Weather Wagers rolls on as we tackle Week 1 for college football. The main weather headline is that there really isn’t one. There are football games scattered throughout the holiday weekend from Thursday through Monday. Most of them should have very few weather-related issues. There will be some wet weather in the Gulf states on Saturday and Sunday, but the country as a whole should be quiet as we welcome the start of another college football season. While we will cover many different sports on Weather Wagers, college football is our focus and our favorite. This week it has the stage all to itself. Let’s break down some games.

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West Virginia @ Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh -7.5/51

This game features the return of “The Backyard Brawl” and I think it will be worth the 11-year wait. Due to conference realignment, the last time this rivalry game was played was in 2011. West Virginia won that classic 21-20. This time around both teams have transfer quarterbacks from USC, oddly enough. J.T. Daniels at West Virginia was also at Georgia once upon a time and does have what it takes to make big plays when he’s healthy. I’ll be curious to see if West Virginia can get a run game going as they return some veterans along the offensive line. Meanwhile, Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi is known for his defensive prowess and his squad was number one in the ACC against the run last year. Kenny Pickett is gone and new quarterback Kedon Slovis has big shoes to fill. He’s the other USC transfer in this game. Pitt won the ACC last year and while I think it will be very tough for them to repeat that feat, I think they win this game on a beautiful Thursday night in Pittsburgh. West Virginia can cover, however. I’ll take them at +7.5.

Penn State @ Purdue, Penn State -3.5/52

Conference road games. If there is one thing that should scare Penn State fans, it’s that. James Franklin’s Big Ten road record is a less than stellar 17-16. Granted there are mitigating factors for some of those games, and he notched a big road win against Wisconsin to start last season, but nonetheless, going to West Lafayette at night won’t be easy. Purdue returns Aiden O’Connell at quarterback who is a bit of a gunslinger and will be playing this game on his birthday. He doesn’t have quite as many weapons to throw to as he did last season, but he’ll hit on some big plays. The Nittany Lions will need Sean Clifford to be on his A game, much like he was to start last season, if they want to spoil O’Connell’s birthday celebration. They will also need new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to develop some new guys in order to remain that stout defense Penn State fans like to think they are most seasons. They likely won’t need to stop the run, but the secondary will need to be top-notch. The weather will be a non-factor here too with a beautiful Thursday evening anticipated in Indiana. I’ll lay the 3.5 with Penn State, but I’m not confident here.

North Carolina @ Appalachian State, North Carolina -1/56

If there is one place that’s scarier than West Lafayette at night, it’s likely Boone, North Carolina. I wouldn’t want to play Appalachian State early in the season, and I certainly wouldn’t want to play them on the road. But that’s what Mack Brown faces in his second game of the season after a sluggish start last weekend against Florida A&M. Sean Clark enters his fourth year as head coach of the Mountaineers with a 20-7 overall record. His defense is stout and the home crowd should be pumped up. They beat the Tar Heels at their place in 2019 and even Gene Chizik coming on board as defensive coordinator likely won’t help Mack Brown in this one. There could be a passing storm around the area on Saturday evening in those Carolina hills. Keep an eye out for some rain or even lighting. I like the slight home dog now in this game. Give me the Mountaineers.

Notre Dame @ Ohio State, Ohio State -17/59

Another game where the weather should be perfect this weekend! A lovely Saturday night in Ohio, if such a thing exists, will be made even better with an Ohio State blowout. I don’t have much to say here. I like Marcus Freeman and the Irish…just not in this situation. On the road against Ryan Day and CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba is not a great way to welcome in the new season. Ohio State also brought in former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. He is a veteran guy and runs a solid defense, something that was the Buckeye’s downfall last year. This one won’t be close. Give me the Buckeyes to cover.

Florida State vs. LSU (New Orleans), LSU -3/51.5

Without any major weather across the country, we selected this game due to the pure intrigue of it. No weather here – it’s in the Caesars Superdome! Mike Norvell was able to win handily last week against Duquesne, but it’s a tougher task this week. LSU was a team in peril when Ed Orgeron was dismissed and got its new man with Brian Kelly coming in from Notre Dame. And while he wants to be part of the LSU “fam-a-lee”, the only way to do that is to win. Brian Kelly is a good coach. He may not have all the horses in the stall yet, but he can coach and coach well. This game isn’t at Tiger Stadium, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s in New Orleans. The crowd will be purple and gold. Sorry, Florida State. Not your time yet. I’ll take Brian Kelly to win and cover.

