The 2016 college football season officially kicked off last week with a game in Australia, but the season truly begins this weekend with a full slate of games. The action begins on Thursday night and concludes on Monday night with maybe the best game on the schedule.
A few of the sport’s best teams face tough tests right out of the gate, as four contests feature two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 poll. Other teams are virtually guaranteed wins in their season opener, and the only question surrounds their ability to cover a large point spread. Teams like Michigan State, TCU and Baylor are considered to be such locks for a victory that their games don’t even have a betting line.
Below are picks against the spread for every game involving a ranked team in Week 1 of the college football season, as well as updated betting odds at Las Vegas casinos, via vegasinsider.com. Betting trends are courtesy of OddsShark.
Charlotte (+38.5) at No.19 Louisville
Louisville has had at least one 40-point victory in each of the last three years, and their biggest blowout in 2016 will come against Charlotte, who began its football program just three years ago and has never faced a ranked opponent.
Prediction ATS: Louisville
Appalachian State (+20.5) at No.9 Tennessee
Appalachian State shocked the nation when they beat Michigan in 2007, but since that game they’ve gone 0-6 against Power 5 schools, losing each time by at least 28 points.
Prediction ATS: Tennessee
Kansas State (+14.5) at No.8 Stanford
Going to the west coast to face Stanford in the season opener is a tall order for Kansas State, and Christian McCaffrey should make a statement in his bid to win the Heisman Trophy.
Prediction ATS: Stanford
No.3 Oklahoma (-11.5) at No.15 Houston
Oklahoma is one of the favorites to reach the College Football Playoff, but Houston is the right play, considering the betting line moved from 10 points last week and their only loss in 2015 came by a field goal.
Prediction ATS: Houston
Bowling Green (+28) at No.6 Ohio State
Bowling Green has opened each of the last two seasons with losses by 28 and 29 points, respectively, and this year’s Ohio State team is far superior to either of those opponents.
Prediction ATS: Ohio State
Hawaii (+41) at No.7 Michigan
Michigan will win in blowout fashion, but the Wolverines could have a hard time reaching 41 points by themselves, let alone beating Hawaii by seven touchdowns.
Prediction ATS: Hawaii
Rutgers (+26.5) at No.14 Washington
Rutgers is 1-5 in their last six games against the spread, losing by at least 33 points in three of their last four games against ranked opponents.
Prediction ATS: Washington
No.16 UCLA (+3) at Texas A&M
UCLA might be the better team, but Texas A&M has the edge at home with an experienced quarterback.
Prediction ATS: Texas A&M
No.5 LSU (-10.5) at Wisconsin
Wisconsin might not have much of an answer for Leonard Fournette, but LSU hasn’t won a road game by more than 10 points since October 2013.
Prediction ATS: Wisconsin
Miami (OH) (+27.5) at No.17 Iowa
Miami is 4-1 in their last five games against the spread, and Iowa wasn’t consistently blowing out opponents when they nearly went undefeated in 2015.
Prediction ATS: Miami (OH)
No.18 Georgia (-2.5) at No.22 North Carolina
North Carolina has one of the nation’s best offenses, and the Tar Heels will take advantage of the fact that Georgia lost most of its starting defensive players from a year ago.
Prediction ATS: North Carolina
No.20 USC (+11.5) vs. No.1 Alabama (AT&T Stadium In Arlington, Texas)
Alabama opened last season with an 18-point win against the 20th-ranked team in the nation, and their 2016 opener should be very similar.
Prediction ATS: Alabama
No.2 Clemson (-7.5) at Auburn
Auburn won’t have an answer for Deshaun Watson and the rest of Clemson’s returning offensive weapons.
Prediction ATS: Clemson
No.10 Notre Dame (-3.5) at Texas
The Longhorns should be better than the 2015 team that suffered seven losses, but they aren’t good enough to hang with the Fighting Irish, even at home.
Prediction ATS: Notre Dame
No.11 Ole Miss (+4.5) at No.4 Florida State
The Seminoles could win in comfortable fashion as they return almost every starter on both lines from 2015.
Prediction ATS: Florida State