In one of just a handful of games on the board for that first Thursday of Week 1, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will travel to New Orleans to take on the Tulane Green Wave. Kickoff is set for 8:00 EST at Yulman Stadium and will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

The line for this game originally opened with Wake Forest as a 9-point favorite. It was quickly bet down and it’s currently hovering around a touchdown. Some books have the Demon Deacons as a 6.5-point favorite and others have them laying 7-points. The over/under for this matchup is 56. Click here for a full list of the Week 1 betting odds.

Vegas Odds Preview & Prediction: Wake Forest vs Tulane

The Demon Deacons are coming off a solid 8-5 season, where they went 4-4 in the ACC and capped things off with a 55-52 thriller over Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl. It continued the upward swing of Wake Forest under current head coach Dave Clawson. After going just 3-9 in each of Clawson’s first two seasons, the Deacons improved to 7-6 in 2016 and did one better at 8-5 last year.

Wake Forest will have a solid 14 starters back (8 offense, 6 defense)  from last year. However, they do have to replace starting quarterback John Wolford, who completed 64% of his attempts for over 3,000 yards and a 29-6 TD-INT ration. They also lose 3 of their top 4 tacklers on defense. Not a lot of love nationally for the Demon Deacons, but this is a team that could make some noise in the ACC this year.

Tulane is on a similar path of improving under third year head coach Willie Fritz. In his very first season the Green Wave went 4-8. Might not seem like much, but they had won 3 or fewer in 4 of the previous 5 seasons. Last year they made another small jump to 5-7 and weren’t far off from making a bowl. They had 4 losses by 6-points or less and 3 of those were against teams that finished with winning records.

With 14 returning starters, including talented quarterback Jonathan Banks, this another team that I think is getting overlooked right now. A lot of people just automatically pick this team in the basement of the American Athletic, but they are far from a pushover and will likely pull off some big upsets this season.

Free College Football Pick Against the Betting Spread: Tulane +7

I would have to side with Tulane in this one. The public will undoubtedly be drawn to playing Wake Forest. They see an ACC team that won 8 games last year going up against a team that has been to one bowl since 2002. They will gladly lay the points, as to them this line will likely seem to small.

I personally think there’s a ton of value with Tulane, as I believe they have a legit shot at winning this game outright. I think there’s going to be a buzz around this Green Wave team in New Orleans and I expect a rowdy home crowd for Tulane. They went 4-2 at home last year, including an upset win of Houston as a 9-point dog and a mere 28-34 loss to #16 USF.

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I’m not sure everyone is aware that Tulane is running the option offense, but that’s definitely a factor here. Wake Forest only returns has to replace 4 starters in their front 7 on defense. Keep in mind they did have some troubles against the run last year, giving up 4.4 yards/carry and 186 yards/game. The Green Wave have 4 of their 5 starters back on the offensive line and a senior quarterback in Banks that knows how to operate the option offense.

I know Tulane’s defense loses a lot, but they have really taken some nice strides since Fritz took over. I think they will be better than expected and will feed off the home crowd in this one.

Another huge factor in favor of the Green Wave being able to hold their own is projected starting quarterback Kendall Hilton is suspended for the first 3 games of the season. Hilton was the clear-cut favorite to win the job, as he had previously beat out Wolford. Talented backup running back Arkeem Byrd has also been lost for the year to a torn ACL.

The loss of Hilton is huge. It appears it will either be true freshman Sam Hartman or sophomore Jamie Newman under center. Neither has really separated themselves from the other. Having to split first team reps between two guys takes away from the chemistry of the offense. I think we could really see the Demon Deacons offense struggle to get going and if Tulane doesn’t fumble (rarely throw), they will have a good shot at winning the turnover battle. I believe the smart play here is to grab the points.