College football Week 1 storylines: Biggest games, Heisman Trophy watch and College Football Playoff picture

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Everything you need to know before betting college football in Week 1 

After a Week 0 slate that left a lot to be desired, college football is officially back with a weekend that is packed with intriguing matchups. Each week, I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of the games you need to be watching. I’ll also try and get you up to speed on everything you need to know with regards to the Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff races. So, keep reading for my Week 1 musings. This slate is headlined by a Sunday night showdown between the LSU Tigers and Florida State Seminoles. That’s a game with serious College Football Playoff implications, but there’s a lot of other things we need to dive into. 

 

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Week 1 Games of the Week

Colorado Buffaloes at TCU Horned Frogs (-20.5, 64)

The public is all over Coach Prime’s Buffaloes to make some magic in his first year with the program, but the oddsmakers have other ideas. Colorado has a regular season win total of 3.5, and the team is a three-touchdown underdog against TCU. Sonny Dykes’ team might have made it to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game last year, but the Horned Frogs lost a lot of talent, including star quarterback Max Duggan and wide receiver Quentin Johnston. This team will not be a contender again in 2023, yet the oddsmakers still believe TCU can whoop Colorado. I’m very interested in seeing whether that happens. If the Buffaloes can’t stay competitive in this game, how exactly will they win four games this year? Either way, it’ll be fun to see Shadeur Sanders in action against Power Five competition.

Boise State Broncos at Washington Huskies (-14.5, 58.5)

Kalen DeBoer did wonders for the Huskies in his first year with Washington, leading the team to an 11-2 record. Now, many people believe this Washington team has the potential to win the Pac-12 and possibly even sneak into the College Football Playoff. Considering Michael Penix Jr. is back under center after throwing for 4,641 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight picks in 2022, it’s hard to blame them. But Boise State was picked as the Mountain West champion by 16 of our 18 VSiN experts in the 2023 VSiN College Football Betting Guide. So, the Broncos are going to be looking to play spoiler when they enter Husky Stadium on Saturday. And this is one you’re going to want to watch. Boise State quarterback Taylen Green is electric.

North Carolina Tar Heels (-2.5, 64.5) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks – Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte)

This rivalry should result in one of the better games we’ll see in Week 1. Drake Maye is back under center for the Tar Heels, and he’s looking to prove that he should be the top quarterback selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. He’ll have his work cut out for him in order to take that spot from Caleb Williams, but Maye did throw for 4,321 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven picks last year. And he should be in for another big season for a Tar Heels team that will once again need to win shootouts on a weekly basis; North Carolina’s defense is miserable. The first test for Mack Brown’s team will be trying to outgun quarterback Spencer Rattler and a Gamecocks offense that really flipped a switch towards the end of 2022. Which one of these defenses will come up with some timely stops?

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at UCLA Bruins (-14.5, 65.5)

There’s a chance this game doesn’t end up being as fun as I think it might be, but Chip Kelly has flipped the script with the Bruins. After going 10-21 in his first three years with UCLA, the Bruins are now 17-8 over the last two years. Now, UCLA enters the season hoping to play in a solid bowl game, but the Bruins have an interesting Week 1 opponent. Coastal Carolina has won a total of 31 games over the last three years, and quarterback Grayson McCall is one of the best players in the country. So, while this is a Group of Five team that lost head coach Jamey Chadwell in the offseason, the Bruins can’t afford to take the Chanticleers lightly. This could turn into a game in which both offenses light up the scoreboard, which should be fun to watch in the iconic Rose Bowl. 

LSU Tigers (-2.5, 56.5) vs. Florida State Seminoles – Sunday at Camping World Stadium (Orlando)

This has the potential to be one of the best games of the year. After all, last year’s meeting was an instant classic, with Florida State edging LSU out in a 24-23 win. Last year, both programs made strides towards getting back to where they want to be in the national landscape. This year, both are considered legitimate contenders. The Seminoles have 17 starters back from last year’s 10-win team, and one of them is Heisman candidate Jordan Travis. Meanwhile, LSU has 15 starters returning from last year’s 10-win team, and one of them is Heisman candidate Jayden Daniels. See a theme here? These are two of the most talented squads in the country, led by elite quarterbacks that can make plays with the best of them. The winner of this game will pick up a big resume builder for the College Football Playoff. A lot of our VSiN analysts picked these teams to make it to that point, so you aren’t going to want to miss this. However, LSU will have to win this one without star defensive lineman Maason Smith, who is serving a one-game suspension from the NCAA. But that hasn’t scared bettors off. Most of the bets in this game have come in on the Tigers, according to our VSiN college football betting splits.

