College Football Week 1 Upset Picks (South Alabama is Dangerous vs. Tulane)

Three live underdogs in Week 1
Sep 17, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; South Alabama Jaguars quarterback Carter Bradley (2) sets
Sep 17, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; South Alabama Jaguars quarterback Carter Bradley (2) sets / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

College football is where chaos runs the sport, so why not look to cash in on some of that with a few opening weekend underdogs?

Relative to the NFL, college football has far more variance, and it's exploitable for sports bettors to bank on some of the unknowns of a college football season by taking a couple of underdogs to outperform their expectations and win outright.

In week 1 especially, we are projecting the difference between two teams, but there's a lot of guesswork involved due to roster turnover and the wider range of outcomes due to less defined quantities (players) taking the field.

Here are three underdogs that I believe are being undervalued heading into Week 1 and are live to spark an upset.

For more college football bets, check out how we are betting every top 25 matchup!

Week 1 College Football Upset Picks

  • Hawaii (+145) vs. Stanford
  • South Alabama (+200) vs. Tulane
  • Northwestern (+200) vs. Rutgers

Hawaii vs. Stanford Prediction and Pick

Stanford is a lot like what Hawaii was at the start of last season, transitioning schemes and devoid of talent as the new coach needs to implement in a whole new system and get his players in the building. Predictably, this number has been being bet towards the Hawaii side all summer, once a double digit spread in favor of the Cardinal. However, the Rainbow Warriors are a year ahead of Stanford's rebuild and it showed what a difference a year can make in Week 0.

Schager is one of the few holdovers from last season, and the team went toe-to-toe with Vanderbilt on the road, out-gaining the Commodores by more than a yard per play. While Hawaii allowed a first half kick return go for a touchdown, the team outperformed the 17-point spread with an explosive offensive attack.

Stanford enters with a ton of question marks, ranking 130th in returning production (128th on offense and 122nd on defense), which makes it tough to project. The team will likely start Ari Patu, who has attempted 25 passes in six appearances across the prior two seasons, but I believe that the team is going to struggle to show a coherent game plan like Hawaii did on the road in year two of Timmy Chang's unique scheme.

I think Hawaii looks like a hindsight favorite in this one and continues to improve based on its preseason expectation while Stanford looks out of sorts in the onset of a radical change in play calling.

PICK: Hawaii ML (+140)

If you are looking to line your sports betting account with some extra money, don't miss out on this DraftKings Sportsbook promo! All you need to do is use the link below, deposit $5 and bet on ANY college football game this weekend, and you'll get $200 in bonus bets instantly! That's it!

South Alabama vs. Tulane Prediction and Pick

South Alabama had a stellar season in 2022, arguably the best team in the Sun Belt but ran into a fellow elite foe in eventual conference champion Troy. The team is top 10 in returning production, per, ranking inside the top 20 on both sides of the ball. That includes starting quarterback Carter Bradley and 1,000 yard rusher La'Damian Webb. The two anchored a USA offense that averaged nearly six yards per play (56th in the country) and was 41st in terms of EPA/Play.

The team also bolsters a stout defense that was top 35 in both success rate and EPA/Play. Further, the team allowed 1.58 points per drive, the 14th lowest mark in the country. Key contributors including linebacker Trey Kisser (11 tackles for loss) and leading tackler at safety Jaden Vosin return.

USA has a tough opening opponent at Tulane, who won the AAC last season and beat USC in a thrilling Cotton Bowl. However, there are some transitioning pieces that may have this team a bit inflated heading into the season.

Yes, Michael Pratt is back, but explosive running back Tyjae Spears is in the NFL now following 1,528 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. The Green Wave also is outside the top 100 in returning production on defense, an early season concern for an already vulnerable unit that was outside the top 90 in success rate and EPA/Play.

Tulane took a big step forward in 2022, but that was last season and not this season. I expect a market correction after South Alabama wins on the road in Week 1.

PICK: South Alabama ML (+205)

Northwestern vs. Rutgers Prediction and Pick

While it was a tumultuous offseason in Evanston for Northwestern that ended with the team firing long time head coach Pat Fitzgerald, I believe the team is being severely underrated against a lowly Rutgers team.

With a total this low, getting an underdog above a field goal is always intriguing, and I believe this spot can set up for a Northwestern upset.

Both offense were a disaster last season, Northwestern was 127th in EPA/Play and Rutgers was 126th which offset what was fairly average defenses for national standards. Northwestern was 64th in EPA/Play and Rutgers was nearby, 69th in the nation.

This spread opened with Rutgers -4.5, and has since climbed in the offseason, likely around the news of Fitzgerald being fired and projected turmoil in the Wildcats locker room. While head coach David Braun will be in the role for the first time after being hired this offseason as defensive coordinator, I still don't see the gap between these two teams this wide.

Braun hasn't named a starting quarterback just yet, but the hope is that Ben Bryant will be under center for NW. He put up strong numbers at Cincinnati, completing 61% of his passes for 2,744 yards while his average depth of target exceeded 10 yards. He will have a patchwork offensive line blocking for him, but he's the best QB between the two teams.

I'll fade the noise around the narrative of the team's locker room and take a shot on Northwestern going on the road and upsetting a team they are arguably better than.

PICK: Northwestern +190

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

Track Reed's bets here!