Technically, the 2021 college football schedule starts on Saturday, Aug. 28 with five games – but that’s officially Week Zero on the schedule. Here’s a look at three games the following week and the best value bets on the NCAAF odds.
NCAAF 2021 | Games of Week 1
The Tar Heels bring back arguably the nation’s top quarterback and potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft in Sam Howell. After tossing an FBS true freshman record 38 touchdowns in 2019, the Indian Trail, N.C. native led the ACC and ranked sixth nationally with 30 touchdown passes in 2020. Additionally, Howell ranked fourth in the country and topped the league with 3,586 passing yards last fall in helping lead the Tar Heels to the Orange Bowl for the first time in program history. His 68 career passing touchdowns are tied for the most in UNC history and the most ever by an ACC quarterback through a sophomore year. Howell has been named Preseason ACC Player of the Year and All-American. Hokies coach Justin Fuente enters on the hot seat. After a sparkling debut in 2016 that saw the Hokies win 10 games and a Coastal Division title, the program’s won-loss record screams of a decline. Fuente is just 19-18 the past three years. Last season’s 5-6 mark was his second losing record in that span. Last year, the Heels beat the visiting Hokies 56-45 in a wild game. UNC rushed for a whopping 399 yards. Howell had three TD passes. Pick: North Carolina.
Bit hard to believe the Wildcats are just 3.5-point favorites. The made the Big Ten title game last year and gave Ohio State a tough game before losing. Northwestern finished 7-2 with a 35-19 domination of Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. Michigan State was pretty awful in a 2-5 season under then-first-year coach Mel Tucker and the Spartans are rebuilding a bit. That said, Sparty did upset Northwestern 29-20 last year. The Wildcats’ Brandon Joseph could be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. He was first-team All-American last year and first-team Big Ten and Big Ten Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. It’s still not clear who Northwestern will start at quarterback with Peyton Ramsey transferring. South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski likely will get the job. At South Carolina, Hilinski started 11 games for the Gamecocks, passing for 2,357 yards and 11 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Pick: Northwestern.
Not often you see a Power 5 team like Syracuse visit a Mid-American Conference school – must less be only a 1-point favorite. It’s definitely a make-or-break season for Syracuse coach Dino Babers. He signed a contract extension following the team’s 10-3 campaign in 2018 but things have crashed since with the Orange going 1-10 last year. The problem for the Orange has been offense as Syracuse ranked No. 125 out of 127 teams in the country in yards per game last season. Part of the issue was a lack of experience and depth notably after quarterback Tommy DeVito suffered an early season-ending injury. Ohio will have a new head coach with Frank Solich retiring just last month in a surprise. Solich, 76, left as the winningest coach in Mid-American Conference history after leading the Bobcats to a 115-82 record over 16 seasons. Solich was replaced by offensive coordinator Tim Albin, who has agreed to a four-year contract. Pick: Syracuse.
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