Army @ Coastal Carolina, Coastal Carolina -2/53.5

This is one of the most interesting games of the weekend to me. Jeff Monken at Army and Jamey Chadwell of Coastal Carolina are two of the best football coaches at smaller programs. Grayson McCall returns as Coastal’s starting quarterback and leads a potent offense against an Army team that loves to try and play ball control with an option-style offense. They have a really solid offensive line and will try and keep McCall off the field as much as they are able. Still, Coastal at home is going to be too much in my opinion on the teal turf. Some showers along the coast are possible during this one along with a bit of a sea breeze. I don’t think there will be any delays, but the winds could come into play during a tight contest, which is what the oddsmakers expect. I’ll lay the points with Chadwell’s squad to get it done at home.

Illinois @ Indiana, Indiana -3/46

This game will be an exception in taking the home favorite this week. For so many Week 1 games, it’s hard to know which side to be on because we don’t have any body of work yet with any of these teams. That is not true for Illinois, however. Bret Bielema’s team looked like I thought they would last week during their home opener against Wyoming. They were effective at running the ball and taking early control of the game. Tom Allen’s Indiana has been a tough out for Big Ten teams the last few years, but that changes this year. While I like Allen and his hard-nosed defenses, I think Indiana may be lacking some playmakers this year. Illinois has a game under its belt and takes the confidence from that win into Bloomington on Friday night. I’ll take the dog here and let it howl.

Cincinnati @ Arkansas, Arkansas -6/52

Cincinnati was the darling of the college football playoff field last season. While Luke Fickell is a solid coach, he will need to replace star quarterback and third-round draft pick Desmond Ridder. Meanwhile, Sam Pittman is just one of the coolest guys around. “Yesssss sirrrrrr…” he is the head hog and found momentum last year with a win over Penn State in bowl season. KJ Jefferson is back at QB and while he may not be the best in the SEC, he will likely be the best in this game. Both teams will try and run the ball, with Arkansas wanting to grind out a win late in the game. They may need to as some showers are in the forecast. This game will be right on the northern edge of heavier rain, but I don’t think the weather will play a big role. I think the Hogs can grind a win out and will likely be too much for a Cincy team needing to replace its star. Once again, I’ll lay the points with the home favorite.

Memphis @ Mississippi State, Mississippi State -15/56.5

Watch out for some showers and storms around Starkville during this game. Rain could be a factor limiting the passing attack. Not good for head coach Mike Leach. There could also be a lightning delay if things break the wrong way. I had to look up who was coaching Memphis these days if I’m being honest. They aren’t quite the Group of 5 team they were when Justin Fuente was there. Ryan Silverfield enters his third season with the Tigers and he beat the Bulldogs last season. I certainly don’t need to look up Mississippi State’s head coach: Mike Leach needs no introduction. He also doesn’t need to introduce a lot of new starters. Each side of the ball gets 8 guys back. The most important returner is QB Will Rogers. Mike Leach is always dangerous, but especially when he has a veteran group led by a returning quarterback. This game may not mean much nationally, but as a college football fan, I’ll be watching to see if Leach could possibly put up more of a fight in the mighty SEC this year. This seems to be my theme this week, but I’ll roll with the home favorite and lay the 15 with Leach and the Bulldogs. This is despite any weather concerns. It’s a revenge game and they are home.

Here’s a summary of my picks for Week 1. Let’s roll:

Games of the Week

West Virginia +7.5

Penn State -3.5

App. State +1

Ohio State -17

LSU -3

Under the Radar Game

Coastal Carolina -2

Brett’s Best Bets

Illinois +3

Arkansas -6

Mississippi State -15

            Dan absolutely schooled me last week and I’m out for revenge. His column is up next and no matter what happens, let’s have fun. Talking sports, talking weather, and watching how things play out. It’s Week 1. It’s like Christmas morning. Enjoy your college football weekend!

-Brett Thackara 

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West Virginia @ Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh -7.5/51

I am very excited to see the return of the “The Backyard Brawl” and the Pennsylvania football showcase this Thursday with Pittsburgh and Penn State both playing in their respective games. Pitt said goodbye to their folk hero Kenny Pickett who helped lead them to an ACC conference championship, but I believe they still have the momentum from last year. Kedon Slovis is a big transfer get for Pat Narduzzi, who without Mark Whipple on his staff may go back to a little more ball control offense and a stronger running game. I am predicting another big season for the Panthers, and while West Virginia should have a strong season in the Big 12, I’m taking Pitt at -7.5.

