It's a football Friday! Seriously, depending on how often you check your email, there might be a college football game going on right now. After a full Thursday evening of games, we've got even more coming our way tonight before the first full Saturday slate of the season. Slates I'm here to make sure you're more than ready for.
Not only do I have two college football picks for you tonight, but I've also got three more for Saturday, and because you've been so good, I even threw in a pick for Sunday (yep, there's a game on Sunday, too). And, just in case all of that isn't enough, I even have a college football parlay for you to sweat this weekend.
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Don't ever let me hear you say I'm not there for you whenever you need me. Some newsletters might send you into the weekend with picks for Friday and nothing else. Not this one. Not during football season. It breaks my heart even to imagine you sitting there on a Saturday or Sunday having to figure out your bets all by yourself. So I want you to know that this Football Friday edition of the CBS Sports HQ newsletter will be coming to you every week during the football season, and starting next week, it'll have NFL picks too.
We're all about to go on an amazing adventure together. I can't wait. What I can do, is tell you that the first step on any journey is always reading these stories.
- More reports are circulating that the Big 12 will soon invite four new schools to the conference.
- Our Tyler Sullivan seems to be higher on the Patriots than he should be.
- NHL players have been cleared to participate in the Winter Olympics.
- College basketball's offseason winners and losers.
Football Friday Time!
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
No. 10 North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 63.5 (-110): This is a big game right off the bat for both teams. North Carolina enters as a top-10 team seen by many to be Clemson's biggest threat in the ACC. Now, "biggest threat" is relative, but the Tar Heels nevertheless are still a popular pick to win the ACC Coastal. Meanwhile, the Hokies aren't at the top of many lists for contenders in 2021, but they are still dangerous -- particularly at home in front of a packed Lane Stadium.
The Hokies will approach this game cautiously. This is an offense that ran the ball 61.8% of the time last season (11th nationally.) They're facing a North Carolina group that finished 2020 ranked 79th in defensive success rate against the run. I expect Virginia Tech to try to bleed the clock and limit possessions to slow down an explosive North Carolina offense because it's the only way they can keep pace. This should lead to a lower-scoring affair.
Key Trend: The under is 35-23-1 in Virginia Tech ACC games since 2014.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine's projection model generated selections for Friday's Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division matchup between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Virginia Tech Hokies.
💰 The Picks
🏈 College Football
Michigan State at Northwestern, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 45.5 (-110) -- This is probably not going to be a pretty game to watch. Northwestern never has an explosive offense, and it's already lost its starting running back for the season, as well as a starter on the offensive line. Hunter Johnson won the starting QB job, but he's not likely to be used as anything other than a game manager. We don't know the starting QB for the Spartans yet, but whether it's Temple transfer Anthony Russo or Payton Thorne, I don't have high hopes for the unit.
This is likely to be a low-scoring rock fight in which both teams just try not to lose more than they try to win.
Key Trend: The under is 23-5 when Northwestern is favored at home since 2014.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 14 Miami, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. | TV: ABC
The Pick: Alabama -19.5 (-110) -- Yeah, I'm sorry, Miami, but I don't think you're ready for this. That's not to say you won't be able to compete in the ACC, but Alabama is a different monster entirely -- even an Alabama team breaking in a new quarterback, running back, offensive coordinator, some new wide receivers ... and plenty else.
It's Alabama. It reloads every single season.
On the flip side, we have a Miami team that showed flashes last season. While I'm a big fan of QB D'Eriq King, he's coming off a torn ACL. I don't know that he's 100%, and even if he is fully healthy, Alabama has the defensive personnel to force King to stay in the pocket and win with his arm. I don't think he can do that often enough over 60 minutes, plus Miami isn't good enough defensively to stop Alabama. Nobody can stand up to the Crimson Tide in that way. Oh, and if you're wondering: Alabama is 24-12 ATS as a double-digit favorite since 2016. The Tide make a habit of covering these spreads.
Key Trend: Nick Saban is 13-1 ATS and 14-0 straight up in season openers.
No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC
The Pick: Georgia +3 (-110) -- This is not the easiest game to prognosticate. On one side, we have a Clemson team that is replacing quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne. Then there's Georgia, which has JT Daniels back at QB but lost a couple of key players to injury at other spots, including the team's top receiver, George Pickens. There are questions on both sides, but what causes me to lean towards Georgia is that I believe the Bulldogs are one of the few teams in the country that can deal with Clemson's defensive front for 60 minutes.
Don't get me wrong, they won't stop them completely, nor will they be pancaking them all night long. But they'll hold their own and win enough battles to help the Bulldogs offense move the ball. I'm not as convinced that Clemson's offensive line will be able to do the same against this Georgia defense. It's the matchup in which I believe one team has a clear edge on the other, and it could be what decides the whole thing.
Key Trend: Georgia is 13-7 ATS at neutral sites since 2014.
UTSA at Illinois, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. | TV: Big Ten Network
The Pick: Illinois -5 (-110) -- This is one of the few Week 1 games where we have an idea of what to expect from one of the teams playing. Illinois pulled off the upset against Nebraska last Saturday, and this line has not adjusted to what we saw. Illinois' win wasn't a fluke. This is a team that was able to dominate Nebraska in the trenches for most of the afternoon, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Illini played a lot of man and QB spy to take away Adrian Martinez and force him to beat them with his arm. He couldn't.
I anticipate the Illini defense doing something similar against a UTSA team that rushed for more than 215 yards per game last season. The problem with the Roadrunners is they ranked 84th nationally in passing efficiency. I expect the Illinois defense to do everything in its power to take RB Sincere McCormick (1,467 yards, 11 TD last season) out of the picture and force UTSA to beat it in other ways.
Key Trend: Illinois is 7-4 ATS at home in its last 11 home games.
No. 9 Notre Dame at Florida State, Sunday, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ABC
The Pick: Over 55.5 (-110) -- I think the country is sleeping on Notre Dame to start the season. Yes, the Irish lost a lot of players from last year's team, including QB Ian Book, but I don't think Jack Coan is a downgrade at the position. In fact, I think Coan is an upgrade for Notre Dame's passing attack, as is the return of Kevin Austin, who missed last season due to injury. Notre Dame should be far more dangerous in the air this season, and it has a terrific stable of running backs.
I'm also expecting Florida State to be improved in 2021, at least on the offensive side of the football. I'm staying away from the spread here because I think Florida State's just as capable of covering as it is getting blown out by 40, but no matter what happens, I think this game goes over this total.
Key Trend: The over is 20-9 in Florida State nonconference games since 2014.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine projection model likes a lot of college football plays this weekend, but its favorite is on the spread in Saturday night's game between Arizona and BYU.
🏈 Saturday Chalk Parlay
Listen, we're not trying to make ourselves look like geniuses here. We're just trying to cash in on some early season mismatches with a six-leg money line parlay that pays +124.