College football is entirely an American sport, but the first game of the season actually takes place 25 days from today, on Aug. 26, in Sydney, Australia, between the University of California and Hawaii. Here’s my college football betting pick for that game and one other in Week 1.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at the 2016 College Football Week 1 Free Picks
— Cal Football (@CalFootball) August 1, 2016
California vs. Hawaii (+21.5 in NCAA betting)
The Bears opened their training camp on Monday at California Memorial Stadium. The team will hold training camp practices at the venue for nearly three weeks before departing for Sydney on Saturday, Aug. 20. Given the 17-hour time difference between Sydney and Berkeley, the game will be kick off from the 83,500-seat ANZ Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 27 (Noon, Sydney Time). The contest will be the first ever college football game played in Sydney and the third ever in Australia as well as the first since 1987.
Cal coach Sonny Dykes has to decide on a starting quarterback to replace record-setting Jared Goff, who was the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. I think the winner will be Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb. He originally had signed a financial aid agreement with Colorado, where he would have provided a one-year bridge as starter Sefo Liufau recovers from a foot injury. But since there is no National Letter of Intent for graduate transfers, Webb could keep his options open until he set foot in a classroom at his next school. He did that, and a better situation came along.
“When I committed in January, that was the best situation for me, but then something that fit me better came along,” Webb said.
A big factor was Cal hiring new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital in February. Spavital is a protege of Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Webb said that was an added bonus. Their systems are similar.
They run many of the same plays, although the verbiage is different. In his career at Texas Tech, Webb threw 46 TD passes against 22 interceptions, but ended up backing up another talented QB in 2015 in Patrick Mahomes. Kingsbury has said the 21-year- old has the tools to be a top-five overall NFL Draft pick because of his size, arm strength and mind. Webb earned Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP honors (2013) at the end of his freshman season after torching No. 14 Arizona State for 403 passing yards and four TDs in a 37-23 romp.
Hawaii also opened fall camp on Monday. The Rainbow Warriors have a new head coach: Nick Rolovich. Rolovich, who graduated from Hawaii in 2004 and served as Nevada’s offensive coordinator last year, replaces Norm Chow, who was fired. Rolovich played for the Warriors in 2000 and 2001 and served as an assistant coach under Greg McMackin from 2008-11. He moved to Nevada in 2012. Rolovich still holds several passing records at UH, including most touchdowns in a quarter and a game. He had been the offensive coordinator at Nevada for four seasons. The other finalists interviewed for the position were Rich Ellerson, June Jones, Rich Miano and Brian Norwood, all of whom have UH backgrounds.
Take California here.
Charlotte at Louisville (-39 on NCAA football lines)
This is the biggest spread on the board for Week 1 and the game is on Thursday, Sept. 1. The Cardinals have a terrific quarterback you may not be familiar with in Lamar Jackson. Michael Vick had three games of at least 100 yards passing and rushing in his stellar collegiate career. Jackson had five last year.
The quarterback enters his sophomore season as one of the most exciting players in the ACC. He burst on to the scene in 2015, starting eight games and compiling 2,800 yards of total offense with 23 touchdowns. In just one season, the dual-threat Jackson set the program’s career record for rushing yards by a quarterback (960).
Last season Louisville recovered from a 0–3 start to finish 8–5, completing the year with a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl. The Cardinals had entered the fall amid a race between three signal-callers—Kyle Bolin, Reggie Bonnafon and Will Gardner—but the freshman Jackson shined in the Sept. 5 opener against Auburn.
The Cardinals are entering their seventh season under the direction of head coach Bobby Petrino, who has led the program to a 58-18 record and bowl appearances each season. In his 11 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Petrino’s 100-39 record (.719 winning percentage), the 11th-best winning percentage among active coaches at the Division I ranks.
Charlotte is not a good team, finishing last year 2-10 and winless in Conference USA. It does have one good defensive player in tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who has been named to the Watch Lists for the 2016 Bednarik Award (College Defensive Player of the Year) and the Outland Trophy (Most Outstanding Interior Lineman), tied for second in Conference USA with a school-record 14.5 tackles for loss last season. He ranks eighth among active FBS players in career tackles for loss (35.3; 1.04/gm). He is the 49ers career leader in tackles (152), TFL (35.5), sacks (10.0) and QB hurries (23). He had a career-high 62 tackles, last year, Charlotte’s first at the FBS level as a member of Conference USA, with double-digit tackles against C-USA foes Florida Atlantic (11) and UTSA (10).
That’s a lot of points to give. I’d take them on NCAA football lines. Louisville will get up big and then call off the dogs.