2016 – Week 1 Picks
We are back! The weekly picks column where you are guaranteed to make money if you use this and go to Vegas. That is, go against what we say. Last year we did pretty good straight up. We went 93-58 in that format, with a record of 4-11 trying to peg the "Upset of the Week." Our picks against the spread is where you can make money. We went 59-86-4 in that format. That's pretty gross.
Another season is upon us (or has already started since Cal and Hawaii played in Australia last Friday. Or was it Saturday? That International Dateline messes things up.) Hooray for college football! Don't give us your corporate, cookie cutter stadiums in the NFL. Don't give us 32 teams that all run some version of the West Coast Offense. Give us games that are played with real passion from fans, who actually have connections to the teams they root for. Give us venues like Autzen, The Horseshoe, and The Swamp. Give us venues like Army and Northwestern. Give us goofy neutral site games that take place at a NASCAR track. Give us matchups that feature a triple option team going against a 3-5-3 defense. Give us live mascots that can actually kill you if they get off their leashes or out of their cages. I don't care that these aren't the best players playing the game. I don't care that the level of play isn't that of professionals. We want games lost because a kicker misses an extra point. That's what makes college football so great and so unpredictable. At least that's what we say to justify our terrible picks record.
So much to talk about, but I can't preview everything here. There is a crazy amount of star power returning for the season from Deshaun Watson to Christian McCaffrey. There is a more muddled top of favorites than in recent memory. It should be a great season. On to the exercise of futility!
Teams on bye: Marshall
If it wasn't for the "Greatest Opening Weekend Ever" (copyright ESPN), this would be considered a really great opening weekend match up. As it is, it has been downgraded to solid match up. Kansas State is coming off a season where they were decimated at quarterback. They were down to their 5th string at one point. All things considered, a 6 win season last year wasn't terrible. Is this one of those years where Bill Snyder exceeds everyone's expectations and wins double digit games? For Stanford, they can't have a repeat of last year where they lost in week 1 to Northwestern. Clearly by the end of the season they were one of the best teams in the country, but they couldn't overcome that number 2 in the loss column and make the Playoff. Christian McCaffrey kicks off his campaign to show why he should have won the Heisman last year. There is no way he will match last year's yardage total (it's hard to do that when you break a record that stood for over 20 years), but he will still show he is the most dynamic playmaker in the nation. They have a new quarterback so they will be leaning heavily on him. Teams can stack the box but they can only hope to contain him. Stanford knows they need a strong start this year and will dominate a solid, but over-matched, Kansas State squad. PICK: Stanford 41, Kansas State 21
Such a highly anticipated match up here. Can Houston show they can compete with the bully of the Big 12 and make a pseudo audition for Big 12 expansion? What's the over/under on how many times the announcers will bring up that aspect in the game? 20.5? Houston may play in a Group of 5 conference, the AAC, but they have shown they can compete with the big boys in football when they beat Florida State in the bowl game last year. Houston has had runs of success in the past as well. This year they are led by awesome quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Their offense was great last year and now they are in year 2 of Tom Herman's regime. Scoring should not be a problem for them. The Cougars also had a top 10 rushing defense last year, but the passing defense...not so much. That could be a problem because Oklahoma also returns a top signal caller in Baker Mayfield. Oh, and don't forget they still have Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon in the same backfield. Oklahoma has some receivers to replace, but they will be able to open up the passing game with their ground attack. This is a double digit line and Houston has no problem scoring. Take the points but Oklahoma will win the game. That could stop Houston's Playoff campaign before it even gets started. But be on the lookout in this one, because Oklahoma usually has a rough year when they have high expectations going into the year. PICK: Oklahoma 38, Houston 31
