College Football is upon us once again. While the debut of Georgia State as a Fun Belt team was mere morsel of an appetizer, Thursday it’s time to feast my friends.
There is a heck of a slate of games this weekend, beginning with 14 games on Thursday. I’m picking my top seven match-ups as I’ll do every week throughout the season (unless my honey-do list gets too long at home).
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina- 6p.m. ET on SEC Network: The Aggies begin life without Johnny Manziel, and South Carolina looks to find an identity on defense after Jadeveon Clowney. South Carolina has won 17 straight games at home, and Steve Spurrier is 23-1 all-time in openers as a college coach.
Sophomore Kenny Hill is the new Texas A&M quarterback. He attempted just 22 passes last season, but Kevin Sumlin has been able to put up big numbers no matter who his signal caller is. South Carolina also has a new starting QB in Dylan Thompson. Unlike Hill, Thompson has plenty of experience, including playing in 10 games last year as he completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 783 yards and four touchdowns.
Last year the Aggies showed no desire in playing defense against anyone giving up 32.2 points per game and an average of 475.8 yards per game. With an offense that features running back Mike Davis, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry en route to a 1,183-yard season, I think the Gamecocks take this one pretty easily.
Prediction: Most Las Vegas books have South Carolina as a 10.5-point favorite. I’m going with South Carolina 45, Texas A&M 24.
Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss- 8 p.m. ET on ESPN: Chris Petersen is gone. The BCS is gone. Thus it will be a long time before Boise State is able to prove to they truly are more than just a flash in the pan in the world of college football. A win over an up-and-coming SEC team would be a good start.
Ole Miss is favored by 11 in most books. That’s largely in part due to the fact that they’re led by senior quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw for 3,346 yards last season. Boise signal caller Grant Hedrick takes over full-time after splitting time with Joe Southwick last year.
The Rebels have a distinct advantage on defense with nine starters returning. Even though Boise State’s 6-2 record against ranked opponents since 2009 is an interesting tidbit, I don’t think this group of Broncos can hang.
Prediction: Look for Ole Miss and head coach Hugh Freeze to make statement in his third season opener. Ole Miss wins 28-14.
West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama- 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN2: This game has an interesting sub-plot. Projected starting quarterbacks Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker were teammates at Florida State in 2012, before Trickett went to West Virginia last year and Coker enrolled at Alabama this summer.
Trickett has further taken the storyline off the field by telling reporters that his first kiss was actually Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s daughter when they were six.
As far as Vegas is concerned off the field stories are the only intriguing aspects of this Chic-fil-A Kickoff game, with the Crimson Tide as a 27-point favorite.
The Mountaineers spread offense will be a good test for an Alabama secondary that wasn’t up to Saban’s lofty standards a year ago.
Prediction: I think Alabama is one of the best teams in the country, but I’m thinking West Virginia will cover here. I’m going Alabama 35, West Virginia 17.
Arkansas at No. 6 Auburn- 4 p.m. ET on SEC Network: This is a game that Vegas really wants you to put your money on. Auburn starting quarterback Nick Marshall won’t start the game, and no one knows if he’ll play at all thanks to a marijuana citation this off-season.
The Tigers are a 19.5 favorite despite Marshall’s suspension, because Vegas wants you to bet on the Razorbacks. But don’t fall for it. Auburn’s No. 2 QB Jeremy Johnson can play. He was a four-star prospect out of Montgomery, Ala. and was named Mr. Football as a senior.
Arkansas has won three of its last four trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium, but I don’t have much faith in a fourth victory.
Prediction: I think Auburn wins this one in a boat race. I’m taking the Tigers 42-20.
No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia- 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: This was an awesome game last year, with two veteran quarterbacks battling it out as Clemson held on for a 38-35 win.
This year it looks like another great match-up, just with a pair of inexperienced QBs this time around. Georgia will start senior Hutson Mason who has waited his turn the last three years behind Aaron Murray. Clemson will also go with a senior to start year in Cole Stoudt, but true freshman Deshaun Watson could also see time this season.
Clemson’s defense has the edge in this one with Vic Beasley one of a handful of veteran defenders who returned, but UGA has the X-factor with Todd Gurley.
Prediction: Georgia is favored by 7.5 in this one. I think that the Bulldogs win, but in another thriller 27-21 over Clemson.
No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State- 8p.m. ET on ABC: Jimbo Fisher wants his team to display an attitude of dominance in 2014. Dominance is what Vegas expects in this one with FSU favored by 18.5 points.
The Seminoles are loaded again, and the big stage in Dallas will be nothing new to them. Oklahoma State returns just 10 total starters on offense and defense from a team that appeared in the Cotton Bowl last year.
Prediction: FSU rolls in this one I think. I’m taking the Seminoles 42-16 over the Cowboys.
No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU: This all smash-mouth football fan could ask for. Two big physical teams, with a pair of the best running backs in the country.
Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ran for 1,609 yards last year and is considered by some to be a darkhorse Heisman candidate. LSU’s top tailback is a 6-foot-1, 224-pound freshman named Leonard Fournette, who has Jameis Winston-hype around him as he makes his collegiate debut in Houston on Saturday.
LSU will rotate quarterbacks with both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris both expected to play. Wisconsin will start Tanner McEvoy, who played safety for the Badgers last year. McEvoy brings a dual-threat element to the quarterback position that could make Wisconsin’s vaunted rushing attack even tougher to defend.
LSU is a five-point favorite in this one, and I think the Tigers athletes on defense get them by the Badgers.
Prediction: I’m going with LSU 21, Wisconsin 14.