Penn State @ Purdue, Penn State -3.5/52

This game and the timing irritates me. A Big 10 opener on a Thursday is simply an audience grab in the TV world, and it makes things difficult for coaches to get their teams into a season’s routine. Fortunately the timing of it being the first game provided the whole offseason to prepare for James Franklin and his staff. The Nittany Lions are opposed by a strong Boilermaker team in West Lafayette, with a smart coach in Jeff Brohm. Penn State started last season 5-0 after a great showing in Madison, Wisconsin and I feel they could get off to similar start. I think Sean Clifford has a solid performance coupled with a more refined running game that Franklin has stated needed fixing after last year. Look for an improved and more physical offensive line in front of Clifford. I agree with Brett and take the Nittany Lions at -3.5.

North Carolina @ Appalachian State, North Carolina -1/56

For a week 1 matchup, North Carolina has to be scared going into Boone. Whether it was the historic upset again Michigan, or a near disaster in Happy Valley, Appalachian State certainly has a reputation in the beginning of seasons against big opponents. Mack Brown’s team comes off a win last week and should have the more talented team though. I take the Tar Heels in a nail-biter at -1.

Notre Dame @ Ohio State, Ohio State -17/59

I go into this big matchup thinking BIG. Ohio State always has a ton of talent, but Notre Dame is excited about a full season under their head coach Marcus Freeman. Notre Dame should present a tough defensive challenge for Ohio State, while Ohio State tries to rebuild their defense which struggled more than it should at times last year. Ohio State also lost some playmakers to the NFL draft. Given it is the first game I believe these teams are a closer matchup than people think. I predict a shocker and take Notre Dame to knock out the Buckeyes.

Florida State vs. LSU (New Orleans), LSU -3/51.5

A “neutral site” game here in the Caesars Superdome! Mike Norvell starts off 1-0 after a solid victory against Duquense, but now he takes his Seminoles into LSU’s home away from home. I don’t think Florida State can keep up with the talent and speed of LSU. While it is early in the Brian Kelly era at LSU, I can’t see this being much of a contest. Give me LSU at -3!

Army @ Coastal Carolina, Coastal Carolina -2/53.5

Jeff Monken at Army leads a solid program and presents a tough test in our “Under the Radar” game against Coastal Carolina and Head Coach Jamey Chadwell. Chadwell has done a great job elevating the Coastal Carolina program. Weather may be a factor in this game, which could ultimately favor Army if it is too wet to sustain a strong passing game. Overall, the game should be close as Army likes to play with an upper hand in time of possession. With a stronger breeze from the east that could mess with the kicking game- thus throwing a wrench into a close matchup. As physical and tricky as Army can be, I still want Coastal Carolina at -2.

NC State @ East Carolina, NC State -11.5/51.5

The Wolfpack at NC State had a strong season at 9-3 last year, and look to continue that momentum. Don’t overlook East Carolina though! The Pirates under Mike Houston, formerly head coach at James Madison University (more on them in a moment), had a respectable 7-5 record last year. I think this game will be closer than the large spread of nearly 12 points throughout the game, but in the end the Wolfpack get their first win of the season.

Houston @ UTSA, Houston -4.5/62

A robust 2021 campaign in the AAC last year for Houston has them coming back for more in 2022. An overall record of 12-2 for Dana Holgorsen has people talking about the potential of his program as they transition to the Big 12 next year. UTSA also had a 12-2 record last year, making this content no cupcake. Look for Coach Holgorsen to win a tight one in San Antonio- give me Houston at -4.5.

Middle Tennessee State @ James Madison University, JMU -6/57.5

I think this game is fun for multiple reasons, but my wife’s side of the family has numerous relatives that have attended James Madison University and loved the experience. Middle Tennessee State hit a cross roads when conference realignment kicked into full gear, and ultimately decided to stay in Conference USA. Meanwhile, JMU is joining the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference this year! Exciting times for sure in JMU territory, and I think they have no problem winning this first game on their schedule- I’ll take JMU at -6.

Games of the Week

  • Pittsburgh -7.5
  • Penn State -3.5
  • North Carolina -1.5
  • Notre Dame ML
  • LSU -3


Under the Radar Game

  • Coastal Carolina -2.5

Doppler Dandies Bets

  • NC State -11.5
  • Houston -4.5
  • James Madison -6

While I had a good time knocking the socks off of Brett last week, this week I am less confident in the matchups. He might be able to cut into my overall very early lead :). I do know it will be awfully fun to welcome the full slate of college football games and see what we know and don’t know about these programs! -Dan Tomaso