Week 1 is here! Time for all of the off-field storylines to take a backseat to backdoor covers, Heisman performances and plays that will define the 2018 season. Lets dive in with some Week 1 picks.
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Thursday, August 30
UCF -22.5 @ UConn
Just because coach Scott Frost took his talents to Nebraska does not mean he took the star quarterback with him. McKenzie Milton is a Heisman darkhorse and the Knights will look to repeat their success from 2017 in their opener at UConn. Last year, the Huskies finished 3-9, including a 25-point loss at UCF. Considering how loaded the Knights are on offense and the playmakers they return on defense, this one will get out of hand early. UCF in a rout 49-17
Northwestern +2 @ Purdue
I would feel a lot better about this pick if stud quarterback Clayton Thorson was cleared to play for Northwestern in their opener. Regardless, I will take the more talented team, getting points, who also has the better coach. In 2017, the Wildcats knocked off Purdue by 10 in their building and despite the lost of all everything running back Justin Jackson to the NFL, Jeremy Larkin, who himself ran for 500+ yards and five touchdowns last season, will pick up right where Jackson left off. Northwestern goes on the road and wins outright 23-20
Friday, August 31
Syracuse -6 @ Western Michigan
Homer pick alert! As a Cuse grad, take this with a grain of salt, but I will take the more explosive team in this one. Despite the return of Jon Wassink and Jamauri Bogan to the WMU offense, Eric Dungey has proven, at least when he is on the field, that he can put up a ton of points in this offense. While the Orange have to replace some talent at receiver, Devin Butler and Sean Riley are ready to emerge as the featured players on the outside and in the slot respectively. In year three under Dino Babers, I expect the Orange to return to a bowl game, with the momentum starting here. Syracuse wins 37-24
Stanford -15.5 vs. San Diego State
While I love the consistency of the Aztecs year in and year out with the system they run, their biggest strength will be nullified in this one. Their ground game, which has been led by superstars Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny in the last few years is now in the very capable hands of Juwan Washington. While Washington may approach 2,000 yards this season, it took Penny 32 carries to get 175 yards last year in a game that was at home and at a time the Stanford defense was in bad shape (they had given up 40+ to USC the week before). Now, with the familiarity of playing SDSU, not to mention the game being played at home, in addition to the revenge factor in play, expect Bryce Love and the Cardinal to get this game in control quickly. Love wants to be a Heisman contender. This is his first salvo to the competition. Stanford wins 35-17
Saturday, September 1
Houston -25 @ Rice
Rice beat football powerhouse Prairie View 31-28 last week. They lost by 35 to Houston last year. With the Cougars loaded again on offense led by D’Eriq King, expect more of the same. If Prairie View scored 28 on Rice, Houston will easily double that, while potentially the best player in the entire country, defensive tackle Ed Oliver, will have a field day against the Rice offensive line. Houston wins biiiiiig 63-20
Boston College -18 vs. UMass
Yes UMass put up 63 points last week. But that was against Duquesne. Boston College is an extremely mature and well-run program, that likes to play ball control, and play solid defense. They ranked 36th in the nation in 2017 allowing only 22 points per game. Led by talented running back A.J. Dillon, they also ranked 25th in the country as they averaged 220 yards per contest. How did UMass do against the run? They ranked 100th, giving up 197 yards per game. Expect the Eagles to control the ball and pull away in the second half. Andy Isabella is a tough matchup for the Eagles secondary, but one they will overcome. BC wins and covers 38-17
West Virginia -10 vs. Tennessee
This is a great week one matchup that is being overlooked. What kind of Tennessee team will show up following their 4-8 season in 2017? A season that saw them lose their last three games by 33, 20 and 18 points? And how will they contain the excellent passing attack of the Mountaineers led by Will Grier, David Sills IV and Gary Jennings. The answer is, they will not. ‘Neers in big 42-24
Marshall -1.5 @ Miami Ohio
In a rematch of a 2017 matchup that saw the Thundering Herd win by five, Marshall goes on the road looking for the sweep. While Miami’s offense is led by star receiver James Gardner, the Marshall defense is stout, as they finished 18th in the nation by allowing 19.9 points per game in 2017. Marshall is just a better team, that year in and year out faces better competition. I will also take coach Doc Holliday in this matchup, especially when I need to win by a field goal. Marshall wins 23-20
North Texas -4.5 vs. SMU
Do not sleep on North Texas. Yes, SMU crushed the Mean Green last year by 22 points. However, many things have changed since then. For one, the game will be played at North Texas, not at SMU. Second, Courtland Sutton, who had eight catches for 163 yards and four touchdowns in the game now plays for the Denver Broncos, while Trey Quinn, who caught 6 passes for 96 yards, is also gone. And third, the game was tied at 10 after the first quarter. So it was not a rout from the beginning. With Mason Fine (who threw for over 400 yards) and Jalen Guyton (who had over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns) back, North Texas should be able to stay with SMU and win this game. In one of the highest scoring games of opening weekend, give me the Mean Green to cover 49-42.
Hawaii +11.5 vs. Navy
There is tremendous respect from this writer to the Navy football program. But giving 11.5 points, on the road, at Hawaii, who already has a game under their belt seems like a lot. And it is not like Hawaii just played some cupcake in their opener. They went on the road and dominated Colorado State and hung 43 points on the scoreboard. Cole McDonald, who has taken the quarterback job in 2018, accounted for over 500 yards of offensive and five total touchdowns. With two solid receivers in John Ursua and Cedric Byrd, Hawaii can spread the field and let McDonald work his magic with his legs. Plus, remember the travel here for Navy, flying 12 hours across the Pacific to play. That, coupled with some early season jitters to work out makes me think this will be closer than the experts predict. Navy wins, but does not cover, 37-31
Games of the Week
Michigan +1 @ Notre Dame, Saturday September 1
This game is a true pick’em. Michigan is only an underdog cause of this game being played in South Bend. For that reason and that reason only, I will take Michigan. They are the better team talent wise. If the Wolverines can control the clock with their solid running game, this will be a contest won in the fourth quarter, as they wear the Fighting Irish defense out. Michigan wins outright 17-14.
Washington +1.5 vs. Auburn (in Atlanta), Saturday, September 1
I desperately want to pick the Huskies in this one. Maybe if the game was played in the Pacific Northwest or a more neutral site than Atlanta. With the Tigers fans in full throttle, not to mention the team itself looking to rebound following their embarrassing bowl loss to UCF, Auburn will come out pumped up. The key question is how will Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin do against the very tough Tigers defense. I will root for the Huskies, but my gut says pick the Tigers. Auburn wins 23-20.
Miami -3.5 vs. LSU (game in Dallas), Sunday, September 2
Another game where defense will be the key. How will Malik Rosier play against the terrific Tigers defense? How will LSU coach Ed Oregeron fare with his job status certainly being questioned? Do the Tigers have an answer at quarterback? Will anyone score a touchdown? For what it is worth, with both defenses being solid units, give me the better offense. Wish this line would come down to 3, but for now, I think Miami still gets it done, 17-13
Virginia Tech +7.5 @ Florida State, Monday, September 3
The ONLY reason I will take the Hokies in this one is that 7.5 points is just too many for this FSU team. How will Deondre Francois look as he comes back after a year on the sidelines? Is Cam Akers ready to take the next step for the Seminoles? FSU should win, but given some very large questions and my belief in Hokies coach Justin Fuente, they will keep it close. Hokies lose, but cover, 23-17