College Football Predictions & Best Bets for Week 0

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Jacksonville State quarterback Zerrick Cooper (6) throws in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida State Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla. Jacksonville State won 20-17.
(AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Aug 24, 2023, 1:16 PM
  • College Football Week 0 is finally here, providing a handful of betting spots.
  • Week 0 ATS picks rely on careful roster research underneath non-power teams.
  • Best bets for Notre Dame, UTEP, New Mexico State & Vanderbilt.

It’s finally here. Week 0 of the college football calendar has arrived, and with it comes a fresh set of six-pack college football odds

Like many of you, I have been anticipating this Saturday for weeks, even if it is just an appetizer for next week’s full slate of games. 

Accordingly, I’ve prepared a small set of bets to consider for Week 0.

College Football Best Bets: Week 0 Predictions

After I’ve handicapped the whole board each week, I will publish my best plays from the wider canon of college football odds.

I’ll provide a short explanation of why I like each bet, so you don’t have to go on faith alone.

Week 0 is particularly tricky because we have no current-year data points to evaluate. If you love offseason research like me, though, that can actually yield a big advantage over the online sportsbook.

If you prefer an audio version of this weekly article, you can always subscribe to The Lion’s Edge, my weekly handicapping podcast for BetMGM. 

Navy vs. Notre Dame Spread Prediction

Thanks to the offseason addition of veteran quarterback Sam Hartman, I predict Notre Dame will cover its current 20.5-point spread.

Notre Dame rarely lacks for good recruits, but in 2022 – the first season after Brian Kelly left for LSU – the coaching and quarterback influences were a complete mess. 

As a result, the Irish were a high-variance team, playing up to playoff-caliber teams like Ohio State and USC while also losing home games to Marshall and Stanford.

Those quarterback problems came to an end during the offseason. Former signal-callers Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner hit the transfer portal, replaced by Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman. Hartman is a real contender in the Heisman odds market and will elevate this Notre Dame offense from inconsistent to elite.

With Hartman’s steadying hand, Notre Dame should field top-20 units on offense, defense, and special teams. As a result, the Notre Dame football odds market should be a bit more predictable. Chalky, but less crazy game-to-game variance. 

Navy, on the other hand, is playing its first game without former head coach Ken Niumatalolo in 15 years. The quarterback position is a mess – one of last year’s main contributors (Xavier Arline) split time with the lacrosse team in the spring and has been surpassed on the depth chart by underclassman Tedros Gleaton.

As far as the number goes, this number moved mid-week from -21.5 to -20.5, which is a positive development for prospective Notre Dame bettors, as they can now buy a position on the right side of a number like 21. 

Finally, there’s the game circumstances themselves. This game, which features the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, is being played in… Dublin, Ireland. Who do you think the crowd is going to favor here? 

Best Bet: Notre Dame -20.5

UTEP vs. Jacksonville State Spread Prediction 

UTEP is a deeply underrated team in 2023 that should dominate Jacksonville State at the line of scrimmage. I am confidently predicting that UTEP will cover its -1 spread.

Longtime readers and podcast listeners know I love to plumb the depths of random G5 and FCS football games to find great point spreads to bet. If you’re one such reader, you will not be surprised to learn that this game features my favorite bet of Week 0.

A lazy Google search will reveal that UTEP finished 5-7 in a dismal Conference USA last year, so there’s not much to like here at surface value. But UTEP was also about plus-50 net yards per game over its opponents last year, meaning its record was actually quite unlucky and aberrational.

In 2023, UTEP returns a healthy Gavin Hardison at quarterback, Deion Hankins at running back, and Tyrin Smith at wide receiver. I think they have the best offensive line in the conference. They are a legit conference sleeper and available at +1000 in the college football futures market right now. I love UTEP.

For now, though, let’s focus just on this Week 0 opponent. Jacksonville State is a team transitioning up from FCS football. There may be an increased appetite to bet some of these transitional teams this season after my alma mater James Madison came right into the Sun Belt and competed at the top level last season.

