Last season: 127-100-6 (67-59-2 National, 60-41-4 B1G)
We’re back for yet another season of Money, Cash, & Joes here at Land-Grant Holy Land! Just to think, this all started during the 2011 season with Joe Bauserman being the inspiration for the title of this weekly picks piece. It felt like at first my picks articles were on target about as much as Bauserman was against Nebraska that season. Luckily for those that have stuck around throughout the years, I have improved my accuracy.
Last season was the best year that I can remember for MC&J, and hopefully there is even more success this year. The game is about to change in a few months with sports betting becoming legal in Ohio on Jan. 1. While only five college football games this season are scheduled after Jan. 1, I’ll still be picking games throughout the season so we are in top form once the new gambling laws go into effect.
Week 0 games:
(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)
Northwestern v. Nebraska (-13) - 8/27 12:30 PM EST - FOX
Nebraska is taking their comedy tour overseas! Last year the Cornhuskers were a bunch of lovable losers, dropping eight games by eight points or less. The only game that was decided by more than eight points was a 26-17 setback to Ohio State. Even though head coach Scott Frost is just 15-29 in four years in Lincoln, Nebraska is giving him another shot to right the ship.
Heading into this game all I hear is “How can a Fitzgerald lose a game in Ireland?” Well, it’s pretty easy to imagine since Fitzgerald is an overrated head coach. The best part of Fitzgerald as a head coach is watching him blame technology and everyone except for himself when the Wildcats lose a game.
Nebraska will have a new face at quarterback in Casey Thompson, who transferred from Texas to replace Adrian Martinez, who himself transferred to Kansas State. There are plenty of other new players in Lincoln, with 22 transfers trying to help Frost earn his first winning season as head coach of the Cornhuskers.
Last year’s game between the two teams was a bit of an anomaly, with Nebraska winning 56-7. Of the 11 games between the Big Ten West foes, nine of those games have been decided by 11 points or less. Northwestern not only has running back Evan Hull returning, but they also have Cam Porter returning from injury. Expect the Wildcats to lean heavily on running behind All-American tackle Peter Skoronski to keep things from getting out of hand in Dublin.
Nebraska 27, Northwestern 17
Wyoming v. Illinois (-11) - 8/27 4:00 PM EST - BTN
Wyoming finished last season with a bang, beating Kent State in the Potato Bowl. Unfortunately for head coach Craig Bohl, this led to a number of key pieces of the offense transferring out of the program. Quarterback Levi Williams is now at Utah State, running back Xazavian Valladay moved on to Arizona State, and wide receiver Isaiah Neyor decided Texas was his next stop before suffering a season-ending injury in preseason camp.
Even though I don’t think Illinois is a threat to win the Big Ten West, they aren’t going to be a pushover. The Fighting Illini should have a little more stability with quarterback Tommy DeVito, who transferred from Syracuse. If Illinois is smart, they’ll hand the football off to Chase Brown as much as possible this year. Last year Brown ran for 1,005 yards and five touchdowns. Brown should have a big game against a Wyoming defense that was 99th against the run last year.
Wyoming has just eight starters back from last year’s team, so there should be a lot of growing pains this year. Illinois and Brown should be able to take advantage of the inexperience of the Cowboys, winning by at least two touchdowns in Champaign on Saturday afternoon.
Illinois 31, Wyoming 14
UConn v. Utah State (-27) - 8/27 4:00 PM EST - FS1
Last year UConn opened up the season with a 45-0 loss at Fresno State. The Huskies will start the 2022 season with another trip west, and it’s likely we’ll see a similar result in Jim Mora Jr.’s debut as UConn head coach. Last year the Huskies lost seven games by at least 27 points.
Unlike UConn, Utah State has a lot to be excited about heading into this year. The Aggies finished last season by winning eight of nine games, including a 24-13 win over Oregon State in the LA Bowl. Logan Bonner threw for 36 touchdowns in Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach of the Aggies. Expect Utah State to pile on the points and have some fun since they know they’ll be in for a world of pain next week at Alabama.
Utah State 48, UConn 13
Charlotte v. FAU (-7.5) - 8/27 7:00 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
FAU has a few familiar names in the fold heading into this season. Head coach Willie Taggart will be starting his third year as head coach, and on his staff is former Ohio State assistant Ed Warinner. Starting at quarterback is Miami transfer N’Kosi Perry, who threw 20 touchdowns for the Owls last year.
I’ll be honest that I don’t know a ton about either squad, aside from Charlotte also having a returning starting quarterback. Chris Reynolds threw 26 touchdowns for the 49ers last year in a 5-7 season for head coach Will Healy’s team. Last year Florida Atlantic dominated Charlotte, and while it might be closer this year, the Owls still start their final season in Conference USA out strong.
Florida Atlantic 34, Charlotte 21
North Texas (-1) v. UTEP - 8/27 9:00 PM EST - Stadium
The Mean Green and Aggies both finished the season at 6-7 after losing their bowl games. The two teams had drastically different seasons, with North Texas struggling at the start of the year, and UTEP wasting a great start to the year in the second half.
Last year North Texas squeaked by UTEP 20-17 in November in Denton. Now the Miners are hoping to return the favor with a win to start the 2022 season before they have to take on Oklahoma next week. UTEP returns quarterback Gavin Hardison and running backs Ronald Awatt and Deion Hankins. Even though Hardison will miss Jacob Cowing, who was his favorite target from last season, the Miners prove they are tough to beat in El Paso.
UTEP 24, North Texas 20
Nevada (-9) v. New Mexico State - 8/27 10:00 PM EST - ESPN2
New Mexico State actually hired human gopher Jerry Kill to be head coach and Tim Beck as offensive coordinator. That just screams that they are a deeply unserious program. Nevada might have lost a lot of pieces from last year after Jay Norvell took over as head coach at Colorado State, but new head coach Ken Wilson spend a lot of time in Reno as an assistant, and will have the Wolfpack ready to play with some pride.
Nevada 38, New Mexico State 21
Vanderbilt (-8.5) v. Hawaii - 8/27 10:30 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
This line feels a little weird to me. Even though Vanderbilt is the better team, they are still the class of the bottom of the SEC East. Last year the Commodores went 2-10 in Clark Lea’s first year as head coach, with their wins coming against Colorado State and UConn.
Hawaii will probably have a pep in their step this game just because Todd Graham is no longer the head coach. Replacing Graham is Hawaii hero Timmy Chang. Even though the Rainbow Warriors have a lot of work to do, I expect them to play with passion in Chang’s head coaching debut for his alma mater. Remember, the trip to the big island is never easy. Vanderbilt wins, but Hawaii gives the Commodores everything they can handle.
Vanderbilt 27, Hawaii 24
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See sportsbook.draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.