Week Zero Card
College football is finally back! With everything that transpired last year due to the pandemic which resulted in some teams not playing a full season, while others (UConn) didn’t play at all, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the start of the 2021 season.
There’s not a full slate of games this upcoming Saturday, but just enough to whet your appetite for the start of Week 1! I like 3 out of the 5 games this Saturday as a couple of the teams in action are already in a must-win situation. My approach for this week will be different from the one I take during the season. The coaching situation will be a bigger factor than usual. All odds referenced are taken from the FanDuel sportsbook.
Nebraska @ Illinois (+7) (O/U 55)
Nebraska comes into 2021 with 3 straight losing seasons under head coach Scott Frost. If we’re looking at which coaches are on the hot seat, Frost isn’t only a member but may also be the President of the club. The Cornhuskers will be going up against the Fighting Illini in a must-win game to start Week 0. Senior quarterback Adrian Martinez comes in as the clear starter as Luke McCaffrey transferred at the end of last season. Martinez has a lot to prove if he wants to have a chance to be considered for the 2022 NFL draft. I’m confused as to why Nebraska is favored by 7 to open the season.
Illinois is starting from scratch with Bret Bielema as Head Coach after 5 straight losing seasons under Lovie Smith. With the depth chart still being a mystery only a few days from kickoff, I’m going to lean towards Bielema’s success he had the last time he was a Head Coach in the Big Ten.
I like the Fighting Illini to keep this game close and cover the +7 and win outright in an upset to get Week 0 rolling.
UConn @ Fresno St. (-27.5) (O/U63)
UConn didn’t play a single snap in 2020 due to the pandemic and the last season they did play, they ended the season with a 2-10 record. So, my focus will be on the Bulldogs of Fresno State. Fresno State is favored by the most points on the card at -27.5, and I believe they can cover!
In his second season as the starting quarterback, Jake Haener looks to build upon his success last year. Fresno State had a shortened season due to the pandemic and a couple of canceled games. They still managed to play a total of six games in which they finished 3-3. Haener threw for over 300 yards in 4 out of those 6 games. The familiarity of senior running back Ronnie Rivers who averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry last season should add to the confidence of the Bulldogs heading into this game.
After UConn taking a year off and not being known as a “football school” top begin with has me going with Fresno State to cover the immense 27.5 spread and start the season 1-0.
Hawaii @ UCLA (-17.5) (O/U68.5)
This may be the best game on the slate for Week 0. Not only because it has the highest point total (which I think will hit), but because the spread is lopsided. There’s nothing out there to convince me Chip Kelly can lead the Bruins to a victory by three touchdowns or more to start off the season. Senior QB, Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) looks to finish his collegiate career on a high note and improve his stock for the 2022 NFL draft. Although UCLA only played five games last year, DTR had a good season with a 65.2 completion percentage, while throwing for 12 TDs and 4 INTs. He was named second-team All-PAC-12.
Second year HC, Todd Graham comes into this season after finishing 4-4 with an appearance in the New Mexico Bowl, upsetting the Houston Cougars 28-14 as a 7-point underdog. Hawaii is led by junior quarterback Chevan Cordeiro who quietly had a good 2020 season. He finished with a 62.3 completion percentage, throwing for over 2,000 yards with 14 TDs and 6 INTs while adding nearly 500 rushing yards and 7 scores on the ground.
Even if they were to win, I can’t see UCLA winning by 3 TDs. I’ll take Hawaii +17.5 AND the OVER.
Find Wil on twitter @biasedopinions_