Vegas is basically calling this game even with the 3 point boost for the home team. So a middling SEC team is even with the presumed favorite in the PAC 12 south? Not sure what that says about the PAC 12, or if this is a case of over-hyping A&M early in the season like every year. To be sure, the Aggies have some very talented players. Their D-line is nasty with potential #1 NFL draft pick Myles Garrett anchoring the line. They also have Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight at QB after the exodus of quarterbacks the past offseason for Texas A&M. Everyone remembers the Sugar Bowl against Alabama for Knight, but no one seems to remember he was a mediocre quarterback the following season with only 14 TD passes and 12 INTs. And coaches are hyping him to be a leader like Tim Tebow! UCLA, meanwhile, has its own super-hyped QB in Josh Rosen, aka Chosen Rosen. He had a very solid true freshman season, and great things are expected of him this year. UCLA needs to win this game, not just for themselves, but the perception of the PAC 12. While that might not be a fair way of looking at it, that's how the football world will look at it when comparing conferences. Even though they are on a road at a tough venue, it's tough to pick against a top 20 team versus an unranked perennially over-hyped program. PICK: UCLA 24, Texas A&M 17
What a great location for a neutral site game. The not-yet-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. LSU comes back with all-world back Leonard Fournette. LSU is stacked on defense. Plus that defense is now led by former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. He is considered one of the best coordinators in the game. He has a defense oozing with talent. Not only that, he gets to go against the team he used to coach for just last season. I doubt the Badgers overhauled much just so he wouldn't know what's coming. The question with LSU always comes down to quarterback. Is this the year they can finally consistently get the ball to their NFL caliber receivers? It might not matter for Brandon Harris though. He should just have to connect on a few play action passes after handing the ball off to Fournette 30 times per game. Wisconsin will be a good team like always. Most people are down on them this year not because of their talent, but because of their schedule. In addition to LSU, they have to play Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, and Iowa in their conference schedule. All consecutively! That's tough. Wisconsin always plays tough in these opening week games, but LSU should wear them down and pull away in the end. PICK: LSU 31, Wisconsin 17
North Carolina had a very good year last year. They finally had that breakthrough and made it to the ACC championship game. They hung with Clemson the entire game and were a blown onside kick call away from having a chance to send it into overtime. That defense though... They got shredded on the ground by a Baylor team that didn't even have a quarterback that game. You would think the defense would be better this year. It has nowhere to go but up. But look out if it isn't. Georgia counters with Nick Chubb and he can really pound the rock, although he is coming off a major knee injury. Georgia will rely on him plenty since they have a true freshman - Jacob Eason - starting at QB....he's an exciting player to watch, so keep an eye on him. North Carolina has its own stud running back in Elijah Hood. So many question marks for both these teams. If anything, the game should go by quickly with so much running. This one feels like a real toss up. Let's go with the S-E-C team playing in its own backyard. Replay of last year where UNC lost its opener to an SEC team and went on to have a good year. PICK: Georgia 27, North Carolina 23
The defending champs, Alabama, come right out of the gate with a quality matchup against the USC Trojans. Bama is once again #1 in the country, and I don't think anyone has any problem with that. The defense will be phenomenal, and the offense will be stacked with top prospects with a mysterious QB - same Bama...different year. The Trojans will be looking for a nice little upset to jump start their season - the always talented, can't quite get there in the win column - USC Trojans. USC is another high profile team putting a fairly new QB (in terms of experience) at the helm, Max Browne. Browne isn't expected to match Kessler from last year, but who knows. Maybe Max Browne is the 2nd coming of Carson Palmer. What a way to start the season. Facing that Bama defense to start it off will be so much fun for Max. He's probably having nightmares already - ask former MSU QB Connor Cook. Keep an eye on the USC O-Line vs Bama D-Line. Whoever wins that matchup in the trenches will most likely determine the outcome of the game. If USC's O-Line can stave off the insanely talented Bama D-Line, then there's a chance for the Trojans. Here's the thing with USC: they tend to beat who they're supposed to beat and lose the games they are expected to fall. USC will come out hard and fast, and they might even take the early lead. Will Bama punch them in the mouth and put them in their place? You betcha....Bama by a couple of TDs. PICK: Alabama 34, USC 20
Auburn vs Clemson....I can't figure out whether this game will be amazing to watch or done by halftime because Auburn will fall on their faces.
