College football Week 1 best bets: Dawgs on top against Clemson

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Ricky Dimon

NCAAF

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The first full week of the 2021 college football campaign is upon us. Get your popcorn ready, too, because the season begins with a bang. We have five all-Top 25 showdowns on Saturday’s schedule, including third-ranked Clemson going up against No. 5 Georgia. Let’s take a look at some of Saturday’s best bets.

Western Michigan at Michigan Under 67

Western Michigan’s journey across the state to open the season sees this team as a huge underdog against Michigan at the Big House. The Wolverines finished 2-4 last season, while the Broncos were a mirror-image 4-2. UM obviously underperformed, but with QB Cade McNamara now at the reins head coach Jim Harbaugh’s program hopes to have finally figured out the position that has seemed to be a problem for years.

Still, McNamara is an unproven commodity and Harbaugh is not going to open the playbook in Week 1 against an overmatched opponent. On the other side of the ball, Michigan returns a ton of talent and new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald should be able to use that kind of personnel to the best of its ability.

Check out our full game preview

Georgia +3 vs Clemson

Georgia and Clemson take the field in a potential College Football Playoff preview that will have a lasting impact on the rest of the season. Bulldogs starting QB JT Daniels is an early Heisman Trophy candidate and proved last year how efficiently he can run this offense, albeit in a small sample size. But taking his stats from those games, he would have had the 4th-highest QBR in the country over the entire season. This is the missing piece Georgia has been waiting for, especially in a game such as this in which you are surely going to have to score a lot of points to win. Look for Georgia to find success through the air and put pressure on Clemson right from the start.

Don’t forget about the top-rated rush defense in the SEC last year, either. The Dawgs are not going to make life easy on Clemson’s offense as the post-Trevor Lawrence era begins. The Tigers are looking to replace a lot of pieces on the offensive side — not just the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft—and a strong Georgia front 7 can take advantage early. Look for Clemson to struggle to establish a run game in this one. That is going to put a lot of pressure on DJ Uiagalelei under center. He will surely show some flashes of brilliance, but don’t be surprised if that comes with some costly mistakes.

Check out our full game preview

Illinois -5.5 vs. UTSA

The Bret Bielema era at Illinois got off to a hot start with a 30-22 win over Nebraska last weekend. Starting quarterback Brandon Peters went down with an injury, but Artur Sitkowski filled in quite nicely. He completed 12 of his 15 passes for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns, leading a well-balanced offensive attack. Illinois returned 18 starters from last season and a lot of those guys were on the team that went to a bowl game in 2019. This is an experienced and battle-tested roster, and unlike UTSA the Fighting Illini already have a game under their belt in 2021. That could be huge, as the Illini were able to find what they need to improve on after their win over Nebraska.

UTSA was 0-5 last year and is 0-8 over the last two seasons when allowing more than 125 rushing yards. Look for Bielema to tighten things up on the offensive line and put an emphasis on the ground game in this matchup. The Roadrunners have a serious weapon in RB Sincere McCormick, but going up against the Illini run defense could be tough. Aside from an Adrian Martinez’s 75-yard run, Illinois held Nebraska to 85 rushing yards on 38 carries — 2.2 yards per attempt.

Check out our full game preview

At Pickswise we offer free expert College Football Picks and College Football Predictions for all games in the Power Five conferences and the top 25 teams outside of Power five, including our College Football Parlay picks each week.

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