Oh, what a wonderful day it is. As far as I'm concerned, today is the real first day of the college football season. Don't get me wrong; I was happy watching Week 0 games last week -- how could I not enjoy watching my Illini take down Nebraska? -- but it's not real until you're getting multiple games on a Thursday. Then we've got another large slate on Friday before we get the first full Saturday of the season.
Then, at this time next week, we'll have our first NFL game.
What a time to be alive! So, while there's plenty of baseball action going on tonight too, today's newsletter is going to focus on the college football slate. I've got three picks for you involving tonight's action, but before we get to them, let's catch up on the latest news.
- Don't expect the College Football Playoff to expand soon.
- The Big 12 is targeting four schools for expansion.
- Mike Mayock says the Raiders have to make the playoffs this season.
- The NBA announced new testing rules for vaccinated players.
Now, are you ready for some football? A Thursday night party?
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
No. 4 Ohio State at Minnesota, 8 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Ohio State -13.5 (-110): First of all, as I mentioned in my weekly college football picks column, The Six Pack, the early results have been way off in college football. Looking at the six games featuring FBS teams this season, the average margin between the final score and the game's spread has been 12.9 points per game. You don't typically see that, and while it's a small sample size, it could be an early indicator that we're all still trying to figure things out as we start a new season following a pandemic.
That said, there are some things I'm comfortable with, and laying points with Ohio State is certainly one of them. Yes, the Buckeyes have new faces at important spots. They also have one of the most talented rosters in the country, so replacing players isn't as big a deal. While the Buckeyes will be breaking in a new QB tonight, C.J. Stroud still has the best receivers in the country, and if you go up and down the depth chart, it's hard to find the spot where Minnesota has an advantage.
Minnesota's best bet will be to use Mohamed Ibrahim in the run game to shorten this one as much as possible. The problem there is, I think Ohio State's defensive front is good enough to negate that approach, and I don't know that Minnesota has guys capable of exposing the possible weakness at the back of the Ohio State defense consistently. So give me the Big Ten team that is better than every other team in the conference.
Key Trend: Ohio State is 5-1 ATS in Big Ten road games under Ryan Day.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The SportsLine Projection Model, which is on a 57-37 run on all top-rated college football picks, has simulated the clash between the Buckeyes and Golden Gophers 10,000 times. What'd it find?
💰 The Picks
🏈 College Football
Boise State at UCF, 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: UCF -6.5 (-110) -- Initially, I had hoped to be able to rely on the weather to work toward UCF's advantage tonight, but that no longer appears to be the case. Instead of a humid Orlando night with temps in the 90s, we're getting a cooler evening in the 70s.
Oh well, I'm not changing my mind on this one.
As I look at this matchup, I see two teams with new coaching staffs, but Gus Malzahn brings plenty of head coaching experience. This will be Andy Avalos' first game as a head coach anywhere. Then there's the trust factor I have with UCF QB Dillon Gabriel. Finally, while both of these teams are good and will compete for a conference title in 2021, UCF has more talent on its roster. So, all of that combined with an electric atmosphere in the Bounce House (real name), I like the Knights to cover tonight.
Key Trend: UCF is 18-13 ATS at home since 2016
Bowling Green at Tennessee, 8 p.m. | TV: SEC Network
The Pick: Tennessee -22.5 1H (-110) -- Bowling Green is a bad team and has been a bad team for a while. I don't expect much to change in 2021. Of course, there aren't many people who would try to convince you Tennessee has been a good team itself, but tonight is the first game for new coach Josh Heupel in Knoxville. He was hired partly because of his exciting offense, and don't you think he's going to want to make a strong first impression in front of Rocky Top?
Still, I prefer making a first-half bet because the Vols have Pitt next week and Florida at the end of the month. I wouldn't be surprised to see the reserves get plenty of snaps in the second half, and I don't want to run the risk of the Falcons sneaking through the backdoor. So we're betting on Tennessee laying the wood early.
Key Trend: Bowling Green is 15-31 ATS as an underdog since 2015
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The projection model's favorite CFB play of the night is on the total in Tennessee and Bowling Green.
⚾ MLB Under Parlay
I couldn't leave you baseball bettors hanging. Here's a two-leg parlay on a couple of unders I like tonight. It pays +273.
- Red Sox at Rays Under 7.5 (-110)
- Pirates at Cubs Under 8 (-105)