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The best upset picks for Week 1 of the college football season

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

August 30th, 2021

The 2021 college football season is officially off and running. Saturday's clash between Nebraska and Illinois gave us an upset that included a safety, two missed PAT’s, and a defensive touchdown. It was a good reminder that among all of college football’s tenured traditions, perhaps the greatest is unpredictably. 

As a full slate of games awaits us for Week 1, let’s take a look at five contests that appear ripe for upsets.

#5 Georgia vs. #3 Clemson

Sat, September 4 2021, 11:30 PM

Clemson

Moneyline

-186

Spread

-3.5

Total

O 50.5

Georgia

Moneyline

+150

Spread

+3.5

Total

U 50.5

It won’t be the biggest spread of the weekend, but it is undoubtedly the biggest game. The Georgia Bulldogs take on the Clemson Tigers in a Top-5 clash that will provide the winner a feather in the cap for later in the season when playoff discussions dominate the national conversation.

Clemson and Georgia both have several question marks entering this season, but we also know they both will be very talented. Georgia returns 65% of its production from last season and Clemson returns 68%. This is a toss-up game that could easily see the immensely talented Bulldogs pull off an upset in a massive primetime matchup.

Boise State vs. UCF

Thu, September 2 2021, 11:00 PM

UCF

Moneyline

-225

Spread

-5.5

Total

O 69.5

Boise State

Moneyline

+175

Spread

+5.5

Total

U 69.5

Boise State is known for blue turf and winning upsets, and they Broncos will get a chance to go on the road and pull another one on Thursday night. Boise State returns 84% of its production from last year vs 72% for UCF, and the Golden Knights will also be breaking in their new head coach, Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn comes to UCF after eight seasons at Auburn, where he competed for a national championship in his first season before ending up 6-4 in 2020. A new offensive system at UCF could cause issues for the Knights in their first game of the season as Malzahn runs a lot of motion and player-read offense that could see confusion from players that struggle with the learning curve. Look for Boise to capitalize if the Knights show any cracks in their armor.

Texas State vs. Baylor

Sat, September 4 2021, 11:00 PM

Texas State

Moneyline

+390

Spread

+13.5

Total

O 54.5

Baylor

Moneyline

-530

Spread

-13.5

Total

U 54.5

The Baylor Bears had an abysmal offense in 2020, ranking 122nd out of 127 teams in yards per play. They showed no explosiveness, consistently got three and outs, and ended up just 2-7 on the season.

Texas State wasn’t much better, finishing just 2-10, but they were 59th in yards per play and this is really more a play against Baylor than anything. Baylor’s quarterback situation is a question mark, and if the offense can’t put together any productive drives then this should be an ugly intrastate matchup that will come down to the fourth quarter. To play the role of favorite, a team needs to be able to score points, and we don’t know yet if Baylor can do that.

Louisiana-Lafayette vs. #21 Texas

Sat, September 4 2021, 8:30 PM

Texas

Moneyline

-335

Spread

-7.5

Total

O 57.5

Louisiana-Lafayette

Moneyline

+260

Spread

+7.5

Total

U 57.5

The Texas Longhorns at risk of losing Week 1 to Louisiana-Lafayette sounds like a horror movie to some in the Longhorn state, but with a new coach, new quarterback, and new offense, things are ripe for a rocky start.

Louisiana-Lafayette returns an incredible 95% of its productivity from last season, and this line has been steadily dropping from its opener of 10 despite the general public presumably favoring the power conference blue bloods. The Ragin' Cajuns are 5-1 ATS in their last six games as a road underdog.

Florida State vs. #9 Notre Dame

Sun, September 5 2021, 11:30 PM

Florida State

Moneyline

+220

Spread

+7.5

Total

O 56

Notre Dame

Moneyline

-286

Spread

-7.5

Total

U 56

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish return just 55% of last year's productivity, good for 124th of 127 teams. Most notable is longtime starting quarterback, Ian Book, as well as key players on both lines and second-round pick at safety, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

The Florida State Seminoles don’t look like the most intimidating group entering the season, but they’ve added some impact transfers and, as always, have plenty of talent. For a primetime national television game on the road, there could be softer spots for the Irish to land.

The Seminoles were effective running the ball in 2020, and have elite talent in the secondary. If they are able to slow down the Irish power running game, look for the Seminoles to be a very live dog.

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