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2023 College Football Week 1 Sleeper Picks

By Hank Blaine

There were three upsets around college football in Week Zero and here are three games in Week 1 where the underdog has a realistic chance of winning outright and should cover the spread.

Top 2023 College Football Week 1 Games to Bet

Louisville Cardinals vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

ACC opener for both on Friday and the Louisville coaching debut of Jeff Brohm, a former star quarterback at the school. Brohm left Purdue to return to his hometown and led the Boilermakers to a 36-34 record across those six campaigns, with a 17-9 mark over the last two seasons and an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game following the 2022 campaign. Louisville is 56-42-6 all-time in season openers but have dropped four of its last five on the road, including a 31-7 on the road at Syracuse in last season’s ACC opener. Louisville is 1-3 all-time in neutral site games to open the season.

Brent Key begins his first full season at the helm of the Yellow Jackets after taking over for the final eight games of the season. Key’s team went 4-4 over that span, including a 2-1 mark against nationally ranked opponents. Defensive back LaMiles Brooks, place kicker Gavin Stewart and linebacker Trenilyas Tatum are the top returners for the Yellow Jackets. While Georgia Tech returns 15 starters from last season, one new starter is QB Haynes King. A graduate transfer from Texas A&M, King threw for 1,579 yards and 10 touchdowns over 10 games (seven starts) for the Aggies from 2020-22. Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 2-0.

2023 College Football Week 1 Pick: Georgia Tech

Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Purdue Boilermakers

Kicks off at noon ET on the Big Ten Network, and it’s the head coaching debut of Purdue’s Ryan Walters, formerly the Illinois defensive coordinator. In 2022, the Fighting Illini had one of the top defenses in the nation, ranking No. 1 in the country in scoring defense (12.3 points per game allowed) and No. 2 in yards per play allowed (4.26). Seven of Illinois’ 12 opponents in 2022 were held to 10 points or fewer, and five opposing offenses failed to score a touchdown against Walters’ defense. He replaces Jeff Brohm, who left for Louisville. Purdue did lose a lot of talent off last year’s club, led by excellent QB Aidan O’Connell, who left Purdue as the school’s all-time leader in completion percentage (66.7%), passing efficiency (141.8) and 500-yard passing games (2).

Fresno State closed the 2022 season with a 10-4 record, and as Mountain West and LA Bowl champions. The Bulldogs became the first team in FBS history to open a season 1-4 and finish with 10 wins in 2022. FSU is riding a 9 game winning streak, the third-longest active winning streak in the FBS. Fresno State was picked to finish third in the Mountain West this season. For the first time since the 2020 season, Fresno State will have a new starting quarterback, as Coach Jeff Tedford announced UCF transfer Mikey Keene will be the starter at Purdue. Keene was 8-3 as a starter in his time at UCF.

2023 College Football Week 1 Pick: Fresno State

California Golden Bears vs. North Texas Mean Green

Kicks off at 4 p.m. ET Saturday. Cal has finished with three straight losing seasons, and another is expected under Coach Justin Wilcox. He has named Sam Jackson V as the new starting QB. Jackson, a transfer from TCU in his first season at Cal, had been in a three-way competition with Ben Finley and Fernando Mendoza. Jackson’s action in a combined seven games as a 2021 true freshman and 2022 redshirt freshman, completing all six of his passes for 140 yards while adding 15 rushes for 79 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. WR Jeremiah Hunter, returns. He led the team with a career-high 965 yards receiving, while also establishing career bests of 60 receptions and five touchdown catches that were second-best on the squad last year.

The Mean Green finished 7-7 overall last year, with an appearance in the Conference USA Championship game as well as the Frisco Bowl. Under first-year head coach Eric Morris, UNT heads into a new era as it becomes one of six programs to transition into The American in 2023. Morris joins the Mean Green after a one-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Washington State. Previously, Morris had a successful four-year run as the head coach at Incarnate Word. North Texas is the only FBS team in the country to return three running backs (Ayo Adeyi, Ikaika Ragsdale, Oscar Adaway III) who have rushed for over 1,000 yards in their collegiate career. Wide receivers Roderic Burns and Ja’Mori Maclin return as the two leading receivers for the Mean Green. Burns led UNT with 40 catches for 676 yards last season, while Marlin finished the year second in FBS with 24.7 yards per reception. The last time UNT took down a Power 5 opponent at home was Sept. 24, 2011 when it defeated Indiana 24-21 but it may well win this game and should at least cover like the other two underdogs on this list.

2023 College Football Week 1 Pick: North Texas

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READ MORE: 2023 College Football Week 1 Odds, Overview & Picks