It's Wednesday, and for the first time since December.... IT'S TIME TO MAKE SOME COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS!!!!
Man, oh man, does it feel good to say that!
We've been making college football picks online pretty much forever, and back for another year here at AT Online, making our official picks. Back after a year in which we picked Georgia in August to win the national title. And where our over/under win total bets went five for five.
Not bad, but not good enough, which is why we're back to do it again and do even better!
Now, for the first time in 2022 - LET'S GET TO THE PICKS!!!!
Penn State at Purdue (+3.5): Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX
If you listen at all to the College Football Betting show (or at least to the Big Ten West preview) you know I have an unhealthy obsession with Purdue coming into the year. The Boilermakers are coming off a nine-win season that included wins over Michigan State and Iowa (a pair of 10+ win teams) and a bowl victory (albeit, controversially) over Tennessee. With a schedule that doesn't include Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State this year, I truly believe they could be in play for a Big Ten West title this year.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves and start with Thursday night in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers host Penn State in what is essentially America's season-opener and a game virtually everyone will be watching.
And I like Purdue as a slight home dog to at the very least cover, if not win outright.
The logic is simple.
One, regardless of who's on the roster, Purdue is going to have success throwing the football. They have ranked either No. 1 or 2 in the Big Ten in pass offense, and I don't expect that to slow down all that much, with third-year starter Aidan O'Connell back at quarterback. On top of that - and I'm not sure most people realize this - the Boilermaker defense was actually pretty good last year as well, ranking No. 34 nationally.
So, when you factor that in with a crazy home crowd, I think it all factors into a close game, especially against a Penn State team that isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut. The Nittany Lions ranked 82nd nationally in total offense last year and 90th in scoring, putting up just 25 points per game.
I think the UNDER could be in play here as well, and I also think it might be worth sprinkling a bit on the Purdue money line.
But in terms of an official bet, I'll take the Boilers, plus the points.
Illinois (+3) at Indiana: Friday, 8 p.m. ET, FS1
If you listen at all to the College Football Betting show (or at least to the Big Ten West preview) you know while I might not have an "unhealthy obsession" with Illinois (like I do Purdue above), I do believe they're better than their over/under win total projection of 4.5.
More importantly, I think a Week 0 win over Wyoming shows you exactly who the Illini will be: They're gonna run the ball right at you, beat you up at the line of scrimmage, play solid defense and try to win slow, ugly low scoring games.
Basically, the Bret Bielema/Wisconsin special has come to Champaign, baby and there's no turning back now.
And that's exactly why I like them to cover and win outright in Bloomington on Friday night.
Yes, it will be a bit of a raucous crowd at Indiana, but the best way to quiet a loud crowd is to have a bunch of lengthy, time-consuming drives, which are the Illini's specialty. I also think their defense is probably a little bit less appreciated than people realize, after finishing No. 43 in the country a season ago.
Yes, I think Indiana should be improved this season with Conor Bazelak under center. But no, I don't think this is a great opening night matchup for them. Especially with the Illini already owning a win under their belt.
I'm rolling with the Fightin' Bielema's to get a W.
BEST BET: No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia (UNDER 53): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (in Atlanta)
So this year I've decided to do something a little bit different with these college football picks, and that's highlight my "Best Bet of the Week."
So let's get to it. And for those of you who have read the pick for years, you know that no one loves a situational UNDER quite like I do, so what better Week 1 best bet to make than this one?
There isn't one. As a matter of fact, I like this bet so much I'm starting to get afraid.
First, let's start with Georgia. Yes, they lost a historic amount of talent to the NFL, and no, I'm not totally sure it will matter. The Bulldogs defense is still being led by at least two future first round picks (cornerback Keelee Ringo and linebacker Jalen Carter) as well as the former No. 1 high school player in America - Nolan Smith. If that's a "rebuilding defense" literally every program in America would like to be rebuilding.
But here's the catch: You know who that rebuilding defense is facing in Week 1... FREAKIN BO NIX!!!! Yes, the former Auburn quarterback, Bo Nix. The Dawgs have faced this guy three times, and for fun, I looked up the stats to see if they were as bad as I remember them being. They were. In three starts against Georgia, he has completed 55 percent of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions. His teams have averaged 10 points per game in those three starts.
Basically, Georgia's defense owns this guy so bad he should be sending his NIL checks right to their meeting room.
But then there's the flip side, and you know who Georgia's offense will be going up against: Oh, I don't know, Georgia's former defensive coordinator, Dan Lanning. I'd add that while the stats from last year probably don't bare it out, Oregon will probably be the most talented defense Georgia faces all regular season long. Noah Sewell is a future first rounder, Justin Flowe is a former five-star and the defensive backfield is loaded with a bunch of former Top 100 recruits.
In the end, let me just put it to you like this: History tells us that Bo Nix and the Oregon offense won't be able to produce more than 10 points per game. That means Georgia has to score 44 to hit the over.
Do you really think that's happening? Me neither.
No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas (-6): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's a Top 25 matchup in Fayetteville to open the season, as last year's playoff team, Cincinnati, travels in to face the nine-win Arkansas Razorbacks from a year ago.
Seriously, imagine if I had given you that sentence a year ago and told you that's what we'd have entering 2022 - only that's reality and it should make for a fun matchup on Saturday.
