Three things we learned from college football Week 1: Is Michigan back?

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines during second half action against the Western Michigan Broncos on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021 college football
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Andrew Ortenberg

NCAAF

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I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

College football is officially back. It feels good to say that again. We were treated to a handful of games last week for Week 0, but the real action got underway this weekend. There was a massive slate of exciting contests, and a lot to digest. Lines for next week will be out soon, and we can’t wait to dive into the Week 2 slate. But before we move on, let’s break down what we just witnessed. Here we go:

Michigan might just be back

Is Michigan back? Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all know. We shouldn’t get carried away with what we see in Week 1. But it sure as hell looked like it on Saturday. Michigan didn’t enter the season ranked, and oddsmakers didn’t give them too much respect by only making them a 17-point home favorite over Western Michigan. They absolutely obliterated that point spread, beating WMU by 33. It was a 40-point game until Western Michigan had a garbage time score with a few minutes left.

Michigan got back to its old strengths by dominating on the ground. The Wolverines averaged 7.8 yards per carry while rushing for 334 yards. New quarterback Cade McNamara wasn’t asked to do too much, but he looked more than comfortable when he was called upon. McNamara went 9 of 11 for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns, building on the promise he showed in the Rutgers game last year.

If McNamara is going to be the real deal and the ground game gets back to its old heights, the Wolverines are going to surprise some people in the Big Ten this year. It will be very interesting to see how they fare in a nationally televised showdown with Washington next week. Michigan was 25/1 to win the conference, might they shock everybody?

Spencer Rattler’s Heisman campaign didn’t get off to the best start

If you want to win a Heisman Trophy, there’s not much margin for error. All the top contenders are going to put up huge numbers, and one or two bad weeks can sink a campaign. Rattler entered the season as the clear favorite to win college football’s top award, and while he certainly wasn’t terrible it wasn’t the start his backers were hoping for. After throwing only 7 interceptions in 11 games in 2020, Rattler threw 2 on Saturday.

He was +500 to win the Heisman entering the year, with nobody else being below +900. Oklahoma very nearly got embarrassed by Tulane, only winning by 5 points. North Carolina’s Sam Howell, another top preseason contender for the award, more or less exited the race on Friday when he threw 3 interceptions in his first game–an upset loss to Virginia Tech. There’s a long way to go, but if Rattler couldn’t look dominant against non-Power 5 competition, you have to be pretty nervous if you’re holding one of those +500 tickets.

Don’t miss Prop Bet Guy’s favorite player prop play for the opening Thursday Night Football game between the Cowboys and Buccaneers!

Alabama isn’t sweating much

Another year, another season where the Crimson Tide are the undisputed top dogs in college football. Nick Saban’s squad crushed Miami 44-13, and it could’ve been uglier had they not taken their foot off the gas. They easily covered the 19-point spread. But perhaps more significantly, it doesn’t look like they’ve got too much competition. Looking around, Alabama had to have felt pretty good with what they saw elsewhere on Saturday.

Georgia and Clemson, two of their perceived closest competitors for a national championship, played each other. Neither looked anywhere close to being good enough to knock off Alabama if they had to tomorrow. The only score from either team in the first half was an interception return touchdown.

Alabama was the clear favorite to win the national championship before the season at around +260. Clemson and Georgia were right behind at about +450 and +600 respectively. After watching Week 1, perhaps that gap should’ve been larger. Ohio State had the fourth-lowest odds, and they also looked vulnerable in their opener against Minnesota on Friday. Saban has to be feeling pretty good after this weekend.

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