However, JSU should not be confused for JMU. They are coached by Rich Rodriguez, who is running an outdated offense that found success in a second-tier FCS conference. The defensive line is undersized and should be manhandled by UTEP.

UTEP is available as a -115 moneyline favorite at BetMGM. I honestly think I would bet the Miners in this spot at -10. This is a total mismatch, which the market doesn’t recognize because it’s a transitional FCS team hosting a team that missed bowl season last year. 

Best Bet: UTEP -115

UMass vs. New Mexico State Spread Prediction

Jerry Kill’s New Mexico State team is no longer a lowly two-win program, and I am predicting that the Aggies will cover their 6.5-point spread against UMass.

That said, you could be forgiven if you saw this game on the schedule and assumed it would be an unwatchable suckfest. 

The reality is that New Mexico State has pulled itself off the mat. The Aggies won seven games last season, including the Quick Lane Bowl against Bowling Green. It brings back nine starters on offense. It’s also 2-0 straight-up and ATS against UMass over the last two seasons.

UMass, for its part, has won three total games since the start of the 2019 season.

This number was 10.5 not too long ago, which was a decent representation of the distance between two teams. As Saturday has gotten closer, though, bets have come in on UMass plus the points – perhaps because the game is perceived as a battle of two bad teams.

With the line now moved through -10 and -7, there’s a huge buyback opportunity on the team that is clearly better this year.

Best Bet: New Mexico State -6.5

Hawai’i vs. Vanderbilt Spread Prediction 

Timmy Chang’s Hawai’i team is still in major rebuilding mode, so I am predicting that Vanderbilt covers its current -17.5 point spread. 

Vanderbilt won at Hawai’i last August, decking the Rainbow Warriors to the tune of 63-10. 

That result may be a bad data point for comparison purposes, as Timmy Chang’s young squad was in a state of complete disarray after a chaotic offseason. Bettors shouldn’t necessarily expect another 40 or 50-point win.

That said, Clark Lea’s Vanderbilt squad is still far ahead of this Hawai’i team and should cause some trouble in the bottom half of the SEC East this year. AJ Swann gives the Commodores experience and stability at quarterback – something they didn’t have last year, in spite of their success – and should find plenty of success against the Hawai’i defense.

One underrated part of this handicap is the weather. As someone who has recently spent time in both Hawai’i and Nashville, it’s impossible for anyone living in the former climate to prepare for the humidity of the latter. Playing football in the sticky, August air is going to be totally unreplicable. 

Conditioning could be a problem, especially in the second half – you know, when favorite bettors are hoping Vanderbilt can do enough to hang on to a cover.

Best Bet: Vanderbilt -17.5

Best College Football Parlay This Week

My favorite NCAAF parlay for Week 0 is:

  • Notre Dame -1400
  • Vanderbilt -1000
  • USC -10000
  • Denver Broncos -225

This four-leg parlay is priced at -140. 

There’s not much going on here in Week 0, so it’s tough to build out a truly strong moneyline parlay that pays out at plus odds. I’ve paired what should be three ironclad favorites with the Broncos’ Week 3 preseason moneyline. 

I’m not generally one to advocate for preseason NFL moneylines, but Sean McVay’s commitment to preseason indifference is something worth considering. 

Want More College Football Analysis?

If you like this sort of content, I’d recommend checking out my podcast, The Lion’s Edge, which I host on behalf of our content team here at BetMGM.

Every week, I highlight odds and bets that I think are interesting or ripe for advantage bettors, like me. I also bring on expert guests from both inside and outside of the sportsbook, so you can learn a little bit more about key topics in online sports betting.

Check it out and subscribe on the podcast player of your choice. You can also listen to some of the most recent episodes in the podcast player below. 

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With hundreds of games each season, the football betting combinations are endless. Whether you want a parlay of SEC moneyline favorites, short Big Ten underdogs, or prop bets, there’s something for everyone.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.