It’s fair to assume that the first full week of the 2018 college football season will draw more legal wagers than ever, considering Mississippi and New Jersey have joined Nevada as states that have allowed sports betting.
It also helps that teams like LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Florida State are playing meaningful games to begin the new campaign, inspiring fans along the Gulf Coast to flock to Biloxi to place their first legal bets.
It’s always shaky picking games in the season’s opening week, but here’s how I see games playing out compared to how Vegas sees things:
6 p.m., Thursday — No. 21 UCF at UConn (-23.5) — The Knights were 8-4-1 against the spread last year while UConn checked in at 5-7. Scott Frost is now the head coach at Nebraska, but the Knights aren’t lacking in talent and the Huskies gave up big numbers on defense a year ago. My pick: The Knights cover — UCF 45, UConn 13
6 p.m., Friday — Utah State at No. 11 Michigan State (-23.5) — The Aggies reached bowl eligibility last year and finished 6-7, but lost by 49 to Wisconsin in the season opener. I expect a similar outcome. My pick: The Spartans cover — Michigan State 43, Utah State 10.
8 p.m., Friday — Western Kentucky at No. 4 Wisconsin (-37.5) — WKU took a significant dip in Mike Sanford’s first season as head coach, dropping to 6-7. I see another bumpy season and WKU was 3-10 against the spread last year. My pick: Badgers cover — Wisconsin 49, WKU 10.
8 p.m., Friday — San Diego State at No. 13 Stanford (15.5) – This will be a great example of old school, power football. The Aztecs were 8-5-0 against spread a year ago. Stanford was 7-6-1. My pick: Aztecs cover — Stanford 27, San Diego State 17.
11 a.m., Saturday — Oregon State at No. 5 Ohio State (-39.0) — Oregon State fans would like to forget the 2017 season. Buckeye fans would like to forget the last month due to the controversy swirling around head coach Urban Meyer, who is under a three-game suspension. It won’t matter: My pick: Ohio State covers — Ohio State 52, Oregon State 10.
11 a.m., Saturday — Florida Atlantic at No. 7 Oklahoma (-21.0) — FAU was slow out of the gate last season with a 1-3 start, but finished 10-4 against the spread. My pick: FAU covers — Oklahoma 41, FAU 21.
11 a.m., Saturday — No. 23 Texas (-13.5) at Maryland (Landover, MD) — It’s hard to feel good about Maryland’s chances considering the fallout surrounding the death of Terps sophomore lineman Jordan McNair. My pick: Texas covers — Texas 38, Maryland 20.
2:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 6 Washington vs. No. 9 Auburn (-1.5) (in Atlanta) — This is supposed to be a neutral site contest, but it’s really not. My pick: Auburn covers — Auburn 31, Washington 20.
2:30 p.m., Saturday — Appalachian State at No. 10 Penn State (-23.5) — I’m liking the Mountaineers this season. My pick: Appalachian State covers — Penn State 34, Appalachian State 21.
2:30 p.m., Saturday — Tennessee vs. West Virginia (-10) (at Charlotte) — I’m not sold on these Mountaineers. My pick: Tennessee covers — Tennessee 31, West Virginia 28.
3 p.m., Saturday — UNLV at No. 15 USC (-26) — The Rebels were 7-5-0 against the spread last year and most expect them to take a step forward this season. My pick: UNLV covers — USC 45, UNLV 24.
5 p.m., Saturday — No. 22 Boise State (-10.5) at Troy — Trips to Troy are always dangerous and it will be much muggier than Boise State is accustomed to. My pick: Troy covers — Boise State 35, Troy 31.
6:30 p.m., Saturday — No. 14 Michigan at No. 12 Notre Dame (-1) — Shea Patteron will make his debut for the Wolverines at quarterback and I’m banking on a strong game. My pick: Michigan covers — Michigan 35, Notre Dame 24.
7 p.m., Saturday, — Louisville vs. No. 1 Alabama (-24.5) (in Orlando) — This is my most confident pick of the week. My pick: Alabama covers — Alabama 45, Louisville 17.
7 p.m., Saturday — Bowling Green at Oregon (-33) — Mario Cristobal makes his deserved return as a head coach and his Oregon team will be fully prepared. My pick: Oregon covers — Oregon 49, Bowling Green 14.
6:30 p.m., Sunday — No. 8 Miami (-3.5) vs. No. 25 LSU (in Arlington, TX) — I’m not sure why Las Vegas sees this as being so tight. My pick: Miami covers — Miami 31, LSU 17.
7 p.m., Monday — No. 20 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Florida State (-7.5) — Florida State will return to its usual contender status. My pick: Florida State covers — Florida State 38, Virginia Tech 20.
7 p.m., Thursday — Wake Forest (-6.5) at Tulane — My pick: Wake Forest covers — Wake 28, Tulane 20.
11 a.m., Saturday — Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech (-2.5) (in Houston) — I expect the Rebels to be slightly better on defense. My pick: Ole Miss covers — Ole Miss 42, Texas Tech 34.
6 p.m., Saturday – Louisiana Tech (-10.5) at South Alabama – The Bulldogs should be a much improved team while South Alabama may take some early lumps under new head coach Steve Campbell. My pick: La. Tech covers — Louisiana Tech 35, South Alabama 20.