VSiN’s college football experts dive into some betting angles for Saturday’s games.
Georgia vs. Clemson
Marshall: It’s nice to see the renewal of what was once a very spirited border rivalry, often with national implications, though this will be only the fifth meeting since 1995 after nearly annual games the preceding 33 years.
The post-Trevor Lawrence era begins at Clemson, but Dabo Swinney is not exactly breaking in a greenhorn at quarterback with D.J. Uiagalelei. He got a test run last autumn when Lawrence was out with COVID-19 and set a Notre Dame opponent passing record with 439 yards.
Getting big-play receiver Justyn Ross (112 career catches) back in the fold after missing 2020 should be another plus, and Brent Venables is expected to work more of his schematic magic on the defensive side with 10 returning starters.
Meanwhile, this is Kirby Smart’s latest chance for the statement win that has eluded him. We’ll also find out if former USC transfer QB JT Daniels is really the prime-time performer he was hyped to be coming out of high school, when he was rated ahead of Lawrence. Can Smart’s defense step up like it didn’t against Alabama and Florida a season ago?
It’s also a crucial result for those with season-win Over tickets on either side, as the loser will have no more room for error for those tickets to cash. Clemson has won the last six years in ACC title games on this field in Charlotte, N.C.
Alabama vs. Miami (Fla.)
Marshall: Whatever puncher’s chance Miami might have in this opener was confirmed at ACC media days in Charlotte when quarterback D’Eriq King, coming off knee surgery, looked spry enough to sprint down the street to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
King’s availability will be crucial for Manny Diaz to advance the Hurricanes back into the national conversation, but Miami didn’t exactly step to the plate against the big boys a year ago. The Hurricanes were eviscerated by Clemson and humiliated by North Carolina, which piled up nearly 800 yards of offense.
Alabama’s offense will be different from that of last year’s national title team, with new faces and a new coordinator in Bill O’Brien, a Bill Belichick disciple like Nick Saban who replaces new Texas coach Steve Sarkisian. But don’t assume too much of a drop, as new QB Bryce Young might be even more ballyhooed than immediate predecessors Mac Jones, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. And Saban’s pipeline as usual is loaded with blue-chippers, including several backs ready to pick up where Najee Harris left off before moving to the Steelers.
Alabama has won 13 straight games in Atlanta and has won all nine of these neutral-field openers, covering eight, for Saban.
Penn State at Wisconsin
Youmans: Favored to win the Big Ten West, Wisconsin will probably go as far as quarterback Graham Mertz can carry the offense. Mertz was hyped as the program’s next Russell Wilson last year after completing 20 of 21 passes with five touchdowns in his debut against Illinois. But the Badgers hit the skids and Mertz passed for only four more touchdowns as Wisconsin finished 4-3.
Penn State opened last season 0-5 before closing with four wins. With QB Sean Clifford back, the pressure is on coach James Franklin to produce better results, and his team is picked to finish second in the Big Ten East behind Ohio State. Penn State is a 5.5-point underdog, but will be favored in four consecutive home games — against Ball State, Auburn, Villanova and Indiana — after this trip to Madison, Wis., for a high-profile conference opener that could be a thriller at the wire.
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