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 5-9 trying to peg the "Upset of the Week." Our picks against the spread is where you can make money. We went 66-83-2 in that format. That's pretty gross, but it's an improvement over 2015!
Another season is upon us. Week 0 started last weekend with a nice appetizer for the season. Hooray for college football! I am just going to copy and paste what I wrote from last year, because there are the same excited feelings and thoughts every year. "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. (Don't think that's happening in 2017.) 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."
For 2017, the traditional powers are dominating the top of the preseason polls: Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, USC, Penn State, and Oklahoma are sitting in the top 10. Can we consider Clemson a traditional power at this point? The term "Clemson-ing" is definitely retired, but I don't know if they fit the mold.
The SEC is going to try to field at least 2 teams this year that have less than 4 losses. Shocking, I know. Alabama had the best record in the SEC last year and the second best record was Florida at 9-4, and they did that with 1/2 a team. (Meaning their offense was worse than Kansas statistically.) The PAC 12 has some very good QBs coming back this year looking to light it up. The Big 10 has a loaded eastern division with 3 potential Playoff contenders. The Big 12 has a championship game returning pitting the 2 best teams in the conference against each other. You just know that the Big 12 is going to have their Playoff candidate knocked out of the picture with a loss. It will just be poetic justice for a league that is complete knee-jerk rather than visionary. The ACC might be the most well rounded conference with Miami and Virginia Tech actually making the other division respectable. (I still don't know who is in what division except that Florida State and Clemson are in the same division.)
On to the 2017 season and the start of our incorrect guesses about game outcomes!
Teams on bye: Houston and UTSA postponed due to Hurricane Harvey. We will say Stanford and Rice have byes this week too. We will just consider their games last week as Week 0.
#10 Oklahoma St. (-17)
Expectations are high for OK State this year with a million stars returning on offense and an average defense that will surely be their downfall if they don’t make the Big 12 Championship/CFP. There are loud whispers that OK State has a solid shot to make the Playoff if they can handle OU at home this year and walk away as the Big 12 Champ. Will they stub their toe right out of the gate though? It’s possible.
Tulsa is not a team to be overlooked by any means. They won 10 games last year with their Baylor-esque offense and (you guessed it) average defense…sounds vaguely familiar. They lose some key figures on offense but bring back four starters on the O-line. This offense is a system, just like it was at Baylor under Montgomery - insert the next guy and let it rip. The defense will be improved since they get back their key contributors in the secondary. Tulsa can certainly make the Pokes sweat for 3 quarters.
This is going to be a fun one to watch, but unfortunately for Tulsa, OK State runs away in the end with their star RB, Hill.
PICK: Oklahoma State 52, Tulsa 38
#23 Texas (-17.5)
#17 Florida (+4)
A nice top 20 match up for opening weekend. This game has more going on for headlines off the field than what is going to happen on the field. Florida is up to 10 players suspended for this game. That's probably a good sign for the Gators program going forward. It seems that all these teams in the state of Florida do better when they are controversial and have players breaking the rules. Is Florida State still known as Free Shoes University?
Michigan and Florida are having a ridiculous staring contest regarding the release of their depth charts. Football coaches are just absurd with guarding information. Is it really that big a deal if someone knows that Wilton Speight is starting instead of John O'Korn or vice versa? It's just football. Stop being so serious. Florida will be defending their SEC east crown, and while this doesn't impact that goal, it does impact the perception of the SEC vs the Big 10. In some roundabout way, this game will be a big data point in figuring out strengths of conference and Playoff participants, even if these 2 teams aren't in the running. Michigan is looking to add some sort of title with Harbaugh to match the hype he has brought the past few years. Just win a division at least once!
The Wolverines are replacing basically their entire defense and they are one of the least experienced teams in the country. Experience matters at the start of the season, so the pick is Florida even with all those Gators suspended.
PICK: Florida 20, Michigan 14
#4 USC (-28)
Western Michigan is coming off an outstanding year where they went undefeated in the regular season capturing the MAC crown, and they were able to make a New Year's Six bowl, the Cotton Bowl, where they lost to Wisconsin by 8. But as is the case with most Group of 5 teams that have unprecedented success, they lost their coach, P.J. Fleck, to a Power 5 school. They also lost some key players from that team, most notably WR Corey Davis who ended up being the 5th pick in the NFL draft. It's so hard to sustain that success at a Group of 5 program. Will they be able to maintain some of that momentum going into this season? Starting the season off against preseason #4 and defending Rose Bowl champion USC is not ideal. But this is USC where the hype train picks up a lot of steam only to derail at some point.
