The 2022 college football season technically kicked off last weekend, but this week features the first games in which top 25 ranked teams are back in action.
The schedule for this weekend is fantastic, and the outcome of several of these matchups could have huge implications on the College Football Playoff race later in the year.
We're going to start the season with $1000 (in fake money) and see how much of a (fake) balance we can build. The balance and our picks record will be updated each week.
Here are our four picks for Week 1 of the season (All spreads via PointsBet).
No. 13 NC State at East Carolina
Pick: NC State -11
The Wolfpack are 7-1 in their last eight games against AAC opponents, and they're also 4-2 against the spread (ATS) in the last six season openers. Conversely, ECU is 1-5 ATS in its last six Week 1 matchups. NC State is returning 17 starters from last season's team, including quarterback Devin Leary, who threw for 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2021. He's a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate and will get the Wolfpack off to a good start with a victory Saturday.
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UTEP at No. 9 Oklahoma
Pick: Oklahoma -31.5
This is a large spread, but Oklahoma is a good bet to cover with what should be an improved defense under new head coach Brent Venables. He re-joins the Sooners after spending a decade as the Clemson defensive coordinator. His defenses were a major reason why the Tigers won national titles in 2016 and 2018. Oklahoma's defense shouldn't have any issues slowing down a UTEP offense that struggled in a 31-13 loss to North Texas last week. The Sooners are 4-0 (3-1 ATS) all-time against UTEP with an average margin of victory of 43 points. UTEP is also 0-6 ATS in its last six games versus Big 12 opponents.
Colorado State at No. 8 Michigan
Pick: Michigan -27.5
Michigan is a little underrated entering the 2022 season despite being the reigning Big 10 champions, which might be a good thing for Jim Harbaugh's team. Colorado State is coming off an awful 2021 campaign during which it went 3-9 and ended the season with six consecutive losses straight up and against the spread. The Rams open the new season in a hostile 100,000-person stadium where the Wolverines went 7-0 (6-1 ATS) in 2021. Michigan will dominate the line of scrimmage, time of possession and run all over Colorado State for an easy win and cover.
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Utah State at No. 1 Alabama
Pick: Utah state +41.5
Alabama will win this game easily, but Utah State is too talented to lose by six touchdowns. The Aggies went 11-3 last season, winning eight of their last nine games, including a Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl victory over Oregon State. Utah State also has a 7-1 ATS record in its last eight games and a 10-2 ATS record in its last 12 September matchups. Alabama is 1-4 ATS in its last five games versus Mountain West Conference teams.
Utah State could score a few times in this game, and 17-20 points might be all that's needed for a cover. Aggies quarterback Logan Bonner threw for 36 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. He threw three touchdowns in Utah State's win over UConn last week. The Aggies also ran for 261 rushing yards versus the Huskies. Obviously, the Crimson Tide have an elite defense, but Utah State does have a pretty balanced offense that should be able to move the ball a little bit.
Utah State also is a pretty good team away from home, having won eight consecutive road or neutral site games.
Overall, the Aggies are no match for the Crimson Tide, but as long as they keep it respectable in the first half, covering a massive spread shouldn't be a huge challenge.