College Football Week 1 Picks and Preview
I love the first week of college football, where all the teams follow rule number one of college football, don’t lose. This week is headlined by two games: Boise State at Georgia and Oregon at LSU. Teams should be required to man up and play some good competition the first week of the season. Maybe even have all the teams open up with a conference game. The football seasons at Oregon are always more suspenseful when they open up with a tough opponent. Last season when we opened with New Mexico it was a lackluster build up.
Next week there will be a much better opening post on different themes. The most obvious theme leading in to this week is that the offseason is finally over. This offseason was horrific, and I hated every moment of it. I’m not even going to write about it, it’s not fun to write or read. Everyone wins.
Mississippi State (-29) at Memphis
The Bulldogs are a team I really like this year. They have 9 starters returning on offense including all rushers, the top five receivers, and both quarterbacks on the two deep. Three linemen return on offense and defense. The Bulldogs have an F/+ from www.footballstudyhall.com of 26.
Memphis on the other hand, is one of the worst teams in college football according to their F/+, which breaks to 118. Ouch. With the amount of experience Mississippi State has against a Conference USA team that is picked by most to finish last in the CUSA East.
Wake forest (+6.5) at Syracuse
Pat Forde picked Wake Forest to beat Syracuse in this matchup in the Carrier Dome. I don’t like either of these teams this year. Last year Wake Forest finished 4-8 in the ACC, and while Syracuse finished 8-5 their adjusted schedule from last year was 6-7.
Judging this game from the inside out Wake Forest has a big advantage with 17 returning starters. Four starters return on the offensive line and seven of the top eight on the defensive line return. Four starters return on Syracuse’s offensive line, along with eight total on offense. The Orange defense only returns five, and it’s not like the backups have a ton of experience. I like Syracuse to win, but Wake Forest to cover. With teams that are equally poor I’ll take the points.
TCU (-6) at Baylor
Last year TCU was one of the best teams in the country. Football Study Hall ranked them as number 6 on their F/+ scale. They went undefeated and beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl by two. It worries me that they are without star quarterback Andy Dalton and only have one returning starter back on offense, but past success is the greatest predictor of future success. Also, TCU has covered every season opener since 2006 except for last year’s opener against Oregon State. Although a line of -13 was really poor to begin with.
Baylor was probably better than their 7-6 record indicates. Robert Griffin III is in his junior year and in his second year away from ACL surgery he should do much better. The offense returns 9 guys but the defense, which was poor last year, only returns five.
UCLA (+3) at Houston
If UCLA can muster any form of a passing attack they have a chance of winning the south. Saturday they face a team that specializes in the pass. Case Keenum, a sixth-year player who got a medical hardship year from the NCAA, returns to break every passing record known to mankind.
Both teams finished with an adjusted record of 4-8 last year (Houston finished 5-7) but Case Keenum will be playing, hopefully, the entire season this year. Keenum went down early in the UCLA game last year when we saw UCLA win 31-13. The 18-point differential is a lot to make up. UCLA returns nine starters on offense, eight on defense, while Houston only returns six on both sides of the ball. I’ll take the extra experience and points this game.
Minnesota (+23) at USC
Last year Michigan covered on a +10.5 spread and it took USC three weeks and a game against Washington State to cover. USC is obviously the more talented team and is going to win, but I don’t like them to cover 23 points. In the most basic terms, I don’t think USC is going to score by more than four possessions. Dumb stuff happens in season openers and Jerry Kill uses a more run-oriented offense that kills the opponent’s time of possession and plays in a game.
South Florida (+10) at Notre Dame
These teams can both use each other as measuring sticks. Notre Dame is supposed to finally be on the right track, and with their cupcake schedule, they could get ten wins in the regular season. South Florida on the other hand has been getting better every year since their inception in 1996 and is a contender for the Big East championship. An interesting storyline is that both coaches are now in their second seasons. South Florida coach Skip Holtz always gets the best out of players. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is an offensive guru with a lot of talent returning.
