College football picks, Week 1: BYU-Navy a tough pick’em & more predictions for every FBS game

Week 1 of the 2020 college football season is here.  

There are nine games on the schedule involving FBS teams — a far cry from the usual Labor Day weekend setup. No ranked teams are playing, and the highlight of the schedule is Monday’s matchup between BYU and Navy.  

Stop complaining. It’s football, and there are opportunities to bet against the spread.  

I will offer picks against the spread for every week of the college football season. I typically do picks for games involving Top 25 teams, so consider this a bonus week. Last year, I finished 226-50 (.819) straight up and 153-123 (.554) against the spread during the regular season. I was just 4-16 (.200) on upset picks, however. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at the Week 1 picks against the spread (spreads via BetOnline.ag):   

Thursday, Sept. 3  

South Alabama at Southern Miss (-14.5)  

Jack Abraham is back at quarterback for the Golden Eagles, and that continuity should help in the home opener. South Alabama was 3-3 as a road underdog last season, and it’s tempting to take the Jaguars here. We just can’t do it.  

Southern Miss wins 36-19 and COVERS the spread.  

Central Arkansas at UAB (No Line)  

Central Arkansas is playing its second game in five days, and it’s up against a Blazers team that’s good enough to win Conference-USA. UAB running back Spencer Brown, who battled injuries last season, returns to form with a big game.  

UAB wins 38-14  

Saturday, Sept. 5 

SMU (-21.5) at Texas State 

The Mustangs beat Texas State 47-17 last season, and quarterback Shane Buechele returns from last year’s 10-win team. The Mustangs give TCU something to think about in Week 2.  

SMU wins 42-17 and COVERS the spread.  

Arkansas State at Memphis (-18.5)  

Memphis won’t have Kenneth Gainwell, who opted out of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Tigers were 4-3 ATS when favored by double digits in 2019, and the Red Wolves can score points, too.  

Memphis wins 41-24 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.  

Middle Tennessee State at Army (-3.5)  

Army is looking to bounce back after a five-win season in 2019, and this will be the first look at new quarterback Jabari Laws. The Blue Raiders were 5-3 ATS as a road underdog in 2019.  

Army wins 30-24 and COVERS the spread.  

Stephen F. Austin at UTEP (No line)  

UTEP finished 1-11 last season, and they are switching the defense to a 4-3 after allowing 35.9 points per game. The Lumberjacks could pull off the upset here, but we’ll go with the home team.  

UTEP wins 24-21  

Houston Baptist at North Texas (No line)  

North Texas starts life without quarterback Mason Fine, but Houston Baptist offers a tune-up for the Mean Green before C-USA play.  

North Texas wins 41-14 

Eastern Kentucky at Marshall (No line)  

Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green transferred this offseason, but the Thundering Herd settle in behind running back Brenden Knox. If there is a line, Marshall was 1-5 ATS as a home favorite last season.  

Marshall wins 33-10  

Monday, Sept. 7 

BYU at Navy (Pick ’em)  

The best game of the week features the classic contrast in styles: Navy’s triple-option attack against BYU’s wide-open offense led by quarterback Zach Wilson. This one goes down to the wire and does not disappoint.  

Navy wins 30-27 in a PICK’EM.  

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