College football picks, schedule: Predictions for key top 25 games Thursday during Week 1

Week 1 of the college football slate may seem like it is set for Saturday, but it actually goes down over five straight days, beginning with action on Thursday night. And it's not just any action. The No. 1 team in the preseason, your defending national champion Clemson Tigers, will get their 2019 campaign -- and  ACC schedule -- started against Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, an interesting nonconference game between UCLA and Cincinnati also goes down, as does one of college football's most underrated rivalries, the Holy War, which will be the night cap to an eventful evening. 

With action continuing late into the night, let's take a look at the biggest games on the schedule Thursday along with our predictions for what will transpire in those contests. Our CBS Sports college football experts have picked every game both straight up and against the spread, giving you ample opportunity to decide how to make your picks ahead of kickoff.

Don't forget to check out our Cover 3 college football podcast below, where you can listen to our Week 1 locks for the weekday games on Thursday and Friday night.

All times Eastern

UCLA at Cincinnati (-3) -- 7 p.m. on ESPN: Last year, Cincinnati caught just about everybody by surprise when it beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl 26-17 in Week 1. That won't be the case this season with the Bearcats entering as a field goal favorite. Still, the defense that gave the Bruins problems a year ago is returning largely intact. Since I'm still not quite sure what to make of Chip Kelly's team yet, I'll lay the points with the home favorites. Pick: Cincinnati - 3 -- Ben Kercheval

Georgia Tech at No. 1 Clemson (-36.5) -- 8 p.m. on ACC Network: This is a ludicrous point spread for two teams that play each other every single year, even if one is the reigning national champion and the other is moving into Year 0 with its first non-option based roster in more than a decade. GT coach Geoff Collins will have his group energized, and I think the defensive side of the ball is going to be able to make enough plays against the heavy favorites to get the cover. Pick: Georgia Tech (+36.5) -- Chip Patterson

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No. 14 Utah (-5.5) at BYU -- 10:15 p.m. on ESPN: Even though Utah has won the last eight in this series, there's only been one blowout: 54-10 Utes in 2010. Outside of that outlier, the Holy War has been a single-possession game. I'd expect the same here with BYU at only +5.5. Admittedly, I'm a fan of this Utah team. They'll be a punishing group that's no fun to play at all. But BYU will be jacked and ready to prove something. Give me a home dog almost every time in this situation. Pick: BYU +5.5 -- Ben Kercheval

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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