Football is finally here and if Thursdays games showed you anything, week 1 can be a crap-shoot. That is exactly why I have emerged to help 3rd & 57 readers navigate these turbulent waters. Here are some picks for week 1 that should fatten that wallet.
South Alabama at MSU (-28)
28 points is waay too many to bet on comfortably but there is nothing comfortable about week 1 lines. USA’s best player is their TE and they lost all 4 starting defensive linemen off a team that also has to break in a new QB. MSU has its own set of questions but at the end of the day, Mullen is a composite top-25 recruiter and has a massive talent advantage. I think this game is a blowout that MSU fans shouldn’t look in to deep in to. Not much to take from this opponent.
My pick: Bulldogs 45-7
Mizzou at West Virginia (-10)
The Mountaineers return their top passer, top rusher, and top 2 pass catchers off a pretty good offense last year that averaged 34 ppg. The WVU defense did give up some yardage but are playing an offense that struggled mightily in 2015 under Drew Lock. This is just my opinion but with everything going on at Mizzou, I thought they needed new blood in the football program and they promoted Barry Odom from within. Don’t like the hire and I don’t like the odds that the offense improves. Morgantown is one of the most hostile environments in college football and coupled with the big experience advantage at the skill positions, I like WVU here.
My pick: Couch burner big 31-10
#16 UCLA at Texas A&M (+3)
This is game that I’m not thrilled about picking because the mystery that is Kevin Sumlin football teams. In past years, they’ve looked like world beaters early in the year before crumbling like a dry piece of cornbread. This game features a match-up between young phenom Josh Rosen of UCLA vs transfer Trevor Knight who is trying to be the 1-year savior at A&M. Neither defense was particularly good last year and I’m not sure this year will be much different. What this game will boil down to is if Coach Mora can scheme around Myles Garrett because everyone knows he’s going to live in Rosen’s face. I like the Bruins to win but I’m not real confident in this one.
My pick: Bruins 24-20
#5 LSU at Wisconsin (+11)
This was one of the no-brainer lines to me. Wisky does not have the talent to line up and play smash-mouth football with the Tigahs. Add in that LSU sniped Dave Miranda away from Wisky and that has to have some added extra benefit in this match-up. Everyone knows Leonard Fournette is the best running back in college but I may be the only person on Earth, outside of LSU fans, who think we will see a much improved Brandon Harris. He’s talented and has enough experience to draw from to function in LSU’s simple offensive schemes under Miles. I think the Tigahs kick the hell out of Wisky. I apologize if you were expecting more sophistication.
My pick: Bayou Bengals 38-10
La Tech at Arkansas (-26)
The Hogs have a lot of questions after losing the likes of Brandon Allen and Alex Collins. They also lost a lot on defense. I think they are clearly the better team but it will take some time to figure out. This game gets a little Mississippi flavor with former Meridian star J’Mar Smith drawing his first start at QB. La Tech is a quality opponent but I think the more talented Hogs can easily grind this one out to a comfortable win, 26 points is just too many with the questions on offense.
My pick: Hogs 35-14
#18 Georgia at #22 North Carolina (+3)
One thing that I love when it comes to picking game is good teams who are home dogs. What I like even better is home dogs who are playing a team with a new coach. The flip-side is that UGA is more talented but they aren’t at the most important position, QB. The Bulldogs are starting Grayson Lambert who is a game manager at best. With RBs like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, that is a solid strategy if you have a gang buster defense but I’m not sold Kirby will have that in year 1. UNC is starting a new QB but there is some experience there for Larry Fedora to work with. With all the questions in the UGA secondary and Fedora’s track record as an offensive coach, I’ll take the upset.
My pick: Tar Heels 24-20
USM at Kentucky (-7)
One of my online books has this game at 7 and that’s all I need to know. My feeling about Stoops are no secret, the guy is a terrible coach. Looking up and down the Wildcat’s roster does nothing for me outside of Jojo Kemp. USM brings a first-year coach Jay Hopson who is coming off SWAC dominance at Alcorn. Dude can coach. He also brings Nick Mullens who has thrown for 8,722 yards in his career. Even though it’s a new regime, people don’t need to forget that USM won 9 ballgames last year. This is a good football team with a veteran QB. For those reasons, I think Jay Hopson and Nick Mullens write Mark Stoops’ eulogy Saturday.
My pick: #SMTT 28-24
#20 USC at #1 Bama (-11.5)
I don’t feel like waxing poetically on this one. Saban is Saban. Bama is Bama. USC is rebuilding. I like my odds.
My pick: RTR 34-13
#2 Clemson at Auburn (+7.5)
You mean to tell me I can pick Clemson and Deshaun Watson over a program that is a complete dumpster fire for only a TD and a FG. SIGN ME UP. Just this week the Tigers announced Sean White as the starter. While I like White as a passer and a competitor, I don’t think Gus knows how to call a game when he doesn’t have a running QB. Auburn’s defense is talented but how many 3 and outs can they withstand before they throw in the towel? Auburn is one bad break from the entire team laying down. They’re not playing hard for Gus. This one is easy.
My pick: Clemson Tigers 41-17
#11 Ole Miss at #4 FSU (-4)
I almost didn’t pick this game because I could see it going in so many directions. I think Ole Miss could potentially be a serious West Contender if we see down-the-stretch Chad Kelly. The problem I have is the best Chad we saw last year was when Tunsil returned. Not only that, they also lost the other OT to the NFL. I’m very curious to see what Kelly looks like with 2 non-NFL OTs. The OM defense is really fast but I think they are more built to stop passing teams than a power running attack game led by Dalvin Cook. The game will hinge on FSU freshman QB Deondre Francois. If the Rebs can get in his head early (looking at you Haynes), I could see them winning comfortably. That said, I think Jimbo is one of the best play-callers in CFB and will protect his young QB enough with Cook to get out with a win. In a game on match-ups, I like how FSU’s defense matches up better.
My pick: Criminoles 28-20