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College Football Betting 2021: Week 1 Thursday night best bets

Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) passes the ball as Virginia Cavaliers linebacker Zane Zandier (0) chases in the second quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 college football season officially kicked off last weekend, though many would agree that the real meat and potatoes begin this week.

But before we rush off into the Week 1 weekend slate, Thursday features a handful of intriguing contests. Ohio State, Coastal Carolina, Utah, Boise State and UCF, among others, all kick off their seasons this Thursday, and there are plenty of opportunities to find betting value.

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Boise State Broncos @ UCF Knights

Pick: Boise State ML (+165)
Implied Probability: 37.7%
PFF Greenline ML Win Probability: 38%
My Model: 40.2%

Pick: Under 68.5
Implied Probability: 52.4%  
PFF Greenline Cover Probability: 52.9%
My Model: 48.5% 

There is nothing better than an upset to start a season. UCF is currently a five-point favorite against the visiting Boise State Broncos. Both teams are heading into this contest hoping their new coaching era starts off on a positive note. New Boise State head coach Andy Avalos will have plenty to work with on the offensive side of the ball, as the Broncos return 75% of their total production from 2020. However, he will have to lean a little bit into his defensive background, with only 42% of the defense's production returning.

Junior quarterback Hank Bachmeier has progressed in each of his first two seasons, earning a 68.1 PFF passing grade in 2019 and a 76.3 passing grade in 2020. If he can continue on this upward trajectory, the Broncos will be as dangerous as ever.

Meanwhile, the Gus bus has arrived in Orlando. New head coach Gus Malzahn will take over an offense that returns 74% of its production and produced a cumulative 77.2 offensive grade in 2020, including an elite 90.3 passing grade. That passing grade was due in part to junior signal-caller Dillion Gabriel, who will have to adjust his game to a Malzahn-led offense. 

UCF is still projected to win the game, but at +165 (37.7 implied probability), there is some value in taking Boise State. Combining for 68.5 points in an opening game is a tall task, and with two new coaches breaking in their own schemes, we may not see these teams rack up scores as often as they might later on in the year.

PFF's 2021 College Football Preview Magazine offers a one-of-a-kind deep dive into every team and every conference in the FBS. You'll get PFF grades, position breakdowns, betting predictions, accuracy data and more, making it the only resource you'll need to prepare for the 2021 college football season.

Bowling Green Falcons @ Tennessee Volunteers

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