Clemson Tigers (-13, 55.5) at Duke Blue Devils – Monday 

Duke’s football program looked like it was in serious trouble before hiring Mike Elko. But the former Notre Dame and Texas A&M defensive coordinator immediately came in and made his mark as the head coach of the Blue Devils. In his first year with the team, Duke ended up shocking the world on its way to going 9-4 and winning the Military Bowl. Now, the Blue Devils come into the season with some actual expectations. The team brings back 18 players that started games last season, including star quarterback Riley Leonard. The Blue Devils will, however, have their work cut out for them against the Tigers. Dabo Swinney’s team is as talented as ever, and there are reasons to believe that Clemson could make a big leap this season. This offense is expected to look a lot better with former TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley now calling the shots for Heisman hopeful Cade Klubnik and a star-studded backfield. Make sure you’re in front of a TV for this one. It’s a standalone Monday game, so you have no reason not to be.

College Football Futures

Heisman Trophy Watch

Williams went into Week 0 as a +450 bet to win the Heisman Trophy and his odds didn’t change after USC’s 56-28 win over San Jose State. Williams was great in that game, throwing for 278 yards with four touchdowns and no picks. But the oddsmakers will want to see him do it against better competition in order to change his price. They also want to see what some of his competitors can do in the real opening week of the season.

The previously mentioned LSU-Florida State matchup could have big-time Heisman implications. Travis was my pick to win the Heisman this year and the dual-threat quarterback is listed at +1400 to win it right now. But Daniels is actually behind only Williams on the odds board, giving him the second-best odds of anyone to win it. So, whoever wins this game will help themselves out in this race, as long as they are one of the reasons why.

It should be noted that Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman is another guy that is up there on the list. Hartman threw for 251 yards with four touchdowns and no picks in a 42-3 Week 0 win over Navy. The Wake Forest transfer really helped himself out in his first game with his new team, and he’ll now get to pad his stats in a Week 1 meeting with Tennessee State.

Another thing to keep an eye on is that Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe is now listed at +4000 to win the Heisman Trophy. He has moved in front of teammates Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner, who are both listed at +6000. The reason for that is probably because Nick Saban recently praised his development and stated that he is improving his presence in the pocket. So, it might make sense to jump on him now. If he does emerge as the Crimson Tide’s starter, his odds will no longer be this favorable. Alabama has had a top-five passing offense in each of the past five seasons.

College Football Playoff Picture

The only true national title contender that played in Week 0 was the Trojans. USC’s 56-point performance shows that Lincoln Riley’s offense is in midseason form. And true freshman Zachariah Branch looks like the next great USC game-changer at the wide receiver position. His quickness and shiftiness were on full display in the opener, and it’s clear already that he has the juice. The problem for the Trojans is that Alex Grinch’s defense looked miserable. Despite bringing in some key transfers, as well as some high-level recruits, USC was allowing quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and the Spartans to march down the field at will. That won’t harm USC in a Week 1 meeting with Nevada, but things need to be cleaned up before conference play starts.

This week, we’ll learn a lot about a few other contenders, as the LSU-Florida State game is a battle between two teams with hopes of making the College Football Playoff. It’ll also be interesting to see what Clemson does in that meeting with Duke. The Blue Devils were a solid football team in 2022, and they returned most of their starters this season. So, the Tigers can make an early statement by going on the road and picking up a win in Durham. I’m also going to be watching that Boise State-Washington game closely. I’m not particularly high on the Huskies heading into the season, but a lot of people like them as a sleeper to win the Pac-12. If they’re going to do that, they should handle a good Broncos team with ease.

More College Football 

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Steve Makinen’s College Football Team Power Ratings

VSiN College Football Betting Podcast