Clemson is led by the best player in CFB, QB DeShaun Watson. That's all you need to know. He almost beat Bama by himself last year. Clemson brings back only 4 starters on D, problem right? Nope. Last year they only brought back 3 starters and almost won the damn thing so throw that stat out the window. The talent is everywhere for Clemson to go back to the CFB Playoff. If Clemson does have a "weakness", it would be their passing defense. Which means Auburn will have to throw the ball a ton and score a ton. Auburn named Sean White the starting QB. I imagine it's because he can throw the ball way better than Jeremy Johnson and JFIII (the QB transfer from Last Chance U). You'll probably end up seeing JFIII play as a QB/RB in spurts throughout the game, because he's just too fast and dynamic to keep on the bench. The more I think about this game, the more I think that Auburn will scare Clemson fans for 2 or more quarters. I'm hoping for a close one here. If Auburn wins this game, get ready for the SEC Hype Train. I still think that eventually Watson puts Clemson back on top, late 3rd or 4th quarter, for good. PICK: Clemson 47, Auburn 38
You know the season has started when Wake Forest takes on the perennial powerhouse, Tulane. The Demon Deacons come in with a ton of experience from last year. The defense was top notch, but the offense was freaking awful, particularly the offensive line. The Demon Deacons should be staring down a bowl season in 2016, and you can bet your hard earned cash on WF taking one of the big boys in the ACC down. Tulane is just a small bump in the road. Wake is bringing back their top 2 QB's, Wolford and Hinton. If the O-Line can give them any time you should see a big improvement in the offense from last year. Look for a solid start of the season in Wake and a tough road in the 2nd half with a backloaded schedule. Tulane....all I can say is that new coach Willie Fritz is going to need to pull off a miracle to make this a successful season. Good luck to those that picked Tulane - could be a rough year. I got Wake all the way in this one, baby!! Tulane pickers are a bunch of clowns. PICK: Wake Forest 30, Tulane 10
In case you haven't heard, Week 1 is full of phenomenal games. I expect this one to live up to the hype on Sunday Night. Right off the bat we get to see what Texas is really made of. The fine folks in Vegas think this will be a close game with a ton of scoring. I think most would agree that there is a quiet Texas hype going on in Austin. The offense is being overhauled by installing a "Baylor type" look. Expect Texas to try to move fast to keep the Irish from getting organized on D. Texas HC Charlie Strong will be playing 2 QBs and everyone is waiting to see if the freshman QB Buechele can take the reins to turn into the #1 guy. Not a whole lot of people realized that Texas ended up 106th in total defense last year. That's flipping horrible. Their D was barely better than freaking Cal's!! I imagine that Strong is putting a huge focus on sewing things up with the defense, because they most certainly need a major improvement to be a contender. The only way is up for the Longhorn D, so it better be a huge improvement to make that leap and get some of you risk takers solid points in 2016. The Irish are in the same boat as Texas. As of right now, Notre Dame doesn't know who the hell to start against Texas. Unlike Texas' QB situation, the Irish have 2 very talented QBs to choose from or not choose from....its starting to feel like ND will play both Zaire and Kizer, just like Texas. The RBs are stacked for Notre Dame, so get ready for the run game to be on full display behind a talented O-Line. For ND to be a Playoff contender they better score plenty of points this season since they lost a lot of talent on the D. They have always been a turnover focused defense, which means they'll give up big plays at times trying to take the ball away instead of tackling the guy with the ball. I'm tempted to take Texas here since the Irish D is a huge question mark, but on the other hand, the entire Texas team is a ginormous question mark. The Longhorns look fantastic on paper once again, but they just never seem to translate that into a fantastic team. ND's offense will carry the load and take out Texas by a TD. PICK: Notre Dame 42, Texas 35
Slight UPSET OF THE WEEK!! Ole Miss has a ridiculously tough schedule this season - go see for yourself. First up!! Dalvin Cook and the Seminoles in Orlando on Monday night with everyone watching. You can't ask for a bigger game for both of these teams in Week 1. Whichever team wins will make a huge statement toward a playoff spot and be the talk of the town for a week. Ole Miss is bringing back dart thrower, QB Swag Kelly, who demolished SEC defenses most of the time last year. The problem on offense is usually the running game with Ole Miss, but for 2016 the bigger question will be the O-Line that's starting 4 underclassman, yikes. You better believe that Florida State will bring everything they have to try and crumble the Rebel's O-Line to set a tone from the first whistle. If the Ole Miss O-Line can't hold up and Kelly doesn't get time, then the Rebels better hope the Landshark defense picks them up by smothering FSU QB - RSFreshman Francois and All American RB Dalvin Cook. There is plenty of hype behind Francois in Tallahassee and we all know how ridiculous Cook can be out there. Francois can scramble and make plays....that's as good as gold in Seminole land. The Noles are bringing back almost their entire team from last year. Of course they're going to be good - don't be stupid, stupid. I just don't think that Francois can pull off this win in his first start, call me crazy. Ole Miss will barely hold on in the end, putting FSU is a bind to start the season. PICK: Ole Miss 27, Florida St 24
Season Record - Straight Up: 0-0
Season Record - Versus Spread: 0-0
Upset of the Week: 0-0