College football Week 1 odds, spreads, best bets and must-watch games

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College football Week 1 odds, best bets and must-watch games originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Week 1 of the college football season has arrived, and the schedule makers did not disappoint.

This weekend is action packed with excellent matchups from Thursday through Monday, some of them featuring two top 25 ranked teams.

The two biggest games on the schedule are No. 5 Notre Dame going on the road to play No. 2 Ohio State, and No. 11 Oregon traveling east to play the defending champion and No. 3 ranked Georgia.

Here are our best bets from the must-watch games of a loaded Week 1 schedule (betting lines via PointsBet).

No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State

Time/TV channel: 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Spread: Ohio State -17.5

The first matchup between two top-five teams in 2022 is a great one at the Horseshoe in Columbus. The Buckeyes are massive 17.5 favorites as they hope to avoid another early season non-conference upset loss after Oregon went on the road and beat Ohio State last season.

Ohio State has covered the spread in seven of its past eight season openers, but the Big Ten powerhouse was just 6-5-1 against-the-spread (ATS) in 2021 overall.

It would be pretty surprising if Ohio State loses this game. The Buckeyes have a huge advantage on offense, led by Heisman Trophy favorite CJ Stroud at quarterback. Ohio State led the country with 45.7 points scored per game last season, with Stroud, top running back TreVeyon Henderson and potential first-round pick wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba all returning.

Ohio State's defense was its biggest weakness last season, resulting in head coach Ryan Day firing his defensive coordinator and bringing in Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State. Knowles' defense in Stillwater allowed the eighth-fewest points per game last season. His addition to the coaching staff is a huge boost for Ohio State.

Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner is making his first career start in a hostile environment against arguably the best team in the nation. Notre Dame, at least in recent memory, has failed to show up against elite teams. The Fighting Irish are 2-21 against top five teams in the AP poll since 1998.

They won't beat Ohio State, but a late backdoor cover is very possible. A 35-20 Buckeyes victory wouldn't be surprising.

Pick: Notre Dame +17.5

No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia in Atlanta

Time/TV channel: 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Spread: Georgia -17.5

Georgia opens its national title defense against a Pac-12 power on a (somewhat) neutral field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Bulldogs lost a record 15 players to the NFL from last season's roster, including eight from an elite defense that carried the team to a national championship.

Even if Georgia's defense takes a step back, it should still be an excellent unit in 2022. Georgia's defense also is pretty familiar with Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, who transferred from Auburn. Nix went 0-3 with one touchdown and two interceptions in three games against Georgia while at Auburn. Two of those losses were by 21 or more points. Oregon is 1-4 ATS in its last five non-conference games.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett is one of several offensive starters returning for Georgia. The Bulldogs should coast to a comfortable win and a cover in Atlanta.

Pick: Georgia -17.5

USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Utah at Florida

Time/TV channel: 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Spread: Utah -3

There's a lot of hype surrounding Utah, and the Utes have become a trendy pick to be one of the four College Football Playoff participants. They open the season in a hostile environment at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as slight betting favorites.

It's actually been a long time since Florida was a home underdog to begin a season:

The Gators won just six games last season and none of them came against quality teams. Florida also went a lackluster 2-6 in SEC competition (wins against Vanderbilt and Tennessee) and covered the spread in just three of its 13 games overall. Billy Napier was an excellent hire as head coach and the optimism in Gainesville is warranted, but to think the positive results will show in Week 1 against a quality ranked opponent is a bit premature.

Utah beat Oregon twice last season, won the Pac-12 title and nearly upset Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The Utes have more talent on both sides of the ball and should leave The Swamp with a victory and a cover.

Pick: Utah -3

No. 4 Clemson at Georgia Tech in Atlanta

Time/TV channel: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN (Monday, Sept. 5)

Spread: Clemson -22

Clemson is coming off a "down" season despite the fact it won 10 games. The Tigers missed the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2015, and the offense was a major reason why. Clemson still has one of the best defenses in the nation, and it's hard to see Georgia Tech scoring more than 10-14 points as a result. The Yellow Jackets' best offensive player, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, transferred to Alabama. Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled in 2021, but he's entering his second full season as the starter and should improve. Uiagalelei also has plenty of motivation to start the season strong with five-star recruit Cade Klubnik waiting in the wings.

Clemson has a great opportunity here to make a statement and justify its No. 4 ranking in the polls that some fans and experts feel is too generous. This game should look more like Clemson's 73-7 win over Georgia Tech in 2020 than the slim 14-8 victory last season.

Pick: Clemson -22