Folks, the long, hot summer has concluded, and football season has finally arrived. Well, the latter part is true. The first part is utter nonsense. It’s predicted to be 97 degrees on Saturday. Having said that, it’s a 10-degree improvement over last week, so we’ll take it.
This weekend also renews another time-honored tradition for the Oklahoma Sooners — the 11 a.m. home kickoff. Get to Norman early. Bring the necessary ingredients for mimosas, Bloody Marys and Micheladas. Maybe bring one of those trendy Blackstone griddles to the tailgate. Make some pancakes. Perhaps even invite some local bloggers to this tailgate. I’m just spitballing here.
OU’s game should be uneventful (it better be uneventful). This is also far from the best Week 1 slate we’ve seen over the past decade-plus. But... it’s college football. I will accept it in any form.
Anyway, here are the betting lines and picks for some of this weekend’s most intriguing matchups. This is not gambling advice. If you lose your shirt, it’s your fault.
Florida at Utah (-4.5) - Yes, I watched the terrible Netflix documentary about Urban Meyer’s Florida teams. It, um... left out quite a few facts and tidbits. It was essentially a pro-Urban Meyer propaganda film narrated by Urban Meyer. Not a whole lot of discussion of Aaron Hernandez or the Pouncey twins.
I have to admit, his teams were about as physical as any during that time. Since his departure due to the chest pains in 2011, that physicality has slowly dwindled into a distant memory in Gainesville. It’s quite the opposite for Kyle Willingham’s Utah Utes, who have become bullies out west.
Anthony Richardson saved UF with his heroics in last year’s matchup. He now plays for the Fightin’ Jim Irsays, so the Utes should be in good shape. Gambling Pick: I like Utah decisively. Over 44.5
Colorado at TCU (-20.5) - I’m very much on-board with the idea of watching Deion Sanders attempt to do whatever it is he is attempting to do. Will it work? It depends on what you mean by “work”. If the objective is to bring as much attention to a floundering football program as humanly possible, then he is clearly accomplishing that goal. If he’s trying to build a sustainable football program, I’m slightly less sure. Taking advantage of the portal is a necessity in 2023 (especially with what he inherited), but that much roster churn is something else entirely. If the plan is to do this once and then gradually build through the prep ranks, it’s not off to a great start. CU has eight commitments in its 2024 class, only one of which is a unanimous four-star prospect.
I’ll contend that it’s a net positive hire no matter what happens, but what’s not up for debate is that this year’s team is going to be a bit of a mess. On the other side, TCU could legitimately compete for the Big 12 again. Gambling pick: Not a good day for Coach Prime. TCU covers with ease. Under 63.5
Arkansas State at Oklahoma (-35.5) - I’m usually unsure about these early lines with OU because it always takes at least a few games for Bedenbaugh’s O-Line to become a cohesive run-blocking unit. However, I think the defense will feast. Arkansas State is not the scrappy G5 program that it once was. I think we’ll see at least one defensive touchdown. Gambling Pick: Oklahoma covers. Under 58
North Carolina (-2.5) vs. South Carolina (Charlotte, N.C.) - In recent years, this game has quickly become one of the best parts of Week 1. As far as non-conference, neutral-field games are concerned, it feels the most natural. Doesn’t feel forced. Makes the most sense. The Tar Heels and Gamecocks should play each other in Charlotte in every sport.
I’m not entirely sure what to expect from Spencer Rattler. He ended the season in terrific form, but his pocket presence is still as much of an issue as it was when he was in Norman. Fortunately for Rattler, he’s not facing the Georgia front seven. He’s going up against a North Carolina defense that likely isn’t going to get home in the pass rush very frequency. A clean pocket for Rattler equals a shootout, because you know Drake Maye is going to have a day of his own. Gambling Pick: South Carolina beats the spread and wins. Over 64.5
LSU (-2.5) vs. Florida State (Orlando, Fla.) - The Tigers bring back 81 percent of their offensive production from last year, including veteran QB Jayden Daniels and all five offensive linemen. Meanwhile, FSU returns one of the best defensive lines in the country, creating a highly-anticipated good-on-good matchup.
Oklahoma fans are familiar with the Seminoles after watching them face the Sooners in the Cheez-It Bowl (yes, writing that sentence bums me out). Jared Verse, Jordan Travis and many of the other stars of last year’s team return, creating a lot of hype for the program 2023. Personally, I’m not quite buying it. FSU didn’t have a quality win after beating LSU at this same time last year, and they didn’t exactly look like world-beaters against a six-win OU team.
I like the direction of the program under Mike Norvell, for sure. The recruiting is starting to inch closer to what we were seeing from them 10 years ago. I’m just not ready to consider them a dark-horse CFP contender quite yet. What I am sure of is that Orlando will be quite a scene with these two fan bases in town. Gambling Pick: I like LSU to cover. Under 56