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Nebraska (-7) at Illinois
Nebraska will open its season as -6.5 point favorites in Illinois, making the Fighting Illini home dogs.
Last season, these two teams met and the Fighting Illini embarrassed the Cornhuskers, 41-23 in Lincoln, NE.
That win was only the second time Illinois beat Nebraska since 2013.
In Bielema's first season, Illinois returns its quarterback Brandon Peters and eight more starters on offense. On defense, Illinois brings back nine more starters for 18 total on both sides of the ball.
Nebraska returns seven on offense led by Adrian Martinez and 10 returners on defense, which should see improvements. Nebraska lost QB Luke McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey's brother, to the transfer portal, so it all lands on Martinez's shoulders in 2021.
Martinez has stellar numbers against Illinois in his two starts but only played the final drive for Nebraska last season versus Illinois as the backup behind McCaffrey.
Martinez has eight total touchdowns (7 pass, 1 rush) and one interception in three games versus Illinois, plus a 2-0 record as a starter. Now, Illinois will be trying a new defense for the first time against a quarterback that has shredded them in the past -- I favor the Huskers.
Martinez recorded 55 and 118 rushing yards in both meetings with Illinois. His prop total is 50.5 rushing yards.
He also hit Illinois with 239 and 328 passing yards in both games, his prop total for passing is 218.5.
NBC's player prop model projects Martinez to go well Over this rushing total with 71.7 predicted yards, a 21-yard cushion.
Martinez totaled more than 50 rushing yards in 17 out of 28 games (60.7%), including 10-4 (71.4%) to the Over on the road in his career.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost is on the hot seat, there is no denying that, but there is no denying that Nebraska has the better offense and quarterback than Illinois.
The Fighting Illini move to the 3-4 or a hybrid style of defense that may cause more issues for themselves than Nebraska in Week 0.
I will ride with what is an unpopular pick by most people fading a home dog in Illinois, but I feel like this is the right side with Martinez and company. I will take Martinez to go Over 50.5 rushing yards and live bet the spread or ML.
I lean Nebraska to take care of business in this contest.
Pick: Adrian Martinez Over 50.5 Rushing Yards (1u)
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Hawaii at UCLA (-18.5)
Last season, Hawaii beat Houston in the New Mexico Bowl under first-year head coach Todd Graham, while UCLA went 3-4 and lost all four games by single digits.
In my opinion, this could be a blowout or a backdoor cover from Hawaii, but the best number/play is on the total.
Hawaii went 4-0 to the Under in their four road games and 7-2 to the Under overall (77.8%) under Graham last season. That included four straight Unders to finish the year.
In 2019, the season prior to Graham's arrival, Hawaii went 9-6 to the Over (60%), so completely different numbers.
Hawaii returns all 11 starters from 2020's defense that allowed 27.6 PPG.
That's a very encouraging sign to continuing backing the Under. Then there is UCLA with Chip Kelly at the helm.
The Under is 5-3 when Chip Kelly's team is a home favorite and 8-9 at home overall. In his three years and 31 games, the Over has hit 16 times, so it's basically been 50-50 for them.
The Bruins have also faced two teams from the Mountain West Conference under Kelly's supervision. UCLA lost both games to San Diego State (23-14) and Fresno State (38-14) as Kelly's offense couldn't get much going.
In his past three openers, two games went Under their totals with last year's combined 90-point outcome with Colorado.
However, LSU is up on the schedule next for UCLA, meaning the Bruins could be hesitant to show all their cards.
They expect to beat Hawaii, but if they give LSU too much film to go off of, while UCLA has none on LSU, that sets the Bruins up poorly next week.
NBC's game model has high confidence on this games Under and I have to agree. Maybe not as much as San Jose State's ML versus an FCS school, but you get it.
Kelly is already on the hot seat and I see Hawaii's experienced and hopefully improved defense to make a few stops.
I will ride with the Under 68.0, bring the half-point up form 67.5.
This number has been dropping and I grabbed the 68 (-115) even last night to avoid a further drop and loss on the line and odds.
I hope we see a few early field goals and punts rather than touchdowns, but like I said, expect the second half to slow down for UCLA as they have LSU up next.
Pick: Under 68 (1u)
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