In case people forgot, this team started off 1-3 and people were calling for Clay Helton to be fired. They suddenly reeled off 9 straight wins, including that Rose Bowl victory, and everyone started the hype. USC has QB Sam Darnold who is the next great Heisman hope and many are projecting as top passer for the next NFL draft. A major bowl win, a hyped Heisman candidate, and a top 5 preseason ranking? It has all the makings of a classic USC let down. They still have talent but they had quite the talent drain losing some players to the draft. They might be looking ahead to Stanford, but I think they take care of business against Western Michigan in the season opening station on the USC Hype Train.
PICK: USC 38, Western Michigan 23
#15 Georgia (-14)
#3 Florida State
#1 Alabama (-7)
#13 LSU (-12.5)
This one was supposed to be a juggernaut showdown to begin the season, but if any of you watched the BYU vs Portland State game, you’ll know that we’re likely to be disappointed. The offense struggled horribly against an FCS team, albeit a solid FCS team…still not an excuse. The offense had a couple good drives, but the whole 3rd down conversion was lost on BYU.
You can bet that LSU will be slightly tougher to convert 3rd downs against. BYU’s defense was the star of last weekend and the sole reason they beat Portland St. You can bet that LSU watched that game together in the bayou and were salivating at rushing that O-line. I believe the quote from the announcer was (and I'm paraphrasing here), “If Portland State can do this to BYU on defense, then you can bet that LSU will be able to do it 4 times better”. Luckily for BYU, they have a chance to fix some things before heading to the SuperDome. LSU is going to be jacked up, to say the least, to prove to everyone that they’re legit this year behind their Cajun Coach, Ed O. If LSU gets past this game then they can cruise into October until they meet Florida. Obviously the defense will be fantastic, but if they can turn the offense into something worth a damn and become consistent under new OC Matt Canada, then they’ll compete for the SEC West.
With how terrible BYU looked last week, there’s no way I can take them here. LSU without a doubt.
PICK: LSU 33, BYU 14
Both teams (and coaches) need this win badly to get off on the right foot. The team that loses will be under a world of pressure going into Week 2.
To add to the drama, we have everyone’s favorite QB - Josh Rosen - returning from a shoulder injury. The overly confident, borderline annoying QB, talks a huge game but has yet to fully back it up. NFL scouts are dying to see if he has recovered and lead his team to a great season for once. Jim Mora Jr. has cleaned house on his staff after last year's complete disaster of a season. So there is a lot of turmoil on the Bruins side. Are they organized enough to get it done? A&M will have a change of heart this year in philosophy – RUN THE BALL - mainly because they don’t have a QB that can sling the rock around the yard to their young WRs. This game is almost guaranteed to be a close one until the end. You have to give the edge to the side with the better (much better) QB to lead their team to victory in the late stretches.
I’ll take UCLA at the Rose Bowl by a TD.
PICK: UCLA 31, Texas A&M 24
Georgia Tech (+3)
The last game of an exciting Week 1 isn’t all that exciting, but damn it, I’ll watch every minute of it.
Tennessee is supposedly rebuilding this year after losing QB Josh Dobbs, who was underwhelming in his final season. Expectations are kind of low for the Vols in 2017, but don’t let that fool you, there is a ton of talent in place to make a run at the SEC East. Eight of their top 9 tacklers are back on defense. Their new QB Dormandy is a true pocket passer with a solid arm, and if he can keep his composure the Vols will put up some points. This game will be one of two things for Butch Jones - they win and the hype train will take off - or - they lose and you can expect fans to call for his job. Funny how that works nowadays - these kids and their instant gratification.
GA Tech is a bit of an afterthought this year, which scares me and it should scare you too. Every time GA Tech is picked to win their division they end up under .500. When no one cares about GA Tech they find a way to win 9-10 games. GA Tech replaces their QB and lost their top runner to suspension. The Vols better not sleep on the triple option or they’ll get burned on national TV.
There are still too many factors going against GA Tech here to see them pull off this upset.
PICK: Tennessee 31, GA Tech 23
#22 West Virginia
#21 VA Tech (-4.5)
Season Record - Straight Up: 0-0
Season Record - Versus Spread: 0-0
Upset of the Week: 0-0