We don’t have all the lines for Week 1 of the college football season yet, but we do have lines for all the big matchups scheduled for Labor Day weekend. Alabama is taking on a Power Five non-conference foe as we have seen the Crimson Tide do often in the Nick Saban era, but perhaps the biggest surprise involves the Big Ten. Most Big Ten teams are facing a quality opponent either inside or outside of conference play, and those games will carry a lot of intrigue.
Michigan State at Northwestern (-6.5)
Mel Tucker’s first season at the helm of Michigan State did not go well. The Spartans finished at the bottom of the Big Ten’s East Division. They were able to beat Michigan and Northwestern, but they were largely uncompetitive in most of their losses.
The Wildcats are out to avenge that defeat. They turned the ball over four times against the Spartans last year, and that led to their lone regular season loss. Northwestern was ranked No. 8 in the country at the time of the defeat, and this team looked much better than Michigan State. That could push this spread over seven points.
Alabama at Miami (FL) (+17.5)
Nick Saban has made a habit out of hammering non-conference opponents (particularly from the ACC) in neutral site games on Labor Day Weekend. In 2019, the Crimson Tide pounded Duke 42-3 in their opener. Their 2018 season opener saw Alabama pulverize Louisville 51-14, and the Crimson Tide cruised to a 24-7 win over Florida State in their first game of the 2017 season.
Alabama has knocked off its last five non-conference opponents by at least 17 points in their season opener. That history will likely see this line move closer to 20 points by kickoff.
Indiana at Iowa (-5.5)
It was a banner year for Indiana football in 2020. The Hoosiers went 6-1 in conference play, knocking off heavyweights Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. They were competitive against Ohio State, losing a back-and-forth game 42-35 to the Buckeyes in Columbus, and they nearly beat Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl despite star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. tearing his ACL in the Maryland game.
Iowa has won its last five games against Indiana. The Hawkeyes ended their season with six straight wins after a three-point loss to Purdue and a one-point loss to Northwestern in their first two games in 2020, so they are justified favorites. However, off-field issues continue to dominate the headlines for the Hawkeyes, and that could cross over into the season.
Oregon State at Purdue (-5.5)
The total will be interesting to watch in this game. Oregon State made a lot of improvement on offense last year even though Tristan Gebbia was hurt against Oregon. Chance Nolan did a decent job filling in or Gebbia, and he ensured that the Beavers scored at least 24 points in every game.
As for Purdue, this offense continues to put up points under Jeff Brohm. Jack Plummer and Aidan O’Connell essentially split the snaps last year, and they were able to throw 15 touchdown passes compared to just four interceptions.
Neither team has a great defense, so this game could be a shootout.
LSU at UCLA (+3.5)
The experts assumed LSU would fall back to Earth in 2020 after the Tigers’ national championship in 2019. However, many didn’t expect the Bayou Bengals to finish with a 5-5 record. The offense was supposed to struggle without Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase, but the defense turned out to be the bigger issue.
UCLA went 3-4 last season, but the Bruins were competitive in all of their games. They didn’t lose by more than six points in any of their four losses, and they scored at least 35 points in all of those defeats. That’s why the oddsmakers are giving Chip Kelly’s squad a lot of respect although they are still underdogs.
Ole Miss at Louisville (+7.5)
Lane Kiffin made Ole Miss fun again in his first season in Oxford. The Rebels may have gone 5-5, but they scored 48 points in losses to LSU and Alabama. They led the SEC with 555.5 YPG, and Kiffin proved that his system would work in this conference even when he was outside of Tuscaloosa.
Scott Satterfield did not have a great second season at Louisville. The Cardinals limped to a 4-7 record, and there are now questions over whether or not he is the right guy for the job. A win over Ole Miss could help a lot in that regard.