If there is a silver lining to my opening weekend picks, it is that I was close to covering a number of those games, as seven of my losses last week were by a touchdown or less. A couple go the other way here and there and I could be looking at 11-5 instead of 5-11. But yada yada yada, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Anyway, hopefully on to more successes this week.
Last Week ATS: 5-11 (2-4 National, 3-7 B1G)
#12 Florida (-3) vs. Miami (FL) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN
The defenses should take center stage early Saturday afternoon as after one game both teams haven't yet given up a touchdown. The bad news for Duke Johnson and Miami is that Florida should get a couple more key pieces of their defense back with LB Antonio Morrison and CB Loucheiz Purifoy eligible to return from suspension. The Gators will also get RB Matt Jones back on the offensive side of the football to pair with Mack Brown coming out of the backfield. While I'm not often a fan of a road team giving points in a rivalry game, I have to make an exception this week. Quarterback Stephen Morris didn't look too good last week against Florida Atlantic and I could see the tough Gator D forcing him into some mistakes that sways the decision in Florida's favor. Plus, it's not like the Hurricanes are going to get a huge home field advantage boost.
Florida 20 Miami (FLA) 14
#2 Oregon (-24) vs. Virginia - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
Last week Virginia faced a up-tempo offense in BYU, but Oregon figures to score more points than the Cougars did in Charlottesville. Both Oregon and BYU averaged just under 17 seconds per play last week, but we aren't going to be confusing the two offenses anytime soon. Oregon rolled up a school-record 772 yards of offense against Nicholls State, but did we really expect anything less from a terrible FCS team? One reservation I have about giving the 24 points in this matchup is how Oregon responds to the cross-country trip that they are facing. While I'm not saying that Virginia is going to win because a bunch of college athletes can't handle a long flight, it could be the difference between winning by 24 and maybe 34, especially for a team that doesn't make that trip that often.
Oregon 42 Virginia 24
#6 South Carolina vs. #11 Georgia (-3) - 4:30 PM EST - ESPN
Right now Georgia can't catch a break. Not only did they lose a tight battle on the road against Clemson last week, but they also lost wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell when he tore his ACL after celebrating the Bulldogs' first TD of the year. They return home this week, but they have to go up against what should be a pissed off Jadeveon Clowney. This has the feelings of a bounce-back game for Georgia, especially after the 35-7 drubbing they took from the Gamecocks last year. Georgia's defense will get safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Corey Moore back, and will be glad to not be facing a team that can move the ball like Clemson. You know that Mark Richt is telling his team that just because they lost on Saturday that the loss doesn't totally erase any national title hopes they have, but they can't afford to lose anymore. Georgia earns a hard-fought victory between these two rivals on Saturday.
Georgia 27 South Carolina 21
#15 Texas (-8) vs. BYU - 7:00 PM EST - ESPN2
This game is the early-season head scratcher of the year so far. The line opened with Texas as a 3.5 point favorite, but didn't take long to shoot up to where it is now. At 3.5 point favorites people were ready to start betting their houses and spouses on the Longhorns. This seems a little closer to what it should be, but there are many that think this line should be easy for Texas to cover. The thing that scares me is that Vegas doesn't give out free money. You know all those big buildings with all those lights in Vegas? They were built because of plenty of games like this where the line seems too good to be true. BYU should get back senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman, which means QB Taysom Hill should improve on the poor passing numbers he had against Virginia last week. BYU also still as Kyle Van Noy on defense, who could force David Ash into some mistakes to keep the game close. Provo is a tough place to go and play, and I think BYU will find a way to keep it close.
Texas 24 BYU 20
Washington State vs. #25 USC (-16.5) - 10:30 PM EST - Fox Sports 1
Washington State plays USC for the first time since 2010 and since then a lot of things have changed between the two schools. Lane Kiffin was in his first year at USC and Reggie Bush still had possession of his Heisman Trophy, while Washington State was floundering under Paul Wulff (Who?). Mike Leach is now at the helm for Wazzu and he'll dock his pirate ship at The Coliseum on Saturday night. The Cougs put up a spirited effort in losing at Auburn last week, and now step into conference play. USC should get running back Silas Redd back, but still are trying to decide between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler at quarterback. How can you not be rooting for Mike Leach to come into Los Angeles and upset Kiffykins? While I'm being realistic and not thinking Wazzu actually pulls off that upset, I do think they keep it within 17 points.
USC 38 Washington State 30
San Diego State vs. #3 Ohio State (-29.5) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
While many (including myself) would have liked to see more than a 20 point win against Buffalo in the season opener, when you look at it the result wasn't terrible for a team missing a few starters on both sides of the football. This was the first action in a game that counted for many of these players in nine months, so of course there is going to be a little rust and kinks to work out. Now if the Aztecs are able to keep it within 20 points against the Buckeyes after the Aztecs lost by 21 to Eastern Illinois last week, then it might be time to start worrying a little more. If San Diego State gave up over 500 yards of offense to Eastern Illinois what might the Urban Meyer machine do on Saturday? Aztec QB Adam Dingwell threw four interceptions last week, so you know returning Bradley Roby and the rest of the defense are salivating at the possibility of creating some turnovers. It is not known how much help Dingwell will get from running back Adam Meuma, who ran for 1400 yards last year but suffered an ankle injury last week. The Aztecs have been to Columbus three times since 2001, losing all three meetings but none by more than 21 points. This trip they will have more problems on their hands than some of those past teams.
