Starting Off With a Bang!

With all due respect to the few crummy games from last weekend, we finally have reached the TRUE start of the new college football season. In this day and age, people are consistently critical of non-conference schedules of many upper-tier teams. For example, Alabama plays Arkansas State, UL Lafayette and Citadel. Georgia plays Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee and Massachusetts. Oregon plays Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State. I could go on and on, citing examples of soft scheduling. Every year there seems to be at least one or two intriguing first week matchups.

In my opinion, this year is a bit different. Not only are there quite a few great games, but these are games that will have season altering ramifications right from the jump (Notre Dame-Michigan, Washington-Auburn, Florida State-Virginia Tech, Miami-LSU). Even some of the middle-tier games are quite interesting (West Virginia-Tennessee, Purdue-Northwestern, Mississippi-Texas Tech, UNC-California). What makes these blockbuster games even better is that most of them are literally a coin flip in terms of public perception (and Vegas perception, for that matter) on who is going to come out on top. It is my belief that this will be the most difficult handicapping week of the year.

I love a challenge, so let’s make some predictions for some lopsided games, as well as the high profile games on the slate. I will finish with predictions for the Heisman and the College Football Playoff. It’s going to be a great year!

Ohio State -38 vs. Oregon State – Is there disarray in Columbus? You bet. Will it affect there ability to get through the entire year unscathed? Extremely likely. Will it hurt them for their first game? Actually, quite the opposite. I think they come out angry with a point to prove. The poor Beavers are going to get steamrolled.
Ohio State 49 Oregon State 6

South Carolina -29.5 vs. Coastal Carolina – The Gamecocks are going to be a team to look out for this year. They are definitely a program on the upswing. This spread is about ten points too low.
South Carolina 48 Coastal Carolina 10

Washington +2.5 vs. Auburn – This will be a great game. Two great college QB’s that are supported by great running games. I think in the end, the loss of four starters on Auburn’s offensive line might hurt. Chris Peterson outcoaches Gus Malzahn.
Washington 27 Auburn 23

West Virginia -9.5 vs. Tennessee – West Virginia’s high octane offense will hit Tennessee hard. The Vols will be a much better team by the end of the year. Will Grier will put up big numbers that will catapult him into the early Heisman talk.
West Virginia 34 Tennessee 23

Michigan +2 vs. Notre Dame – Huge year for Jim Harbaugh. Pressure is on and it is time to start putting things together. The addition of Shea Patterson will help tremendously and the Michigan D will hold down the Fighting Irish just enough to eek out a win.
Michigan 27 Notre Dame 21

Alabama -24.5 vs. Louisville – Saban is being coy about his starting QB. Let’s be honest, Tua is the man. The loss of Lamar Jackson will have Petrino scrambling for a suitable replacement that just isn’t quite there yet. The Crimson Tide shows the country why it is a virtual lock for the final four playoff.
Alabama 45 Louisville 17

Florida State -7.5 vs. Virginia Tech – I think Justin Fuente is a great coach and I see Virginia Tech as a 9 win team. I just think they are in a difficult spot here. The are breaking in new linebackers and cornerbacks and going into Doak Campbell in Willie Taggart’s first game at FSU with Deondre Francois returning. Cam Akers will also carry for over 100 yards. Florida State with a backdoor cover over a pesky Hokie team.
Florida State 34 Virginia Tech 24

LSU +3.5 vs. Miami – No one likes the Tigers here and everyone has Ed Orgeron fired by mid-season. This line seems about 4 points lower than public perception, which creates a red flag for me. I think OSU transfer Joe Burrow is going to be better than people think. LSU might not win, but I think they cover, which obviously is much more important!
Miami 24 LSU 23

The Heisman: 
The are great players to be considered for the Heisman on both sides of the ball this year. It is rare for a defensive player to pull off winning the Heisman. A few that have a chance are Ed Oliver of Houston and Nick Bosa of Ohio State. D’Andre Swift of Georgia, JK Dobbins of Ohio State and Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin, all have a great shot from the running back position. From the QB position, Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, Trace McSorley of Penn State, Khalil Tate of Arizona, Jake Fromm of Georgia and Will Grier of WVU all have a shot. My pick is going to be Stanford Running Back Bryce Love. Stanford plays USC, Oregon and Notre Dame – all in the month of September. This gives Love the chance to shine under the spotlight. I am predicting 2,000 yards and the Heisman for him and he will be rewarded for not jumping to the NFL last year.

College Football Playoff:
50% of my prediction could be shot down in Week 1, so this should be interesting…

My final four teams are:
1 – Alabama
2 – Clemson
3 – Michigan
4 – Washington

10 other teams to keep an eye on:  Ohio State, Georgia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Penn State, Auburn, Notre Dame, USC, Boise State, Stanford.

National Champion: Clemson Tigers

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