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All times Eastern | Game odds via SportsLine consensus
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Illinois at Kansas, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN2
- The Pick: Luke Altmyer Over 29.5 Yards Rushing (-125)
- Key trend: Altmyer led the Illini with 69 yards rushing last week
Honestly, I have no idea how this game will play out. It's one of the reasons I'm excited to watch it. Kansas didn't have starting quarterback Jalon Daniels last week, but it didn't matter against Missouri State as the Jayhawks cruised to victory. The Illini, meanwhile, needed a late field goal to overcome the embarrassment of losing their season opener at home to Toledo.
The Illinois defense, with a new coordinator and secondary, struggled to contain Toledo QB Dequan Finn in the run game. Those struggles could continue tonight with Daniels. However, Illinois still has one of the best defensive lines in the country, and the greatest improvement any team makes is usually between the first and second games. So, maybe they get their act together, or maybe they do not.
There was one thing I saw last week that I don't expect to change: New Illinois QB Luke Altmyer is much more mobile than last year's starter, Tommy Devito, and Illinois has no problem taking advantage of it. Altmyer led the Illini with 69 yards rushing last week. I doubt he will lead the team again, but his legs will be utilized.
Kansas defense ranked 112th nationally in success rate against the run last season. That includes 430 yards rushing allowed to opposing QBs, which ranked 109th. Illinois will try to exploit it tonight in a tough road game.
👀 Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model likes the under tonight, and there are plenty of other picks available from SportsLine's experts.
💰 The Picks
Nebraska at No. 22 Colorado, Noon (Saturday) | TV: Fox
- The Pick: Colorado -3 (-107)
- Key trend: Nebraska was 0-3 ATS in nonconference games last season.
OK, so here's the thing:. While the Buffaloes put up some epic numbers in last week's upset over TCU, the hype and surprise overshadowed some deficiencies. First of all, TCU was just as good offensively as the Buffaloes; the Colorado defense did not get many stops. Second, CU could not run the ball at all, and that could be a concern down the road.
All that said, I also saw the Cornhuskers last week. Wouldn't you believe it? They were in position to win a game but shot themselves in the foot multiple times late and lost. Crazy! I'm not super confident in the Huskers right now, and even if this line took a massive swing -- look-ahead lines from the preseason had Nebraska as a touchdown favorite here -- I have to look at what the universe is telling me. Sure, the numbers may say Nebraska, but this is Colorado's first home game under Sanders after pulling off that upset last week. Do you want to bet against those vibes and that atmosphere? I don't.
Panthers at Falcons, 1 p.m. (Sunday) | TV: Fox
- The Pick: Falcons (-185)
- Key trend: Rookie QBs taken with the No. 1 pick are 0-13-1 in their last 14 debut starts.
Full disclosure: I have every reason in the world to want the Panthers to lose this game. The Panthers traded up to No. 1 in the NFL Draft to take Bryce Young, and as part of that trade, they sent the Chicago Bears their first-round pick in 2024. So, the worse they do, the better off my Bears wind up. Imagine how great it'll be for the Bears to win the Super Bowl and have the No. 1 pick in the following draft?! But I digress.
Young will make his first career start, and I'm optimistic about his future. He's small for a QB, but having watched him in college, he has everything else you want. The problem is things don't go well for rookies early in their careers. The last 14 quarterbacks to be selected No. 1 in the draft have gone 0-13-1 in their first career starts. That shouldn't come as a surprise, considering it's usually the worst team in the league drafting them. They're also 1-13 ATS in those games, but that 3.5-point spread makes me wary. It's not as if the Falcons are juggernauts themselves. They should win, but they're fully capable of making it as hard on themselves as possible.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine's expert handicapper Larry Hartstein has released his top spread plays for Week 1 of the NFL season.