College football is finally set to get fully underway, as Week 1 begins Thursday, August 29. Even though there were two games last Saturday, this is the week where we really get going. In the early weeks many overrated and underrated teams show up in lopsided spreads. I enjoy finding those teams and taking advantage with some large underdogs. Here are my favorite big underdogs of Week 1.
Texas State has been dismal since 2014, but new head coach Jake Spavital hopes to turn things around. He'll start with a new quarterback from junior college, Gresch Jensen. The Fullerton College transfer comes with a new hire at offensive coordinator, Bob Stitt, who coached Jensen and the University of Montana before the signal-caller went to the JC level. The dual-threat quarterback put up big numbers at both Montana and Fullerton and could bring a little surprise to Texas A&M on Thursday night. The Aggies will have to replace running back Trayveon Williams and his 2,038 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns in 2018. This is just too large of a spread for the Aggies to cover.
This matchup is a case of a slightly overrated team going against an underrated team. Tulsa will start Baylor transfer Zach Smith at quarterback. The offense will improve from last season with this new addition and the return of both leading rushers. Michigan State has a stellar defense, but the offense struggled last season. The Spartans averaged only 18.7 points per game and less than one passing touchdown per game. Michigan State is 0-3 ATS in the last three seasons (11-20 ATS since 1992) when it is favored by 21.5-31 points. Give me the large underdog in what will likely be a low-scoring game.
Ohio State has dominated in its opening game over the past three seasons, with an average margin of victory of 47 points, but the Buckeyes lost some major players on both sides of the ball to the NFL. The Buckeyes will have a brand-new quarterback, a new receiving corps and a new offensive line and lost iconic coach Urban Meyer. Florida Atlantic is a young team itself, but coach Lane Kiffin is starting to get his players in the lineup in his third season at the school. Kiffin brought in two top 60 recruiting classes in his first three seasons. FAU was averaging recruiting classes in the 80s and 90s previously. I prefer the young Owls to the young Buckeyes with this spread.
This spread just seems high, considering the program history of Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders have some beatdowns in their past (lost to Georgia by 42 points last season), but Michigan lost its leading rusher and playmaker, running back Karan Higdon, to the NFL. The Wolverines also have to replace 48% of their sacks from last season. Michigan is 0-2 ATS (6-11 ATS since 1992) in its last three season when favored by 31 points or more. Michigan is 2-6 ATS (51-63 ATS since 1992) in non-conference games in its past three seasons.
The Cougars stick out in this matchup. The fifth-ranked scoring offense from 2018 will return almost all of its starting lineup. The loss of stud defensive lineman Ed Oliver may be the factor, but it is not as if Houston was a juggernaut on defense with him (119th in scoring defense). Oklahoma will be replacing a majority of its offense with the loss of superstars Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown. Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts will take over at quarterback, and the Oklahoma offense will still be a force, but this is too many points. Both teams will put up a ton of offense, but Houston is a much better team than this spread indicates.