarterbacking his third different team during his college career.
Instead, I'll take the points with Southern Miss, who will actually have a signal-caller this season. Last year, Frank Gore Jr. was taking wildcat snaps in the primary offensive set. He gets to go back to playing running back, and the offense can complement a defense taking another step forward, giving the program a chance for a home upset.
Pick: Southern Miss +3.5
Army @ Coastal Carolina (-2.5, 54.5)
Senior Tyhier Tyler takes over as quarterback for Army, which is a role more about legs than arm in its option offense. Tyler will either be keeping or distributing to one of the top-five returning rushers against a Coastal Carolina defense only returning two starters.
With new targets around him, Grayson McCall won't be able to take advantage of the fewer-than-usual possessions that the Chanticleers will get, meaning the Black Knights should be good for some time-consuming drives.
Pick: Army +2.5
Georgia State @ South Carolina (-12.5, 57)
Georgia State is our bet to win the Sun Belt, but before getting a shot to win the conference, we'll take the Panthers to hang with South Carolina. Quarterback Spencer Rattler's incoming transfer is the headliner in Columbia, but there's a reason that he was the first starting field general in quite some time to not thrive at Oklahoma.
The Gamecocks had a surprise run to a bowl game last season, but the Panthers have a better chance of replicating their seven wins in their last eight games. Darren Grainger might even be the more effective quarterback as he's one of 15 returning starters for Georgia State, which will be a problem for South Carolina.
Pick: Georgia State +12.5
Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.