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Spread options: Doc Saturday’s Week 1 picks against the spread

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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Georgia QB Aaron Murray (USA Today Sports Images)

When you’re a student athlete, you’re inundated with anti-gambling videos and posters that have the NCAA’s famous slogan: “Don’t Bet On It.”

It’s the governing body’s way of discouraging student-athletes from jeopardizing their collegiate status by putting money on collegiate athletics.

You and I have no such constraints – as long as you live in a place where sports gambling is legal (disclaimer) – and so we tend to look at games from a spread perspective.

This is not gambling advice because honestly, if I were really good at this, I’d have a different day job. But it is educated advice in case you’re making friendly wagers against your friends.

Every week, Dr. Saturday will post its favorite picks against the spread and we’ll hold ourselves accountable by keeping track of our record.

So let’s see what we like this week:

Georgia (-1.5) at Clemson: This game is going to be a shootout because neither defense is equipped to handle the other’s offense. And while both quarterbacks are elite, I like Georgia’s Aaron Murray because of his big-game SEC experience.

Boise State (+3.5) at Washington: I learned a long time never to bet against Boise State in a big game, especially when it’s the dog. The Broncos beat Washington to end last season and are a better team in 2013. Take the Broncos.

Florida State (-10.5) vs. Pittsburgh: New Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is supposed to be the second-coming of Charlie Ward and this game will only fuel that hype. Pitt has a mediocre defense and all of the offensive weapons that got the Panthers bowl-eligible last season are gone. FSU will cover this easily.

SMU vs. Texas Tech (OVER 60): If you’re familiar with both of these programs and both coaches – SMU’s June Jones and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury – then you know offense is paramount. Neither team has much depth on defense, so this game could reach the 80s.

Northern Illinois (+3) at Iowa: Northern Illinois is still pushing quarterback Jordan Lynch for the Heisman Trophy and this is where it starts. Iowa squeaked out a win against the Huskies a year ago, but they won’t be so lucky this time.

Western Kentucky (+4.5) vs. Kentucky:Western Kentucky won this game a year ago and with a lot of talent back and Bobby Petrino, an SEC veteran, as the head coach, the Hilltoppers should pull off the upset again.

BYU (-1) at Virginia: BYU is solid on offense and defense, especially if new quarterback Taysom Hill can stay healthy. Virginia was more competitive last season, but was never really able to get over the hump and consistently win games. Even on the road, BYU should cover.

Alabama (20.5) at Virginia Tech: This is a big number, but it might not be big enough for this game. Bama returns a ton of skill players and its defense should keep Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas on his toes. Bama big.

North Texas (-15) vs. Idaho Neither one of these teams was very good last season, but at least North Texas was competitive and will be again this season. Can’t say the same for Idaho, which was run off the field in almost every game last season.

Texas State (+8.5) at Southern Miss: It’s hard to believe a team that was winless a year ago and fired its first-year coach would be favored by more than a touchdown, but that’s what we’re looking at here. Texas State was decent in its first FBS season and expects more improvement this year. The Bobcats should cover this if not win outright.

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