College Football Picks Week 1: Thursday Night, Aug. 29

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Saturday gave us our first taste of college football action. The play was sloppy at times, but Week Zero did not disappoint as both games came down to the wire. 

College football Week 1 kicks off with a host of games Thursday night. Some games are more interesting than others, but there’s plenty of college football betting to be had. 
Let’s break down the sports betting information you need for two of Thursday’s more high-profile games: UCLA vs. Cincinnati and Georgia Tech vs. Clemson

Also, check out RotoGrinders’ team of college football daily fantasy experts’ favorite Thursday night bets.

For more general betting tips, check out our college football picks betting guide.

College Football Picks Week 1 — UCLA vs. Cincinnati -2.5, O/U 59

Opened: Cincinnati -4.5, O/U 60.5 at William Hill

Nine months ago the UCLA Bruins were finishing up a disappointing three-win season, and the Cincinnati Bearcats were coming off their second-best record in school history. The Bearcats’ began their historical 11-win season with an opening 26-17 win over the Bruins in Los Angeles, and closed it out with 35-31 bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Fast forward to Chip Kelly’s second year at UCLA, and the Bearcats are only 2.5-point home favorites a couple of days before the rematch.

Why to bet UCLA +2.5 (use our William Hill promo code to get these odds) : Chip Kelly returns 19 starters from last year’s squad, and they should be much more comfortable in Kelly’s fast-paced offense. One of those returners is running back Joshua Kelley, who racked up 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore. For what it’s worth, Oregon jumped from 10 wins to 12 wins in Chip Kelly’s first two seasons as head coach for the Ducks. The biggest obstacle for UCLA will be improving a defense that ranked 102nd in yards allowed per game last year. 

Why to bet Cincinnati -2.5(use our PointsBet promo code to get these odds): The Bearcats didn’t lose a home game in 2018 even with a freshman quarterback. In fact, they haven’t lost a game in Cincinnati since November 2017. There was a lot to be desired in their strength of schedule, but it’s tough to argue with 11 wins. Cincinnati returns the quarterback and running back from last year’s team, so expect improvement from more than just UCLA. Speaking of UCLA, how valuable is it to return 90 percent of starters from a defense that gave up 38+ points in half their games? 

My Pick: Cincinnati -2.5 With a game against UCF and trips to Ohio State and Houston (among other tough contests) I don’t expect Cincinnati to win 11 games again, but there’s reason to believe they can beat UCLA at home. This game ultimately comes down to how much you think a year of Chip Kelly is worth. With mostly the same defense as last year, I’m not sure how much we should value the “returning starters” narrative. This game is close to call, but I like Cincinnati giving less than a field goal and keeping their home-field win streak alive.

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College Football Picks Week 1 — Georgia Tech vs. Clemson -36.5, O/U 59.5

Opened: Clemson -34, O/U 59 at William Hill

The defending national champions begin their title defense in a season-opening ACC matchup against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Clemson and Heisman favorite Trevor Lawrence +200 (use our FanDuel Sportsbook promo code to get these odds) are heavily favored as they host Georgia Tech in Death Valley, much like they’ll be throughout a soft 2018-19 schedule. Is 36.5 points too much for the defending champs who might be looking ahead to their Week 2 game against Texas A&M? Or is the spread too small against a Georgia Tech offense introducing a brand new offensive scheme?

Aside from Georgia Tech changing up their offense, the biggest storyline is Clemson presenting an entirely different defensive front from a year ago. In fact, Clemson returns only four starters on the defensive side of the ball. 

Why to bet Clemson -36.5: Other than playing the defending national champions, Georgia Tech’s biggest concern is adjusting to their new offense. The Yellow Jackets ran the triple-option for over a decade, and have recruited accordingly over the past four seasons. I want to attack Georgia Tech early in the season while they’re still working out all the kinks. If you hopped on this one before the spread went over five touchdowns, then I think you’re in good shape. The move to 36.5 is justified, all things considered. 

Why to bet Georgia Tech +36.5: How early will Dabo Swinney call in reserves if Clemson jumps up big, as expected? The line movement might be just enough for a backdoor cover, especially if Swinney calls off the dogs to give Lawrence & Co. rest before their big Week 2 matchup against Texas A&M.

My Pick: Over 59.5 (use our DraftKings Sportsbook promo code to get these odds): I don’t know what to expect out of the Georgia Tech offense, and the spread has moved too much for me to confidently bet on Clemson. With that said, I still want action. Over 59.5 at DraftKings is my favorite bet for the game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the line moves a couple of points between now and kickoff. The two teams combined for 70 points last year, and Clemson replaces 66 percent of its defense. Even if there’s a substantial learning curve for Georgia Tech, they may only need to score twice if Clemson’s offense repeats its performance from the teams’ last meeting.

Image Credit: USA Today Sports Images

About the Author

  • Matt Schmitto (schmitto)

  • Matt Schmitto is the sports betting editor for RotoGrinders. He grew up in Texas, graduating from Texas Tech University. He has played high stakes DFS since 2013, and enjoys betting on golf, basketball, football and whatever else is put in front of him. Schmitto is an advocate of The Bettor’s Oath.

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