After a sort of sneak peek last weekend, Week 1 of the 2019 college football season really kicks off this week. A full slate of games on tap across the entire Labor Day weekend means plenty of opportunities to bet on college football. Our “Power 5 Picks” series continues this week with five betting picks from Drew Goldfarb, Jim Beviglia, and Taylor Smith. These games highlight each of the Power 5 conferences, taking a closer look at one of the biggest games of the week from each.
ACC: Virginia Cavaliers at Pitt Panthers
The Atlantic Coast Conference is wasting no time at all in jumping into conference play! In addition to defending National Champion, Clemson, taking on Georgia Tech on Thursday night (the Tigers are favored by more than five touchdowns), Virginia Tech visits Boston College, Louisville hosts Notre Dame, and Virginia heads to the Steel City to take on Pitt. Since the Fighting Irish are favored by 19 points in their game, our choice was between VA Tech vs BC and Virginia vs Pitt.
We opted for Virginia vs Pitt.
Both of these teams could prove to be challengers for the ACC’s Coastal Division crown in 2019. The Panthers are the reigning division champs but are replacing a huge piece of their offense. Running back Darrin Hall has moved on to the NFL, but how will the Pitt Panthers move on without him?
Spread: Virginia -2½
Moneyline: Virginia -135, Pittsburgh +115
Pac-12: Oregon Ducks vs Auburn Tigers (Dallas, TX)
How’s this for a season opener? Both Oregon and Auburn were disappointments in 2018, but each brings high expectations for 2019. The Ducks may need to produce at a top-tier level this season if the Pac-12 is going to have a representative in the College Football Playoff. Taking down the second-best SEC team in the state of Alabama would be a good start (sorry, Tigers fans… I couldn’t help myself).
Nationwide, each team ranked within the Top 30 in total offense for 2018, with the Auburn offense managing about 10 yards a game more than Oregon. Defensively is where the teams were a little different. The Tigers allowed 50 yards fewer per game defensively, even though the Ducks had the fourth-best defense in the Pac-12. Auburn’s marks were only good enough for fifth in the SEC.
That should tell you about the gap between the SEC and the Pac-12 in 2018. Will it be more of the same in 2019?
SEC: South Carolina Gamecocks vs North Carolina Tar Heels (Charlotte, NC)
It’s a battle of the Carolinas! While South Carolina vs Clemson may be the bigger rivalry, especially in football, don’t sleep on Carolina vs Carolina. The Gamecocks enter this matchup with a lot more known about them. Will Muschamp is entering his fourth season as the team’s head coach, and each coordinator has been with the team for all of Muschamp’s time in Columbia.
The same cannot be said for the Tar Heels. Mack Brown came out of retirement to retake the helm in Chapel Hill. It’ll be his second stint leading UNC and his first time coaching college football since 2013. Whether or not Brown can settle in with his new team quickly will be a key to keeping North Carolina in Saturday’s ballgame.
What’s also key will be the play of the Tar Heels’ quarterback. For the first time in program history, UNC is starting a true freshman on opening day. Sam Howell earned the spot for North Carolina and will be entrusted with executing the plays called by new offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
Spread: South Carolina -10
Moneyline: South Carolina -370, North Carolina +310
Big Ten: Northwestern Wildcats at Stanford Cardinal
The Wildcats are the only Big Ten team opening up 2019 against a Power 5 opponent and one of only three teams with a spread of less than two touchdowns. That said, they’re also the only Big Ten team entering Week 1 as the betting underdog.
Their opponents were the definition of streaky in 2018, going on separate four-game winning streaks to both open and close out their seasons, only to lose four out of five in between. The Cardinal offense should be strong, with a strong passing attack in particular.
On the other side of the ball, Stanford has a great pass rush, which could be disastrous for a Wildcats team that had abysmal offensive line play in 2018. Northwestern’s hopes in this game will rely on clock management and ball control, which is exactly what the Wildcats used to pick up the win the last time these two teams met (a 2015 season-opening contest that was likely responsible for keeping Stanford out of the College Football Playoff).
Big 12: Oklahoma State Cowboys at Oregon State Beavers
Speaking of conferences taking it easy in Week 1, the Big 12 features only three games against FBS opponents this week. Oklahoma hosts former West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and the Houston Cougars on Sunday night (Sooners favored by 23 points), Texas hosts Louisiana Tech Saturday night (with the Longhorns favored by 20½ points), and then there’s our featured game between Oklahoma State and Oregon State.
A Friday night clash in Corvallis awaits the dueling OSU (but not that OSU) schools. The Cowboys finished 2018 with the second-worst in-conference record in the Big 12 Conference, with their 3-6 mark only putting them ahead of 1-8 Kansas. That said, Oklahoma State still qualified for a bowl game and finished the year just barely over .500 at 7-6.
Oregon State, meanwhile, has won seven games over the course of the last three seasons. The Beavers are among the worst teams in the nation, Power 5 or otherwise. They ranked 120th in total defense and 112th in total offense in 2018 (out of 129 teams). Their 2-10 record in 2018 tied them with the likes of Georgia State, Arkansas, Kent State, and Rice, and their 2019 outlook isn’t much more promising.
Spread: Oklahoma State -14½
Moneyline: Oklahoma State -600, Oregon State +450
Make sure to check out the video at the top of this page to get picks and even more analysis from Drew Goldfarb, Jim Beviglia, and Taylor Smith. We’ll have a fresh edition of “Power 5 Picks” each and every week throughout college football season, so check back here to GamblingSites.org each and every week for more free betting tips and picks!
Drew has been covering sports professionally since 2007, covering sports of all kinds in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Conference USA. In addition to covering college sports, he also spent two seasons working with the NHL's Florida Panthers as part of their TV broadcast team, as well as reporting and anchoring for AT&T SportsNet and FOX Sports affiliates, CBS Sports Network and ESPNU. Drew has also ...
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