This is one of five good games this weekend. I’m glad these two teams are playing each other in the early afternoon before the evening games get started. These teams look pretty even on the surface. Both finished 8-5 and both struggled offensively at times. But if we look at adjusted schedules South Florida finished 5-7 while Notre Dame finished 11-2. Their F/+ spots are 17 and 49. But I think South Florida will come back strong in year two under Skip Holtz. I like Notre Dame to win, but South Florida to cover.
BYU (-3) at Mississippi
I will always cheer against BYU because their honor code appears to have racist effects.
And I hate how Mississippi cut ties with its old south past, and then didn’t pick Admiral Ackbar to replace him. But I digress. This is their first year being independent and is setting a dangerous precedent as ESPN is basically picking and choosing teams they want to promote.
Ole Miss returns the entire two deep on the offensive line and have nine total starters returning on offense, but only four on defense. The Cougars have ten returning starters, four of which are offensive linemen, and have five returning starters on defense. This game is a toss-up but BYU has a returning quarterback while Ole Miss is breaking in a guy who has never thrown a ball in a college game.
Fresno State (+10) at Cal
The only thing holding Cal back from being great is good quarterback play. Nate Longshore was a mess and Kevin Riley was incredibly inconsistent. Zach Maynard steps in to start full-time after finishing the season last year as a starter. If he can even be a good quarterback Cal is dangerous. Both these teams are really close statistically so I’ll take the points when the Bulldogs travel to Berkeley.
Boise State (-3.5) at Georgia
This is the second best game of the weekend after Oregon against LSU. Problem is, they are both at the same time. My solution to this problem? Oh yeah, I’m moving the television sets around and getting two next to each other.
Boise State is the definition of consistency. The only reason they lost a game last season is because they weren’t perfect. Before that they had won almost every game they’ve played with Chris Peterson. Sure, almost any other team in an AQ conference could run through the schedule also no problem, but the Broncos execute so well. What separates Boise State from other schools with more talent is that they are incredibly disciplined, they play perfect, and don’t make mistakes.
Now Georgia was not great last year, and was actually disappointing. This is a big year for them as they are my favorites, and many other writers pick to win the wide-open SEC East. Georgia has the tools to win but it comes down to whether they can execute. It is the Bulldogs game to lose. If they win it’s because they played great. If they lose, it’s because they didn’t execute well. It could be a rough two weeks for the Bulldogs because they play South Carolina the next week. Mark Richt did not shy away from saying he scheduled Boise State to get back in the spotlight, and Georgia is going to be fired up for the game. No one will be cheering for Georgia more than me.
Colorado (+7) at Hawaii
Colorado needs to break their 19-game road-losing streak sometime soon. It might as well be against a team they beat by nineteen last year. The Rainbow Warriors only return three players on offense although one is quarterback Bryant Moniz who threw over 5000 yards and 39 touchdowns last season.
Colorado returns nine starters on offense, seven on defense and should take care of a team they beat by nineteen. The location in Honolulu is a huge distraction and impacts everyone except for the people who live there. New head coach JD Brookhart gets his first win at Colorado.
SMU at Texas A&M (-16.5)
This is a scary pick to make. I like SMU because they have a F/+ rank of 59, an adjusted record of 9-5, have ten returning starters on offense, and eight on defense. Last year they finished -12 in the turnover margin. Texas A&M though should prevail. A top ten team should easily handle a team picked to finish third in its division of Conference USA.
PAC-12 Picks – Straight Up
Utah beats Montana State
Arizona State beats UC-Davis
Oregon beats LSU (Duh)
USC beats Minnesota
UCLA beats Houston
Oregon State beats Sacramento State
Stanford beats San Jose State
California beats Fresno State
Washington beats Eastern Washington
Arizona beats Northern Arizona
Colorado beats Hawaii
Washington State beats Idaho State
Ugh. I picked every PAC-12 team to win. UCLA and Cal scare me.