Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA and at Vegasinsider.com
Here’s a look at what must be considered before wagering on Saturday’s slate in all FBS vs. FBS matchups:
Ohio U. at Pittsburgh (-5.5/54), 11 a.m. ET, ACCN: The Bobcats struggled to stop Rhode Island on a few occasions last week and failed to cover, so this will be quite the test on the road at Heinz Field. An offensive line that replaced three key starters held up, but they too will come under fire against the Panthers, who will looking to avoid an 0-2 start after losing to Virginia since they’ll play Penn State and UCF next and would likely be headed for an 0-4 start if they’re upset here. Pitt QB Kenny Pickett missed a lot of throws against the Cavaliers and was intercepted twice in the second half, so he could be under fire if he struggles again. Pitt’s offensive line and receivers also struggled in its ACC opener and you best believe that senior QB Nathan Rourke and a disciplined Bobcats team that has a shot at a 10-win season will take advantage if they struggle again. The Ohio money line is coming off at +180 and early action dropped the line down from 6.5.
Old Dominion at Virginia Tech (-28/56), 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU: Legendary Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s swansong began in dubious fashion as Boston College racked up 35 points in an upset win in Chestnut Hill but he’ll be matched with a familiar face since ODU run-game coordinator Bryan Stinespring ran the o-line and recruiting for Va Tech for over a decade. This final home opener for him may mandate that he replace standout sophomore rush end TyJuan Garbutt, who was injured on a block against BC. DE Zion Debose is expected to be sidelined a while and a couple of others are banged up, so we’ll get to see what kind of defensive depth the Hokies are working with after a rough ACC opener. The Monarchs (+27) beat Virginia Tech 49-35 last season in one of the season’s biggest upsets but return only a handful of key players on both sides of the ball and narrowly beat FCS member Norfolk State 24-21 last week.
UAB (-9.5/46.5) at Akron, 12 p.m. ET, CBSSN: The Blazers looked lifeless in their season-opening win over Alabama State and narrowly escaped 24-19 despite being listed as a 40-point favorite at some books. UAB played vanilla and then found itself in a battle it wasn’t expecting, so we’ll likely get a much better indication of what to expect from its group coming off last season’s 11-win and first-ever bowl victory, but there’s definitely concern. Most of last season’s key contributors are gone and the win over the Hornets featured an abundance of brutal miscues. UAB was 1-for-13 on third down. The Zips were trounced 42-3 at Illinois as dual threat QB Kato Nelson found very little space to run and spent most of the day running for his life. Clearly, first-year Akron head coach Tom Arth has his work cut out for him as he takes over for Terry Bowden, who had been present for every home opener since 2012.
Army at Michigan (-22/47), 12 p.m ET, FOX: The Black Knights barely survived Rice 14-7 and take the field in Ann Arbor for their biggest challenge until November’s visit to Air Force and December’s date with Navy, so expect them to take their shot. Senior QB Kelvin Hopkins ran and threw for over 1,000 yards last season, so his arm gives Army a dimension it typically wouldn’t have and gives it a puncher’s chance to hang around with the bigger, more talented Wolverines if they can effectively utilize the element of surprise. Remember, Army took Kyler Murray-led Oklahoma to overtime last season as a 30-point underdog and hung 70 points on Houston in last December’s Armed Forces Bowl. The Wolverines weren’t as stifling as they were expected to be against Middle Tennessee, surrendering 21 points. That total is higher than any surrendered last season with the exception of games against Notre Dame, Ohio State and the bowl loss to Florida. Blindly betting the under here is awfully tempting given the presence of Army and Jim Harbaugh, but with Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey splitting snaps and Michigan pushing tempo, that’s no longer a gimme.
Vanderbilt at Purdue (-7/55.5), 12 p.m. ET, BTN: The Commodores generated little offense against Georgia in a 30-6 loss, but head coach Derek Mason diffused any talk of a quarterback controversy and will stick with Ball State transfer Riley Neal over backup Deuce Wallace. Between blanket coverage from the Dawgs and some awful snaps from new center Grant Miller that had him on his heels all night, Neal found no rhythm and will now be asked to generate some momentum on the road as he returns to his home state. The Boilermakers will be attempting to bounce back after blowing a double-digit lead at Nevada due to an awful, mistake-filled second half. Nick Holt couldn’t get his pass defense to get a stop when he needed it most on a windy night. Purdue opened 0-3 last season and will host TCU next week before settling in for Big Ten play, so we’re going to learn a lot about who it is over the next two weeks. DT Lorenzo Neal is likely out again due to a knee injury that has kept him out of camp and top corner Kenneth Major is questionable after leaving the Nevada loss. Boilers QB Elijah Sindelar threw for 423 yards and four scores, so there’s reason to be encouraged despite the early hiccup. Electric receiver Rondale Moore isn’t going to blow any more games making mistakes on punt returns.
Rutgers at Iowa (-20/49.5), 12 p.m. ET, FS1: The Scarlet Knights gave up 21 first-quarter points to UMass before settling in and clamping down, but they wouldn’t be able to bounce back from that type of start if they start slowly in Iowa City. Texas Tech transfer QB McLane Carter is a playmaker. He’ll make mistakes, but the lefty is the best passer Rutgers has had in years. Isaih Pacheco and Raheem Blackshear are powerful runners who will be able to get forward if the line opens holes. Rutgers hasn’t won on the road since 2017 and have won only one of their last 15 Big Ten roadies, so this will be a huge challenge. The Hawkeyes are on another level than the Minutemen but only beat Rutgers 14-7 when these teams met last in ’16 and visit Iowa State next week. They trailed Miami (Ohio) 7-3 in the second quarter before getting going last week and have to overcome injury-related absences along the offensive line and at corner.
