The College Football season is finally upon us! The unofficial start of the year features seven games in “Week 0” with a pair of preseason Top 25 teams in action. These scheduled games usually feature programs that don’t usually get on TV in order to get that sweet, sweet paycheck. Even then, there are still some games worth tuning into!
Week 0 Best Bets
Navy at Notre Dame (-20.5)
The 2023 College Football season kicks off in South Bend as Navy travels to Notre Dame for the 94th edition of this rivalry. To date, the Fighting Irish own a massive 79-13-1 record against the Midshipmen and are riding a five-game win streak. This is just the second time in series history that the two face off before October.
This year, Notre Dame has CFP aspirations and they will have to get started on the right foot. Marcus Freeman’s squad looks like it’ll be better in his second season at the helm and they certainly got a quarterback upgrade. Sam Hartman transfers in from Wake Forest and will provide a spark.
Navy, on the other hand, fired long-time head coach Ken Niumatalolo after a third consecutive losing season. They were pretty hapless in 2022 and it’s going to get worse, unfortunately. With the coaching change to a defensive mind, the offense is going to undergo changes. For an offense that is specially built to run the triple-option, attempting to veer toward a more balanced attack is going to be incredibly difficult.
Normally, beating Navy by three touchdowns is a tall task due to that option attack. They’re traditionally a tough out but not this year. Hartman and company, while they may struggle at first to shake off the rust, will easily cover by the time the clocks hit 0:00.
UTEP (-1.5) at Jacksonville State
For the first time in history, UTEP and Jacksonville State will face off. Adding even more intrigue to the matchup, this is a Conference USA game.
Jacksonville State is in their first season at the FBS level and familiar face Rich Rodriguez leads them into the fray. The Gamecocks posted a 9-2 record last year and went 7-4 ATS. This will be the first time since 2021 that Jacksonville State will be a home underdog. Rodriguez will have his offense ready to roll but the concern will be on the defensive side of the ball.
Taking advantage of those defensive questions is a group of veteran offensive weapons. Behind a veteran offensive line that returns four upperclassmen starters, fourth-year starting quarterback Gavin Hardison is set to show out. He comes into this season with 7,016 passing yards and 35 touchdowns in that time.
Making the jump from FCS to FBS is difficult, even in Conference USA. James Madison’s incredible season in the Sun Belt was the exception, not the expectation. Jacksonville State will likely be semi-decent this year and put up points. However, UTEP’s veteran presence will be too much.
Ohio (+2.5) at San Diego State
A trip out west awaits the MAC East representative, Ohio. These two programs have played just once before. The Bobcats recorded a 27-0 win over the Aztecs in the 2018 Frisco Bowl.
Last year, the Bobcats boasted the top offensive unit in the MAC with over 421 yards per game. They’ll be led by the Maple Missile himself, Kurtis Rourke. The reigning MAC Offensive Player of the Year was on fire and threw for 3,257 yards and 25 scores before being knocked out with a torn ACL. His top receiving threat is returning as is the leading rusher. Ohio very well could be the top team in the MAC and they have a very favorable schedule.
Brady Hoke’s squad is an interesting case heading into 2023. They want to open up the offense but they haven’t had the dogs to do so, according to a rival MWC coach. They return four offensive pieces including senior quarterback, Jalen Mayden. If you want to look at common opponents from last year, it took a second-half collapse to beat Toledo. The Bobcats fell to the Rockets in the MAC Championship game without Rourke.
This Ohio team is legit. Even though they hail from the MAC and most people turn their noses up at the conference, Ohio has the ability to keep up with the best G5 programs. They come into this matchup as an underdog and should come out as a winner, outright.
San Jose State (+30.5) at USC
You won’t have to stay up too late for this instance of #Pac12AfterDark as it kicks off at 8:00 P.M. EDT (5:00 P.M. local time). San Jose State will make the 343-mile trek south to face off with USC for the sixth time in program history. USC owns a 5-0 record, outscoring the Trojans 86-10 in the last two matchups.
Seven starters return on offense led by Chevan Cordeiro. After adding a career-best 3,251 yards and 23 touchdowns last year, Cordeiro boasts a ridiculous career mark of 9,418 yards and 68 touchdowns heading into this year. Four of his offensive line returns as do six starting defenders. They’re very experienced on defense and will need that upperclassman influence to stop this Trojan offense.
USC will be led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams. As a unit, USC is bound to be one of the top offenses in the nation yet again. Keep an eye out for Brenden Rice, the son of that GOAT, Jerry Rice. All year, the offense was able to score on anyone and everyone but managed to falter in their win-and-in scenario at the end of the year. Not to mention the surprising loss to the G5 NY6 representative, Tulane.
USC is going to good very good next year. They may even be great. A CFP berth is absolutely in question. However, covering a 30.5-point spread is incredibly difficult unless it was Georgia in the CFP National Championship. The Spartans have lost by more than 30 three times since 2018. Meanwhile, in that time, USC has only won by that margin twice. USC gets an easy win but San Jose State covers.
UMASS at New Mexico State (-7)
For the third time in their histories, UMASS and New Mexico State will face off. The Aggies are riding a 2-0 series lead thanks to two multi-score victories in the last two years.
Despite sporting a top-10 passing defense, the Minutemen managed just one win last year and this year does not look to be promising. They return five starters on the third-worst offensive unit in the nation. Realistically, UMASS will be among the worst programs at the FBS level again.
A seven-point spread is generous to UMASS because while New Mexico State is not challenging the CFP contenders, they ended 2022 winning seven of nine games including a Quick Lane Bowl win over Bowling Green. Eight starters return on an offense that caught fire toward the end of the year.
Seven points seem like a gimme at this point. These two programs seem to be heading in opposite directions. The Aggies kick off their 2023 campaign with an easy cover over UMASS.
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