The 2020 college football season is now officially underway with the first FBS games taking place Thursday. The official Week 1 continues Saturday, though nothing about this weekend’s schedule looks like what we’ve come to expect from opening weekend in recent years. There are no games between mega powers being played in NFL stadiums. But this is where we stand.
Instead, it’s a Week 0 slate in Week 1; largely the kind of games you might want to watch on a Thursday night instead of a Saturday during primetime. Nothing about 2020 has felt ordinary, so why should college football?
While my weekly picks column, The Six Pack, will return in full-force starting in Week 2 when there’s a fuller slate of games, I couldn’t let you go into the first weekend of action without any picks. I care too much for you to let you walk through this wilderness alone, without The Process to hold your hand.
With action starting early in the day and continuing late into the night, let’s take a look at the best games on the schedule Saturday along with my picks and predictions for what will transpire in those contests.
All times Eastern | Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
Middle Tennessee at Army (-3.5) — 1:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network: It’s no secret that I love betting unders in any game involving a service academy, but I’m not as fond of that play here. That’s because I’d much rather be on Middle Tennessee in this matchup. While it’s hard to know what to expect in the opening games of a season like this one, my intuition tells me that offenses will be slower out of the gate than defenses. This is because offenses are about timing and repetition, all of which were lost this season with limited practice time.
Well, you know what kind of offense relies on timing and repetition more than anything else? An option offense like the one Army runs. I’m not sure how crisp the Black Knights will look out of the starting blocks. Plus, another philosophy that’s pretty simple to follow is that you want to bet on Service Academies when they’re underdogs and fade them when they’re favored. Army has gone 10-15-1 ATS as a home favorite under coach Jeff Monken. Pick: Middle Tennessee +3.5
Arkansas State at Memphis (-19) — 8 p.m. on ESPN: This is a principle play. This total is too high! The nerve of a football game to have a total in the mid-70s on the first weekend of the season. For real, as I mentioned above, I have concerns about offenses early in the year, so this total feels too high. It originally opened at 68.5 and has been bet up nearly a full touchdown. I can’t help but believe a part of that is due to nothing more than fans excitingly betting an over to start the season. What I see is a great chance to fade the public on a line offering a lot of value to the underside of things. If you need a trend or two to convince you, the under is 15-9 the last 24 times Arkansas State has been an underdog. Pick: Under 74 (no side)
BYU at Navy (+2) — 8 p.m. on ESPN (Monday): I don’t love this. I loved BYU when it opened as a 3-point underdog. Now that the line has moved to the Cougars being favored, it’s not as enticing. I do like them to win, so rather than relying on them to cover the spread, I’m taking them on the moneyline. It’s worth the extra juice to get rid of that hook on the 1.5. Now, I know that I just told you to take service academies as dogs, but that’s on the spread. Plus, as I’ve discussed, I think option offenses will struggle more than other offenses early. We also have to consider that Navy’s offense is replacing Malcolm Perry, who was likely the greatest player the program’s ever seen. That’s not easy to do! BYU’s defense can slow down this attack, and I think quarterback Zach Wilson takes a step forward in 2020. That process will begin on Monday night. Pick: BYU -120 (not ATS)