Syracuse at Maryland (-1.5/57), 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Orange didn’t put a lot on tape last week that the Terps coaching staff could use outside of Dino Babers doing pushups and waving at Liberty’s Hugh Freeze up in the press box. QB Tommy DeVito threw two costly picks and showed a lack of chemistry with his receivers that has to be a concern as the level of competition increases. The Terps obliterated overmatched Howard 79-0, so this will be the first real look at what they can do under new head coach Mike Locksley. Virginia Tech transfer QB Joshua Jackson has weapons around him and plenty of experience against ACC defenses, so we’re going to learn a lot about both programs after this one.
West Virginia at Missouri (-13.5/62.5), 12 p.m. ET, ESPN: Kelly Bryant put up big numbers in his debut but the Tigers couldn’t hold a lead at Wyoming and ultimately lost a 37-31 shootout in Laramie. Mizzou’s next five games will all be at home, which could make for an uncomfortable situation for Barry Odom if his team’s level doesn’t pick up. The Tigers are 5-19 when they fail to score 40 points since he took over for Gary Pinkel, so there’s immense pressure to get things turned around defensively. West Virginia will be playing its first FBS foe under new head coach Neal Brown, but the Mountaineers were definitely tested by FCS power James Madison. Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall will be a competent replacement for Will Grier, but West Virginia will rely on its ground game much more than it did under Dana Holgorsen and has four competent backs led by senior leader Kennedy McKoy.
Cincinnati at Ohio State (-15.5/54), 12 p.m. ET, ABC: Luke Fickell returns home with bad intentions as he brings the Bearcats into Columbus. The former Ohio State nose guard turned defensive coach never coached will be facing his alma mater for the first time since leaving and has a reasonable shot of snapping the Buckeyes’ 41-game winning streak against in-state opponents. QB Justin Fields looked sharp early in his Ohio State debut before the offense sputtered, but this Bearcats defense is far superior to what he saw against the Owls. Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder can make plays with his arm and his feet, while RB Michael Warren is a horse who will make it his mission to outperform JK Dobbins. The Bearcats defeated UCLA without star safety James Wiggins (torn ACL), but his absence will be felt here. It’s going to be on Fickell’s schemes and Ridder’s playmaking to overcome not having his impact. Cincinnati is +600 on the moneyline at Westgate.
Bowling Green at Kansas State (-14.5/48.5), 12 p.m. ET: Both of these teams got off to fast starts under new head coaches and feature dynamic dual threat quarterbacks. Darius Wade, who started at Boston College and in ’17 and spent last season at Delaware, debuted for Bowling Green against Morgan State and threw for three scores to get Scot Loeffler his first victory. The Falcons outgained the FCS-member Bears 620-70, so we’ll see how they fare fighting an uphill battle on the road. Transfer QB Matt McMahon, another BC transfer who was expected to start ahead of Wade, still hasn’t been cleared to play by the NCAA. The Wildcats won easily in Chris Klieman’s debut, routing Nicholls State 49-14. Skylar Thompson, who split the gig the past few years, has a chance to take the next step as a junior and shined in his debut in a new system that will allow him to showcase his passing. After such dominant openers, we’ll get a better feel for these teams after this one.
Northern Illinois at Utah (-23.5/58.5), 1 p.m. ET, Pac-12: Former Huskies running back Thomas Hammock has taken over as head coach after Rod Carey’s departure to Temple and led NIU to a 24-10 win over FCS member Illinois State. The game was tied 3-3 at the break and Cal grad transfer Ross Bowers has controversially replaced returning junior starter Marcus Childers, a former MAC Freshman of the Year who played hero in last year’s conference title game. It wouldn’t be surprising if a divided group arrives in Salt Lake City, which wouldn’t bode well for the Huskies’ chances of pulling an upset against a defense expected to be among the nation’s best. Utah looked the part in hammering BYU, getting a pick-six from rover Francis Bernard and excellent play from the secondary that included Tareke Lewis shining opposite standout Jaylon Johnson. NIU’s projected team total has been set at 10.5..
South Florida at Georgia Tech (-6/61.5), 2 p.m. ET, ACCN: The Bulls were destroyed at home by Wisconsin 49-0 while the Yellow Jackets landed a few punches against Clemson but were thoroughly dominated. Blake Barnett will have top slot guy Johnny Ford back and hopes to find an early rhythm that eluded what was expected to be a fast-paced USF offense. Georgia Tech was able to move the ball some on Clemson before sputtering around the goal line. It has replaced Paul Johnson’s triple-option with a shotgun spread and will ultimately start junior Lucas Johnson ahead of Tobias Oliver, but they’re expected to go with the sophomore runner here. Last year’s 49-38 loss down in Tampa saw Georgia Tech surrender a pair of crucial kickoff returns for touchdowns, so we’ll see how a new-look special teams holds up.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA and at Vegasinsider.com