You have waited eight months for this and the period of waiting is over. College football betting returns for the 2013 season on Thursday night with a number of significant matchups.
North Carolina Tar Heels @ South Carolina Gamecocks
Thursday, 6:00 PM ET
Odds: South Carolina -11
North Carolina might not beat South Carolina outright on the road and at night, but the Tar Heels – with Bryn Renner returning at quarterback – are going to be tougher for South Carolina to handle than a lot of the experts seem to think. South Carolina usually plays a sluggish brand of ball in season openers. The Gamecocks try to work the kinks out of the system before entering the SEC schedule. This game is going to be uncomfortably close for South Carolina fans at the half, but the Gamecocks’ defense should be able to make adjustments in the second half, enabling the home team to pull out a victory in the area of a touchdown to 10 points.
Pick: North Carolina +11
Ole Miss Rebels @ Vanderbilt Commodores
Thursday, 9:15 PM ET
Odds: Ole Miss -3
This game was highly anticipated throughout the offseason because these are two rising programs. Both the Rebels and the Commodores are moving upward in the Southeastern Conference behind coaches – Hugh Freeze for Mississippi and James Franklin of Vanderbilt – who have massively upgraded the level of recruiting at their respective programs. Both teams have specifically been able to cultivate offenses that are a lot better at attacking downfield in the passing game. With this point in mind, Ole Miss has a specific advantage in that Vanderbilt receiver Chris Boyd – one of the Commodores’ better pass catchers – has been indicted as part of a rape case involving former Vanderbilt players. He is not going to play in this game, and that could unfortunately matter. It will be that much more difficult for Vanderbilt to throw the ball, and Ole Miss could very well take advantage. Small margins can and do matter on the college football spread in season-opening contests.
Pick: Ole Miss -3
Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Fresno State Bulldogs
Thursday, 10:35 PM ET
Odds: Fresno State -9.5
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights were so close to winning the Big East championship last season and making their first appearance in a BCS bowl game. However, untimely penalties and turnovers turned a likely win into a crushing loss to the Louisville Cardinals. Rutgers’ offense imploded in its bowl game against Virginia Tech, and now the Scarlet Knights are in a position where they’re trying to recover emotionally. A win at Fresno State, the favorite to win its division in the Mountain West Conference and play Boise State in the inaugural Mountain West Championship Game this season, would do wonders for Rutgers’ level of confidence. Will Rutgers be able to do the deed, though? Fresno State gets to play this game at home, late at night. The Bulldogs’ offense came alive as the 2012 season continued. The Bulldogs seem to be the much more ascendant program at the moment and should prevail handily.
Pick: Fresno State -9.5