Welcome to what will be the first of our weekly forays into the wonderful world of college football point spreads and, ahem, entertainment only picks. Other gamblin' posts tend to focus on good values and spreads that seem advantageous. I have always gone the other direction. I enjoy looking at the big games, and giving it my best shot. Every week, we will look for 4 or 5 of the biggest games, as well as each of our B1G companions. I will, however, steer clear of the Penn State games, as you will get all of our predictions on Friday each week. I may sneak in a couple other games that seem too good to pass up though. If you have other things you would like to see going forward this fall, let me know in the comments, and you may see it down the road.
All spreads are as of Wednesday evening, and come from the VI Consensus at VegasInsider.com.
Texas A&M at South Carolina (-10.5)
Not exactly a cake walk for the Aggies as they begin life after Manziel and Mike Evans on offense, with Kenny Hill getting the nod for Kevin Sumlin. Even without Jadeveon Clowney, he will be facing a very good South Carolina defense, in one of the tougher SEC environments for an opposing QB. On the other side, Steve Spurrier turns to fifth year senior Dylan Thompson to replace Connor Shaw. Thompson will be a first time starter, but has attempted over 200 passes the last 2 seasons, with 1,800+ yards, 14 TDs, and just 5 picks. Oh, and Mike Davis is back, and he's pretty good.
10.5 is a lot of points, especially going into the first game, but with the home field, experience at QB, and a very good defense, I think the Gamecocks grind out a 2 touchdown win.
Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers at Washington State (-8)
What's this? You don't think BTPR-Wazzu is a big game? I don't know what to tell you, but they aren't BTPR just for jokes. OK, that's not entirely true, but I couldn't pass up a chance to pick this game. The Scarlet Knights still have Gary Nova at QB, and Mike Leach's quick passing game will neutralize BTPR's strength on defense on the line. Combine that with a cross country trip, and I think the Cougars cover the 8 pretty easily.
Clemson at Georgia (-7.5)
What a novel concept we have here. Two power conference teams, both of whom are generally pretty good, or better, playing a home and home, on campus. Last year these two gave us one of the games of the year over the opening weekend. Clemson loses their stars in QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins, while UGA needs to replace Aaron Murray, among others.
This is another game where the visiting team is breaking in a first time starter in a hostile environment. Cole Stoudt will at least face a Georgia defense with a lot more questions than answers. On the other hand, Georgia gets Todd Gurley back, and if he's healthy all year, he's my pick to win the Heisman. I expect him to have a big game, and the Bulldogs to pull away late.
Florida State (-17.5) vs. Oklahoma State (at Arlington, TX)
On one side, last year's Heisman winner returns, with plenty of talent surrounding him from last year's national championship team. On the other side, Mike Gundy needs to replace plenty of talent on offense, while somehow finding a way to stop the Seminole's potent offense. It's suddenly very clear where the 17.5 points came from.
I'm always a little weary of big numbers in opening weeks, but with Jameis Winston back, and Oklahoma State's defense full of questions, I think I take the favorite here.
Wisconsin vs. LSU (-5) (at Houston, TX)
Tthese two programs deciding to play a "home and home" at neutral sites is everything I hate about neutral site games, but that's not the point of this...entirely. This is probably the best game of the opening weekend, at least in terms of the likely level of competitiveness. Both teams will be breaking in first time starters at QB, but have plenty of talent to help out their new signal callers. The Badgers have the best player in the game, at least in my opinion, with Melvin Gordon in their backfield.
This is the one game where I'll take the underdog. I think it's close, and while the Badgers may not get the W, they'll be right in it to the end.
Around the B1G
Eastern Illinois at Minnesota (-16.5)
Jacksonville State at Michigan State (-32.5)
Youngstown State (+11.5) at Illinois
Indiana State at Indiana (-24.5)
Northern Iowa at Iowa (-16)
Appalachian State (+34.5) at Michigan
Western Michigan (+10) at Purdue
Ohio State (-16.5) at Navy
James Madison at Maryland (-22)
Florida Atlantic at Nebraska (-22)
Cal at Northwestern (-11)
Oregon and Baylor were two of my favorite picks last year. They were often giving tons of points (not unlike this week), but the quick strike offenses put up points, and they did it quickly. With each team returning quite a few of their skill players, and playing undermanned opponents, at home, I think these are worth a look.
South Dakota at Oregon (-53)
SMU at Baylor (-33)
Enjoy the return of football!