Season Record: 0-0
Nebraska -7 at Illinois, O/U 55
The season kicks off with a B1G matchup featuring the debut of gif-legend Bret Bielema at Illinois, taking over a team which returns a host of starters on both sides of the ball. QB Brandon Peters (transfer from Michigan) will open the season as the Illini starter, while Adrian Martinez returns for what is somehow only his Junior season of eligibility.
The Illini marched into Lincoln last year as a 16-point underdog and smoked the Huskers en route to a 41-23 win, their first win in Lincoln since 1924 and their final win of the 2020 season before firing Lovie Smith. Nebraska turned the ball over 5 times and was behind 28-10 early and never recovered.
Biggest question in this game is whether Nebraska can run the football against a veteran defensive line at Illinois. Talented USC transfer Markese Stepp is the favorite to take the lead role for Nebraska at RB, he and Martinez must gash the Illinois defense if the Huskers are going to have a chance to cover that number.
Questions all over the Nebraska defense, youth and inexperience at wide receiver, I’m going to ride with Illinois and the points at home, and will probably sprinkle some additional on the moneyline
Pick: Illinois +7
UConn at Fresno State -27.5, O/U 62.5
Fresno State is returning its starter at QB, Jake Haener, who achieved 3rd Team All-Mountain West in 2020. The Bulldogs offense also returns 3/5ths of their offensive line, their top three rushers and top EIGHT receivers from last year’s squad which averaged 33 points per game.
UConn did not play a game in 2020, opting out due to concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic, and prior to that was among the worst teams in college football under Randy Edsall, entering his 5th year after four consecutive seasons of nine or more losses.
UConn is listing co-starters and has split reps throughout summer camp, that doesn’t bode well for efficient offense for a group with such limited talent. They’ll be leaning heavily on returning 1000 yard rusher Kevin Mensah and Miami (FL) transfer Robert Burns to control the clock and move the chains against a Fresno State defense which allowed more than 200 YPG in rushing yards over a shortened 2020 season.
The lack of continuity on offense, a veteran Fresno State team and flying across the country for an 11am local time start does not bode well for UConn, I’m rolling with the Bulldogs and the points.
Pick: Fresno State -27.5
Hawaii at UCLA -18, O/U 68
This is truly a make or break year for Chip Kelly, he’s returning Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback, who possesses the dual-threat, big play capabilities which once made Kelly the hottest name on the coaching market at Oregon.
Replacing Demetric Felton on offense is no easy task, but incoming starter Brittain Brown averaged 6.6 yards per carry on 82 rushes last year and will run behind a Bruins offensive line returning all five starters.
Overall, the Bruins are a veteran club returning 20 of 22 starters. They should be a potent offensive club, but will be up against a Hawaii defense who is returning all 11 starters, but underperformed last season.
Hawaii returns QB Chevan Cordeiro, who led the club in rushing last season and earned Mountain West Honorable Mention. A veteran line will need to get better than the 150 Rushing YPG last year if they expect to have any chance in this one.
I expect big plays, points and a faster pace by UCLA to run away from Hawaii’s suspect defense, which allowed 212 YPG on the ground last year. I do expect Hawaii to gain some ground with their own dual threat attack and put some points on the board. Leaning Bruins in the spread, but my money is on the Over 68.
Pick: Over 68
*Disclaimer: These picks are for entertainment purposes only.