Ohio State 52 San Diego State 20
South Florida vs. Michigan State (-23.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU
Just take a minute to truly think about what you are dealing with in this matchup. Do you go with the team that not only willingly hired Jim freaking Bollman to be their offensive coordinator, but is also laying almost 24 points in this game. Or, do you take the points with a team that just lost by 28 points at home to a FCS team that went 7-4 last year? Even though I'm just going to assume that which ever side I ended up picking in this game will end in pain, I'm counting on South Florida to show a bit more fight this week. The idea of giving nearly 24 points behind #Walrusball is just too frightening to want to have to actually live through.
Michigan State 27 South Florida 10
Cincinnati (-9.5) vs. Illinois - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
Cincinnati will look to make it back-to-back destructions of Big Ten teams that are projected to finish near the bottom of the conference this year. Last week the Bearcats spoiled the Purdue debut of Darrell Hazell, while Illinois held off a late rally by Southern Illinois to win 42-34. Cincinnati has covered seven of their last eight games dating back to last season, while Illinois is 1-9 in their last ten games against the spread. While we are only heading into the second game of a new season, I'll ride those trends until the wheels fall off.
Cincinnati 37 Illinois 20
Eastern Michigan vs. Penn State (-24.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Last week Eastern Michigan needed a second half rally to secure a win over Howard. Howard uses the same logo as the Buffalo Bills, so that should tell you everything you need to know about them. Just kidding, Howard is better because they have actually had a winning season recently. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Christian Hackenberg was solid in his Penn State debut, and will now get to play his first game at Beaver Stadium as a NIttany Lion. Penn State should be able to improve significantly on this week on the 57 yards the gained on the ground last week. Establishing the running game will open things up more for Allen Robinson, who caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown last week in just one half of play.
Penn State 45 Eastern Michigan 13
Syracuse vs. #19 Northwestern (-17.5) - 6:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
A rematch of last year's 42-41 Northwestern win in the season opener will take place in Evanston on Saturday night. There has been plenty of changes at Syracuse with QB Ryan Nassib and head coach Doug Marrone heading to the NFL and Syracuse moving from the Big East to the ACC. Northwestern returns quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian along with running back Venric Mark from last year's team. The Wildcats did lose starting cornerback Daniel Jones for the season to a knee injury in the win over Cal last week. Colter and Mack were banged up in the win over Cal, which saw the Golden Bears offense run 99 plays against the Wildcats. While nobody is mistaking Syracuse's offense for the "Bear Raid", it is worth seeing how the injuries and the amount of time the defense was on the field last week effects Northwestern. I'll take a flier on Syracuse keeping this barely inside the number.
Northwestern 41 Syracuse 27
Navy vs. Indiana (-12.5) - 6:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
This is a rematch of the matchup last year that saw Navy comeback from being down nine to the Hoosiers with just over five minutes to play to pull out a 31-30 victory. This is Navy's first game of the year, but they do return sophomore starting quarterback Keenan Robinson and the leading rusher from last year, Noah Copeland. The Hoosiers have a high-powered offense, but I haven't seen enough from their defense to trust them to cover this spread against a triple-option offense that is tough to prepare for. Just like last year's matchup, I see this game coming down to the last few minutes.
Indiana 38 Navy 30
Southern Mississippi vs. #22 Nebraska (-29.5) - 6:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Southern Mississippi comes into this matchup riding a 13-game losing streak after dropping their season opener at home to Texas State 22-15. That streak doesn't look to be ending anytime soon with Arkansas and Boise State lurking after this game in Lincoln. Last week Southern Miss turned the ball over six times to Texas State, so this week figures to be a time for the Blackshirts to get well after surrendering 34 points to Wyoming last week. With the weapons that Nebraska has on offense, if this game is close the Cornhuskers will have a lot to worry about with UCLA visiting next weekend.
Nebraska 55 Southern Mississippi 21
#14 Notre Dame vs. #17 Michigan (-4.5) - 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
The showcase game on ESPN this week is for the annual meteor game. Since the meteor always lets us down and never shows up like it is supposed to, I guess I'll actually have to pick a winner in this one. These two teams have played every year since 2002 with Michigan holding a 6-5 edge, but as well all know, after next year it is unknown as to when these two teams will meet again. Both teams won big in week one in games that they were supposed to rout their opponents in. If anything, Michigan looked better than I thought they would last week in the 50 point win over Central Michigan. Both teams have strong defenses, but I think Michigan offers Notre Dame a little bit more of a challenge on offense. The last four meetings between these two have been decided by seven points or less, but Notre Dame won't have the luxury of Denard Robinson dropping back for Michigan and throwing five interceptions like last year. I think the Wolverines will have a little bit too much under the lights at Michigan Stadium in another game between the two decided by single digits.
Michigan 24 Notre Dame 17