One week of college football is in the books, but this is the week most fans have been waiting for. Officially, Week 1 of college football is upon us and that means it is time once again to scan the schedule and pick out the teams that should be on the highest of upset alerts this weekend around the country.
Each week this season, I’ll be putting one team in each conference on upset alert. Keep in mind that does not necessarily mean I believe that team will lose their game. My official predictions can still have a team on upset alert coming through for a victory. Instead, I’m looking for teams in tricky spots on the schedule, playing in trap games, seeing betting lines swing one way or another, or just playing an opponent not to be taken for granted. So just because I place your favorite team on upset alert does not mean I think your team is about to go down in flames. It’s possible they are, but this is more a word of caution to not be overly confident. And of course, sometimes the upset alert status will blow up in my face in a humiliating way, and that’s OK too.
Putting teams on upset alert in the first full week of college football can be as much of a guessing game as any week may be, but we move forward and scan the conference schedules to see which teams could be in for a difficult battle this week.
Here is what team should be on the highest of upset alerts in each conference this week:
Note: All betting lines are according to Bovada as listed via Odds Shark at the time of this posting.
North Carolina State (-5) vs. South Carolina
The NC State Wolfpack look to be taking some steps forward this season and can get off to a good start in Charlotte in a neutral site game with the Gamecocks of the SEC. NC State opened up as a four-point favorite and has gone anywhere from -4.5 to -5.5 depending on the sportsbook. Despite the trends slanting in NC State’s favor, I’m placing the Wolfpack on the highest of upset alerts among their ACC peers, although Virginia hosting William & Mary is well worth keeping a close eye on as well.
Also pay attention to Boston College traveling to Northern Illinois. The Huskies opened a two-point favorite but the line has swung to favor the Eagles by 3.5.
American Athletic Conference
East Carolina vs. James Madison
There is no line on this game, which is not all that uncommon when an FBS school plays a school from the FCS, but East Carolina could be in for a long season and JMU is not your typical FCS pushover. The Dukes are the defending FCS national champions and although they have had some discipline issues this summer, they still look like a viable threat to hand East Carolina a demoralizing loss at home to start the season. James Madison starts the year as the No. 1 team in the FCS. I expect them to stay there after this week.
Another game to watch might be Houston opening the season in San Antonio against UTSA. The young and maturing Road Runners are still a double-digit home dog but the line has been trimmed from -14 to -11 for the Cougars. But how has the disruption from Hurricane Harvey impacted Houston’s game prep, if at all? Just something to think about.
Texas (-18) vs. Maryland
Texas is giving visiting Maryland 18 points in Austin for the first game of the Tom Herman era. The Longhorns may end up winning this game by a relatively comfortable margin, but 18 points may be far too many to give the Terps. Maryland still has a long way to go to catch the top teams in the Big Ten, and opening in Texas is not an easy task, but the Longhorns are still a rebuilding project as well. To say the Terrapins can’t hang with Texas would be misguided. Maryland may struggle to score at times, but if Texas takes a while to warm up, Maryland could put a decent scare together.
Iowa (-11.5) vs. Wyoming
You sometimes never know what you are going to get out of Iowa. A strong running game should manage to wear down Wyoming, but the Cowboys could find some room to work through the air with an Iowa secondary replacing three starters (and you may have heard about Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and his NFL Draft hype by now). The Hawkeyes are a big favorite, but Wyoming is not to be taken lightly in this matchup.
Marshall (-1) vs. Miami (Ohio)
The Thundering Herd of Marshall opened up as a five-point home underdog against the MAC program, but the line has since swung in their favor with a one-point spread. That’s a good trend to have, but the Herd are still an easy target for an upset alert against one of the top programs in the MAC with regard to returning starting talent. Miami got off to a 0-6 start last season before stringing together six consecutive wins to get to a bowl game, and narrowly lost to Mississippi State.
Eastern Michigan (-13.5) vs. Charlotte
This week, outside of the games against FCS opponents, no MAC team is a favorite except for Eastern Michigan. Coming off the most successful season in years, the Eagles open the new season as a sizable favorite at home against Charlotte, still a relative newcomer to the FBS but entering its third season as a member of Conference USA. The Eagles are mostly here this week by default, especially with Charlotte looking to have plenty of room for improvement this season.
Mountain West Conference
Boise State (-11) vs. Troy
There are not a lot of great upset alert candidates in the Mountain West this week, so the Broncos are essentially here almost by default. Remember that Troy pushed eventual national champion Clemson to the limit last season. Troy may also be the best team in the Sun Belt Conference this season with the top offensive players across the board, with the exception of the offensive line. This should be a good test for the Broncos at home, although if things go according to plan I think Boise State eventually covers this one.
Colorado (-5.5) vs. Colorado State
Because I am not bold enough to suggest USC will flirt with disaster against Western Michigan and because I feel putting Oregon State on upset alert vs. Portland State is too easy, one needs to only look in one place for the most notable upset alert this week. Colorado opened as a seven or eight-point favorite in the sportsbooks against Colorado State, but the Rams smashing Oregon State last weekend has certainly impacted the line (I discussed it a bit on the Bump and Run on Monday). The Buffs are still the favorites but the money is sliding more on the MWC program and could continue to go that way. This year’s matchup will be much more competitive than last year’s result, and I’m about ready to take the Rams outright in this one.
Another game to monitor closely will be UCLA (-4) at home against Texas A&M. The Bruins never give me much reason to be too optimistic, although this could be a big game for Josh Rosen. But there’s just something about UCLA and early-season Texas A&M that doesn’t leave me feeling confident in UCLA here.
Alabama (-7) vs. Florida State
There are a couple of games worth considering for an upset alert this week, but why go with those when you can put the game of the week on the upset alert train? I have gone on record of picking Florida State in this matchup, but what surprises me is the spread in this game. Understand that bettors love putting money on Alabama, so the line will have a tendency to give the Crimson Tide a slight cushion, but Florida State’s defense is loaded this season. If the Seminoles can get a good game out of quarterback Deondre Francois, then a seven-point spread will prove to be too much.
Had BYU played a better game last week, I would have considered placing LSU on upset alert. Id’ also feel better if the game were being played in Houston. Instead, Hurricane Harvey has transplanted the game to New Orleans and LSU will have an even more influential supporting crowd as a result. I still do not like LSU as a 14-point favorite, but I’m not so sure BYU is able to pull it off. I’m also cautious about Ole Miss being a 24-point favorite against South Alabama. I’d consider taking the Jags and the points there. And call me crazy, but Georgia as a 14.5-point favorite against Appalachian State seems too high to me. The same with Kentucky giving 10 on the road at Southern Miss.
Sun Belt Conference
Idaho vs. Sacramento State
Not a whole lot to choose from this week with seemingly half the conference being an underdog against power conference opponents and the other half hosting FCS schools that should result in wins. So almost by default, we’re going with Idaho this weekend, as the Vandals host Sacramento State. There is no line on the game, and it would be a true shock if the Hornets stung Idaho here. Sacramento State is coming off back-to-back 2-9 seasons and it does not look as though they will be equipped for what is to come in the Kibbie Dome. Again, Idaho is here purely by default this week.
Who do you have on upset alert this weekend? Let me know and I’ll review some of your upset alert picks in an upcoming bumpcast. In the meantime, I am also putting together a mailbag for this week, so please feel free to submit your questions to me for a video and mailbag post.