College football season is back! As always, it was a long offseason to slog through to get back to this point. Last week we were served a taste of the season when Florida-Miami and Arizona-Hawaii faced off. Just in those two games a top 10 team almost went down despite dominating the line of scrimmage, and a Group of 5 team knocked off a Power 5 team. This first full weekend of games doesn't have as many marquee matchups as the past few years of week 1 games. We all thought that big non-conference matchups would become the norm when they switched to the Playoff system, and it seemed like it was going to be that way. Maybe this is a one year blip, or maybe it's the same-old same-old as teams see even with the new system you are penalized much harsher for losing against a quality opponent than you are for beating an overmatched FCS foe.
As we start the season Clemson and Alabama are the clear cut favorites in the nation and seem to be on track for their 23rd consecutive meeting in the Playoff. The ACC is not as strong as in years past, so it looks like Clemson will have a fairly easy path to the Playoff again. Alabama is still Alabama, but Georgia has blown double digit leads against them two years in a row. And LSU is maybe poised to go up a level. The SEC is still very difficult but Alabama still has a roster stocked of future NFL players to navigate that gauntlet.
In the other major conferences, Texas is back....again. They are always back heading into each season until they lose to Maryland. Lucky for them the Terrapins are not on their schedule this year, so they should have a legit shot at the Big XII title again, which you would think comes with a Playoff berth. But they have an early test against LSU. Oklahoma is going to try to churn out their 3rd Heisman winning quarterback in a row. Lincoln Riley has done an outstanding job taking over for a legend and his latest project is a championship level QB in Jalen Hurts.
The Big 10 is all about Michigan and Ohio State. Ohio State still has the most talent, but have a new head coach in Ryan Day taking over for Urban Myer. Will it be business as usual, or will Jim Harbaugh and Michigan finally take the mantle as top team in the conference? While Michigan has been very successful under Harbaugh, the fan base is getting restless with their team's inability to beat Ohio State and even make a Big 10 championship game.
The PAC 12 currently has the lowest profile of the Power 5 conferences. They are perceived to be a conference of a lot of solid to good teams, but no championship contenders. As unfair as it is, the game between Auburn and Oregon in week 1 will mean a lot in the perception of the PAC 12. Oregon has to win this game to start changing the perception of the conference. Utah is the favorite in the PAC 12 south and Washington will be a top contender in the north versus Oregon.
Then it looks like the top Group of 5 teams this year will be UCF, Boise State, Memphis, App State, Cincinnati, Army, North Texas in some order. If UCF never made the Playoff after not losing a game for about 2 years, then there truly is no hope for them to ever make it. But that doesn't mean the Group of 5 isn't worth watching. Still exciting football going on and they can still rise up and knock off a Power 5 team just about any week.
It will be another year of trying to pick the games. Finally! Some games to pick!
Teams on bye: No One
#1 Clemson (-36)
#2 Alabama (-35)
North Carolina (+9.5)
#25 Stanford (-6.5)
Boston College (+4)
Florida State (-6)
#16 Auburn (-3.5)
#10 Texas (-20.5)
#4 Oklahoma (-22.5)
Season Record - Straight Up:
Season Record - Against the Spread: