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MC&J: Oregon-Georgia and Cincinnati-Arkansas top Week 1’s schedule

Georgia will open defense of their national title in Atlanta against Oregon, while the Bearcats travel to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks.

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Week 0 ATS: 4-3 (2-3 National, 2-0 B1G)

If you missed yesterday’s Big Ten picks for the week, they can be found here.

National games (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted):

(All lines courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook.)

No. 13 NC State (-11.5) v. East Carolina - 12:00 p.m. - ESPN

My sleeper team this year in college football is NC State. While it’s probably hard to call at team ranked 13th in the country a sleeper, Clemson is the obvious favorite in the ACC. The Wolfpack returning quarterback Devin Leary and a lot of starters from a defense that was one of the best in the country this year.

Over the last decade or so, it feels like East Carolina has been a thorn in the side of teams from the ACC. The Pirates have beaten Virginia Tech and it feels like a couple other teams from the conference. East Carolina does have a lot of talented players returning from last year’s team, so this game isn’t gonna be an easy win for NC State. I just think the Wolfpack will want to make a statement to start the season.

NC State 38, East Carolina 21

No. 11 Oregon v. No. 3 Georgia (-17) - 3:30 p.m. - ABC

How sure are we that Georgia is going to be a playoff team this year? It certainly helps having an experienced quarterback like Stetson Bennett IV recovered from his hangover after the Bulldogs won the national title last year. Aside from Bennett and tight end Brock Bowers, it feels like everyone else from Georgia’s team last year is gone.

The Bulldogs will have an advantage with this game being played in Atlanta. Oregon is now coached by former Georgia assistant Dan Lanning, who has to have a little inside info on what Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs might try and do in this game. The Ducks also brought in former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, who has matched up with Smart’s Georgia teams a few times.

Georgia wins this game, I’m just not sold on them winning by at least 17 points. We saw what the Ducks were able to do when they came east last year, so I think they at least keep things within two scores in this one.

Georgia 30, Oregon 20

No. 23 Cincinnati v. No. 19 Arkansas (-6.5) - 3:30 p.m. - ESPN

Cincinnati is coming off their best season in school history, finishing the regular season undefeated and earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. Now all Luke Fickell has to do is replace Desmond Ridder, Sauce Gardner, Alec Pierce, and a number of other key contributors from their 2021 squad.

Imagine how much hype there would be for Arkansas this year if they played anywhere else besides the SEC West. Alabama and Texas A&M are getting all the headlines, while Arkansas is coming off a very good season in Sam Pittman’s second year in Fayetteville. The Hogs have lost some pieces, but returning quarterback KJ Jefferson totaled over 3,300 yards and 27 touchdowns last year.

Even though Fickell will have his team amped up, there will be an adjustment period for the Bearcats in 2022. Opening up the season at Arkansas isn’t exactly a trip you want to make when introducing some new players into the starting lineup. The Razorbacks win this battle between ranked teams by at least a touchdown.

Arkansas 34, Cincinnati 23

No. 24 Houston (-4) v. UTSA - 3:30 p.m. - CBS Sports Network

Last year UTSA made a name for themselves, finishing the season 12-2. The Roadrunners should have another big season, as they not only return quarterback Frank Harris, but they also added Arkansas transfer running back Trelon Smith. Add in the atmosphere at the Alamodome and it’s going to be tough for anyone to beat UTSA at home.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 UAB at UTSA Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Houston has a lot on both sides of the football to be excited about. Not only do the Cougars have a stout defense returning, Clayton Tune is back taking the snaps at quarterback for Houston. Last year Dana Holgorsen’s team ran off 11-straight wins after losing the season opener to Texas Tech, only losing to Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game before topping Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl.

This has the possibility to be one of the best games of the weekend. Even though Houston is ranked, I like the Roadrunners in this game. I just think UTSA continues to build off their success from last season, handing Houston a loss to an in-state foe in the season opener for the second straight season.

UTSA 37, Houston 34

No. 7 Utah (-3) v. Florida - 7:00 p.m. - ESPN

Every year we see a team that might be ranked a little too high and it shows in the first game of the season. Utah is being talked about as a candidate to make the College Football Playoff after a 2021 that saw them win the Pac-12 and take Ohio State to the limit in the Rose Bowl. Back for the Utes are quarterback Cam Rising, running back Tavion Thomas, and a number of other key players from last year’s team.

On the other side, Florida has a lot of work to do. The Gators got rid of Dan Mullen after last year, bringing in Billy Napier to try and restore Florida as a national power. While there are some holes the Gators have to try and fill, they do have quarterback Anthony Richardson returning. Richardson will have to be at his best against a Utah defense that was nasty last season.

All offseason I felt like Utah would beat the Gators in Gainesville, kickstarting their drive to the CFP. Now I’m not so sure about it. I’m not convinced the Utes will be able to hold up in the heat and humidity that we see in Gainesville this time of the year. Florida gives an inspired performance under their new head coach and pulls the upset.

Florida 28, Utah 24

Florida State v. LSU (-3) - Sunday Sept. 4 7:30 p.m. - ABC

For the second year in a row, Brian Kelly opens up the season against Florida State. That’s about the only thing that’s the same for Kelly, though. Last year Kelly was coaching Notre Dame and now he has some funny accent, trying to make people think he is a lifelong Louisiana resident.

Even though Kelly’s time as LSU head coach has been nothing but jokes, the biggest joke in this game is going to be Florida State. The Seminoles used to be a proud program and now it feels like only a matter of time before Mike Norvell gets canned and Deion Sanders is hired as head coach. Until then, I can’t take Florida State seriously.

LSU 33, Florida State 17

No. 4 Clemson (-22.5) v. Georgia Tech - Monday Sept. 5 8:00 p.m. - ESPN

Last year it felt like everyone was throwing dirt on Clemson’s dynasty and the Tigers still went 10-3. Things feel a little different heading into this season. Even though Dabo Swinney lost assistants Brent Venables and Tony Scott, the Tigers still are loaded with blue chip prospects. Maybe the losses of Venables and Scott end up being a bigger deal than many are thinking, but any problems that might come along with it don’t show against a really bad Georgia Tech team.

Clemson 44, Georgia Tech 14

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.