Four of the 11 games on the schedule Thursday night to begin Week 1 of the college football season include matchups between FBS foes. For the fans who will watch live college football regardless of matchup, time, or place, there are seven more games with an FBS vs. FCS matchup where betting lines are largely unavailable.
The headliner is the rematch between the Florida Gators and 14th-ranked Utah Utes, which we covered in depth and provided a best bet for in a separate article [LINK]. Utah is favored by 6.5 points in the game with the closest spread on the Thursday board.
Other matchups with spreads listed include UCF hosting Kent State as 36-point favorites, the NC State Wolfpack being favored by 14.5 heading to East Hartford, CT to face the Huskies, and an in-conference matchup between Big Ten rivals where Minnesota is a touchdown favorite against Nebraska at home.
We’re going to dabble in the prop market across Thursday’s offerings and have outlined our best bets for the return of college football.
The fifth-year quarterback transferred to UConn after four years at the University of Maine, where he threw for nearly 5,500 yards and was responsible for 50 total touchdowns.
The Huskies face a Wolfpack defense that gave up 226 yards per game through the air in 2022 compared to just 100.6 yards on the ground and fewer than 3.5 yards per carry to opposing ballcarriers. It’s clear that NC State is more vulnerable to the passing attack, but UConn needs to prove they can effectively throw the ball themselves.
Fagnano joins a Husky offense that ranked ahead of only four FBS teams in passing. Three of those schools are service academies, and the other is New Mexico. Our faith in the new quarterback is built on the fact that he has not shied away from playing FBS opponents in the past and is a high-volume passer.
He threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns in the Black Bears game against Boston College last season and attempted 35+ passes per game five times in his fourth year at Maine. We’ll take him to eclipse his yardage total in UConn’s first 2023 action on Thursday.
The Utes’ sophomore running back entered last season as a largely unproven commodity following his transfer from Texas and a position switch from quarterback. Jackson did not play in his team’s loss to the Gators in 2022, but his journey was only beginning.
In his first six games of the season, Jackson saw 16 carries, gained 65 yards, and had one score. Over the final six games, the breakout star rushed for 466 yards on just 62 carries, an average of 7.5 yards per attempt, scored eight touchdowns, and put himself in a position to take the starting job for 2023.
Utah’s matchup this Thursday looks to be a situation where Jackson can thrive like Tavion Thomas did last year. Florida ranked 100th in the country in rush defense in 2022, allowing 11 of their 13 opponents to gain more than 130 yards on the ground. They also gave up more than 5.0 yards per carry six times last season, and Utah pummeled Florida to the tune of 230 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries in their meeting last September.
With the majority of his offensive line returning and the threat of senior quarterback Cameron Rising under center, we project Jackson to have a big game against the Gators.