I say "should" because I think this is one where we'll learn a lot about the program that Luke Fickell has built at Cincinnati. It's one of the more incredible coaching jobs of the last few years, but the mark of any great program is its ability to reload its roster whenever they lose a ton from the previous year. And with no disrespect intended to Fickell, I'm just not sure they're there yet.
That's not an insult, just the reality of coaching at a Group of 5 school (at least for one more year).
And really, that's where I'm concerned. The last time we saw the Bearcats, they were physically overwhelmed against Alabama - again, there's no shame in that, Alabama makes a lot of teams look bad. At the same time, they lost eight NFL Draft picks off that team, which incredibly, was the third most of any program in college football.
Now, after losing that much talent off a Group of Five team, they're supposed to go into an SEC stadium and get a win?
I think it's an especially tough ask when you factor in who the SEC team is. Sam Pittman has built a tough, physical Razorback team, and with four offensive linemen back from a season ago, I think Arkansas controls the trenches, much like Alabama did against Cincinnati in the playoff.
The Bearcats are one of the best programs in college football bar none. But this is a tough ask for a season opener in Fayetteville.
The Hogs roll to a victory at home.
No. 7 Utah (-3) at Florida: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Before we get to the preview of this game, I have to get one thing off my chest: I still can't get over Florida's team picture the other day. Seriously, I legit laugh out loud every time I look at it. When Billy Napier said he'd "hire an Army of people" upon arriving in Gainesville, he wasn't lying.
With that said, I'm not sure 100 more support staff members would make a difference for the Gators.
Yes, I know it's a Saturday night at the Swamp, and it's hard to bet against an SEC team at home. But when I think about Utah, I keep going back to one thing on them.
You know how people are saying Ohio State has a chance to be a potentially historically great offense this year? Well, Utah went score for score with them in the Rose Bowl last year. While that might say something about Ohio State's defense (more on that coming), it also says this Utes offense was really, REALLY good last year.
And that's not just my opinion, the numbers back it up. Did you know that in the 10 games after Cam Rising took over at quarterback, they scored at least 34 points nine times? That included 217 yards rushing per game, which ranked 13th nationally and first in the Pac-12. And they really hit their stride late, physically kicking the crap out of Oregon twice late, before again, putting up 45 in the Rose Bowl.
Put simply, the Utes have to be licking their lips going up against a Florida defense that ranked 86th nationally in rush defense a season ago.
Behind the Oregon-Georgia UNDER, this is my favorite bet of the week.
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (OVER 59): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Over the last couple days, there has been a lot of buzz about taking Ohio State and the points is the right side. And in general, I think it probably is. Notre Dame will have a first-time starter under center (Tyler Buchner), lost its best running back (Kyren Williams and doesn't have a wide receiver who caught more 27 balls a season ago. It doesn't help that an All-American offensive lineman has been limited in practice the last few weeks.
But while I think the spread is probably right, one I can't justify taking it after it jumped to 17.5 (you could've gotten it at 14 most of the summer) and two I think the over is the right side.
First, as mentioned above, Ohio State has a chance to be historically great offensively this season. Yes, they lost two first round wide receivers, but they also still have the best wide receiver in the sport (Jaxon Smith-Njigba) and two, basically replaced them with two other future first rounders, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. Well, they're going up against a Notre Dame defense which was good last year, but did struggle to stop the pass. They ranked 64th nationally in pass defense, and gave up 341 yards and 291 yards to the two best pass offenses they faced all year (North Carolina and Purdue respectively).
Point being, Ohio State scored 40 or more in nine of its 13 games last year, and I think they can do the same on Saturday. If they do that, I believe Notre Dame can get enough cheap points late for the OVER to hit in Columbus.
As always, if I'm not betting some of the bigger games, I'll share some quick thoughts on them at the end of this article
Florida State vs. LSU (-3): Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC (New Orleans)
When I think about this game, one thing keeps coming back to me: It's strength on strength on both sides of the ball.
Florida State's run game is clearly what will carry them all year, after three different players (not including quarterback Jordan Travis, one of the team's top rushers last year) went for over 100 yards on the ground in Week 0. Yet outside of Clemson, LSU's defensive line is probably the best it will see all year. Meanwhile, I think LSU could struggle to run the ball all season, and no John Emery here hurts. It makes it more likely they pass the ball a ton (especially if Garrett Nussmeier is named the starter), but are throwing against a Florida State secondary which is their best defensive unit.
Add in the uncertainty at LSU quarterback, and it's enough for me to just pass. I'd lean Florida State +3, but don't feel great about it.
No. 4 Clemson (-22) vs. Georgia Tech: Monday, 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC
It's no secret at this point, but Clemson's quarterback situation is probably the single most important position in college football this year. The Tigers have a national title caliber defense, but if they don't get significantly better play under center, the 2022 season is going to end much the same as last year: With plenty of wins, but not the ultimate prize of making a College Football Playoff.
So we'll see, and while I know you'll want to chase your bets with this Monday night game, I simply can't in good conscious give out a pick I'm confident in.
If you want to bet on Clemson completely figuring out the QB situation in one off-season, that's your prerogative. This is the stay away of all stay aways to me.