As final preparations are being made for the teams who’ll kick off the NCAA’s gridiron action for 2021, it’s time for bettors to dig in and make their college football picks against the spread for Week 0.
If you’re planning on laying down some money, or just want to get a better feel for how Saturday’s slate may play out, keep reading for our full list of Week 0 picks below, with odds courtesy of DraftKings.
Nebraska vs Illinois
- Spread: Nebraska -7
- Moneyline: Nebraska -275; Illinois +200
- Over/Under: 55
It’s been a turbulent tenure for Scott Frost, a former Nebraska quarterback who’s failed to restore his alma mater to prominence. Frost came under investigation for NCAA violations recently, which only adds to his woes.
As for the Fighting Illini, Bret Bielema is in his first year the helm, taking over for Lovie Smith, who posted only a 17-39 overall record. Bielema has experience in the Big Ten from his prior tenure at Wisconsin, and was more recently in the SEC as Arkansas’ coach. Perhaps those southern recruiting ties can help the Illini bounce back from
This is the only major conference game on the slate, and to be frank, it’s not a great one. However, it could be a momentous occasion for two programs in dire need of some positive vibes early on.
After mostly watching from the bench last year in a home loss to Illinois, look for Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez to rally Nebraska to a road victory thanks largely to his dual-threat playmaking ability.
- College football Week 0 prediction: Nebraska 34, Illinois 24
UConn vs Fresno State
- Spread: Fresno State -27.5
- Moneyline: UConn +1700; Fresno State -4000
- Over/Under: 62.5
When a spread is this high, you’d usually want to stay away from it. Then again, the UConn football program didn’t even have a season in 2020, and the year before then, the Huskies posted a meager 2-10 record.
So yeah, there’s a long way for UConn to go before they can compete with any decent opponent. Fresno State is led by senior QB Jake Haener, who averaged 336.8 yards passing in six games last year. Haener should have an absolute field day against an outmatched Huskies secondary.
The final score could be more lopsided than our current projection, but chances are, the Bulldogs are going to keep their players as fresh as possible for next week, when they travel to Eugene to face the Oregon Ducks.
- College football Week 0 prediction: Fresno State 41, UConn 7
Hawaii vs UCLA
- Spread: UCLA -18
- Moneyline: Hawaii +600; UCLA -900
- Over/Under: 68
Speaking of Oregon, current UCLA head coach Chip Kelly once took the college football world by storm during his time there, parlaying that success into a leap to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately, Kelly flamed out in Philly, and had an awful 2-14 one season with the San Francisco 49ers.
So while he’s not the celebrated genius he once was, Kelly is quietly building something compelling at UCLA. This year’s team returns a lot of talent, including signal-caller Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Although he’s started mostly for three seasons, this may finally be the time where the talent around Thompson-Robinson culminates in a monster year.
None of this is good news for Hawaii, but with a proven program builder in Todd Graham leading the way, the Rainbow Warriors shouldn’t be too discouraged if they lose handily to a UCLA team that could surprise a lot of people in 2021.
- College football Week 0 prediction: UCLA 45, Hawaii 21
UTEP @ New Mexico State
- Spread: UTEP -10
- Moneyline: UTEP -400; New Mexico State +300
- Over/Under: 58.5
Having played only two games last year, with three total wins in the couple seasons prior, New Mexico State football isn’t in a great place right now. The Aggies should pose no threat to UTEP, even while hosting this game.
Redshirt sophomore QB Gavin Hardison leads the Miners offense, and it says a lot that he managed to emerge as the unquestioned starter this spring. In the season finale last year, Calvin Brownholtz was thrust into action, and despite throwing four interceptions, had UTEP hanging tough with North Texas, as he ran for 114 yards and two scores in a 45-43 loss.
It’s clear Hardison is the superior passer. As long as he can protect the football and capitalize on the markedly improved film study he’s shown to his coaches and teammates leading into the 2021 campaign, the Miners should be just fine.
- College football Week 0 prediction: UTEP 35, New Mexico State 14
Southern Utah @ San Jose State
- Spread: San Jose State -24
- Moneyline: Southern Utah +1200; San Jose State -2500
- Over/Under: 56.5
An FCS opponent with a losing record should be just what San Jose State needs to continue its good mojo from last year, when the Spartans posted a 7-0 mark, only to lose their bowl game to Ball State.
With months to digest that postseason thud, you can bet San Jose State and fiery field general Nick Starkel will be eager to stick it to the next opponent. That’s very unfortunate for Southern Utah. Considering that the Thunderbirds struggle to compete at a lower level of competition, it’s hard to envision them being any match for the Spartans.
- College football Week 0 prediction: San Jose State 48, Southern Utah 6