5 Things to Know Before Betting Week 0 of College Football

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Isaiah Williams #1 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs with the ball up the field during the second half against Iowa Hawkeyes. Matthew Holst/Getty Images/AFP

College football is back! Seven and a half months after the Georgia Bulldogs won the College Football Playoff, pigskin and players are hitting the field from Dublin, Ireland to the middle of the Pacific.

College Football, Week Zero

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Not every team will be in action, as most will wait until September to kick off the schedule, but that doesn’t change the fact that this Saturday, you’ll be watching college teams play in games that count.

Here’s what you’ll need to know before trying to pick winners in the handful of games that the sport is referring to as “week zero.”

New Look Vandy and Hawaii

Two teams that probably could have used an extra week of preseason will be part of Week Zero this week.

Vanderbilt is in year two under coach Clark Lea. The Commodores went 2-10, which, while a step above an 0-9 2020, was still far from competitive in the SEC.

Yes, it will be tough for outmanned Vandy to match up with Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M, but the Commodores lost to East Tennessee State last year and just barely squeaked by UConn.

Hawaii replaced its coach under a cloud of player abuse allegations, and the Rainbow Warriors quickly cleaned out the cupboards, with the starting quarterback, leading rusher, leading receiver, and two top defenders all hitting the transfer portal.

What to Expect from Hawaii vs. Vanderbilt

The two teams meet with very new looks on the island. Vanderbilt has brought a host of transfers across the board, while Hawaii also restocked by hitting the portal. The result will be two veteran teams that haven’t had much time together meeting to start the year.

The battle of the lines may determine this one, and Hawaii has two top blockers returning, helping to create an offensive line that has earned raves in the preseason.

Lower Expectations for Mack

The North Carolina Tar Heels opened last season in the top 10, with Heisman hopes for quarterback Sam Howell.

Carolina promptly lost its opener and stumbled to a 6-7 season, with head coach Mack Brown infamously blaming the media for creating such artificially high expectations for his team.

Howell is gone to the NFL and expectations are far lower in Chapel Hill. Season-ending injuries to the players expected to be UNC’s top rusher and receiver have also stuck a pin in hopes.

Still, the Heels open with an FCS team in Florida A&M. If they struggle in the opener, it could be a long year in Carolina.

Possible Upset in Conference Play?

It may be Week Zero, but two Big Ten teams will be opening conference play as Nebraska faces Northwestern in Ireland.

The Cornhuskers and Wildcats both suffered through miserable 2021 seasons, posting twin 3-9 marks with 1-8 Big Ten records.

Nebraska also saw longtime quarterback Adrian Martinez leave. Texas transfer Casey Thompson has been named the starter.

Northwestern is at its best when it wins in the trenches and has a playmaking leader in the middle of its defense. The Wildcats return four starters on the line, led by left tackle Pete Skoronski, and middle linebacker Bryce Gallagher is primed for a breakout season.

A talented Nebraska team that has a lot of new pieces could be ripe for the upset, especially after the long trip that can play havoc with any team.

Big Ten Team Headed for Slugfest?

Another Big Ten team is in action in Week Zero as Illinois hosts Wyoming.

Both teams have grind-it-out offenses and tough defenses, so we might be looking at a rock fight in Champaign in the opener. Illinois was 5-7 last year but scored fewer than 20 points in seven games.

The Illini added Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito and moved explosive playmaker Isaiah Williams from quarterback to receiver. So Illinois could start lighting things up a little more this year.

It may be tough to do against a Wyoming defense that has an experienced and talented front four. Wyoming rebuilt its secondary as well with several Power Five transfers.

Introducing This Year’s Cinderella?

Cincinnati crashed the College Football Playoff last year, breaking the power conference’s stranglehold on bids to football’s final four. If you’re looking for a team that might follow in the Bearcats’ football, look far to the west.

Utah State has not one but two potential playmakers at quarterback. Starter Logan Bonner is in his final season, after following coach Blake Anderson to Utah from Arkansas State. He’s backed up by Wyoming transfer Levi Williams.

The entire offensive line returns and the defense adds five transfers from power conference teams.

They’ll be opening against another team that shopped extensively in the transfer portal but started from a much worse position.

UConn had one of the worst offenses in football last year and a defense that wasn’t much better. New coach Jim Mora Jr. has worked hard to rebuild the roster, but it will be a major shock if the Huskies hang with the Aggies for long.