I just want to be like Bruce Buffer and yell "IT'S TIMMMMMEEEEEEEEEE". MC&J is back, and while last season wasn't the greatest with a 97-103-3 record in MC&J's first full season of picks, hopefully this year have a lot more time above the .500 mark than below it. Win or lose MC&J will be here every week to try and pick the best national games and all the Big Ten games where teams play FBS opponents (for entertainment purposes only of course). So just sit back and enjoy the ride these next four months.
National Games (All games Saturday unless noted):
#21 Texas A&M v. #9 South Carolina (-10.5) - Thursday 6:00 PM EST - SEC Network
COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS BACK! Nothing like Jadeveon Clowney chasing Johnny Manziel to start off the season. Wait, where'd those guys go? Oh well, who needs them anyway? The show must go on. The marquee name in this matchup (aside from Speedy Noil on the sheer awesomeness of his name alone) is South Carolina running back Mike Davis. There had been question of whether Davis would be available for this contest, but the Ol' Ball Coach said he expects Davis at "full speed". Davis has to be licking his chops since not only he has four offensive lineman back, but also he'll get to take on a Aggie defense that gave up 5.4 yards per rush last year. South Carolina starts off the season strong with a double-digit win.
South Carolina 34 Texas A&M 21
Boise State v. #18 Mississippi (-10.5) - Thursday 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
Former Arkansas State coaches will lead their teams to Atlanta for an interesting opening Thursday night matchup. Hugh Freeze headed the Red Wolves in 2011 before moving on to Oxford, while Bryan Harsin was the head man in Jonesboro last year before going back to Boise, where he was offensive coordinator from 2006-10, to replace Chris Petersen. Ole Miss could have a deadly combination this year with Dr. Bo Wallace passing to Laquan Treadwell. On the defensive side, Robert Nkemdiche will look to make a home in the backfield, but Boise State has a good core of Grant Hedrick at quarterback, Jay Ajayi, who ran for 1,425 yards last year, and wide receiver Matt Miller. Ole Miss should come out on top in this one, but laying 10 points seems a little high. The Broncos should at least be able to keep things interesting.
Mississippi 31 Boise State 24
#16 Clemson v. #12 Georgia (-7.5) - 5:30 PM EST - ESPN
After these teams met on opening weekend last season in Clemson, the scene shifts to Athens in what should be another entertaining game between the schools. Last year it was Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray taking the snaps, while this year it'll be Cole Stoudt for Clemson, and Huston Mason for Georgia. Clemson will also be without the electric Sammy Watkins, who moved on to the NFL, but they do still have a nasty defensive line, that is headed by Vic Beasley. That defensive line will be put to the test as they try to slow down Georgia running back Todd Gurley. Last year saw Clemson pull out a 38-35 victory in Death Valley, and this year while be another close contest between the hedges, but Georgia takes this one in front of their home crowd.
Georgia 31 Clemson 28
#1 Florida State (-18.5) v. Oklahoma State - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
Jameis Winston and company open the regular season at the Jerrydome looking to start defense of their national championship against Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys. While the Seminoles are opening the season at AT&T Stadium, their main goal is to be closing out the season in Dallas in January. Last year saw Florida State go 11-2-1 against the spread, and I think they'll continue that roll to start the season. This one could get ugly early as the Seminoles overpower a young Oklahoma State team.
Florida State 45 Oklahoma State 17
Utah State v. Tennessee (-6) - 7:00 PM EST - SEC Network
The last couple years have seen Utah State hit the road to put a couple major scares into power conference teams. In 2011 the Aggies dropped a 42-38 decision against Auburn, in 2012 it was a narrow 16-14 loss to Wisconsin, and in 2013 Utah State lost 17-14 in Los Angeles to USC. One of these days Utah State is gonna break through and win one of these, and I really think it could be Sunday. The Aggies have Chuckie Keeton back after he missed most of last year due to injury, and he should create a lot of trouble for a iffy Tennessee defense. Where Utah State might struggle is against the big receivers that the Volunteers have. I think it's time that Utah State finally pulls the upset, but with how good the Aggies have been lately and how bad Tennessee has been, is it really much of an upset?
Utah State 35 Tennessee 31
B1G Games (All games Saturday unless noted):
Rutgers v. Washington State (-8) - Thursday 10:00 PM EST - Fox Sports 1
Last year Rutgers headed out west to take on Fresno State to answer the season, and this year they'll make a similar trek to take on Mike Leach's Washington State team at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Last year Rutgers had to try and stop Derek Carr, and this year it doesn't get any easy when they try to slow down Connor Halliday and the offense of the Cougs. Washington State returns their whole defensive line so yards might be at a premium for running back Paul James. Rutgers won't be able to keep up quite as well this year in Seattle this year as they did last year in Fresno.
Washington State 43 Rutgers 27
Penn State v. Central Florida (-2) - 8:30 AM EST - ESPN2
This is a very tough game to get a read on for a number of reason. First off, this contest is being played across the pond in Dublin, and add in that it is the first game of the season for both teams. Next comes trying to figure out how Central Florida will perform without Blake Bortles. The Golden Knights return a number of offensive skill players so the transition for redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo should be cushioned a little. On the other side Penn State returns Christian Hackenberg at quarterback. James Franklin will be at the helm for his first game as Nittany Lions head coach. Much like last year's 34-31 game in Happy Valley, I think this year's matchup turns out very similar, except Penn State is on the winning side this time.
Penn State 28 UCF 24
Appalachian State v. Michigan (-34.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
Where were you on September 1, 2007? If you say anywhere besides watching Appalachian State beat Michigan you were doing 2007 wrong. Expectations aren't nearly as high for Michigan this year after they came off a 7-6 season in 2013, but that wouldn't make another Mountaineer win over the Wolverines any less sweeter. Alright, I don't think that Appalachian State can pull off another upset, but I do at least think they'll cover the nearly five touchdown point spread. Maybe if Appalachian State does find a way to win again, this time Michigan can at least say they lost to a FBS squad.
Michigan 37 Appalachian State 20
Western Michigan v. Purdue (-10.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU
Is everybody ready for a rematch of the 2011 Little Caesars Bowl? Anybody? No? Well I don't blame you. These two teams combined for a 2-22 record last year. The good news is one team will match their win total from the 2013 in the first week. Both teams have young quarterbacks that saw significant time last year, so hopefully both teams won't be quite as dreadful to watch this year. It's hard to think that Purdue should be favored by 11 against anybody, but I think they start off the season with a strong performance as Darrell Hazell looks to start turning things around in his second year in West Lafayette.
Purdue 30 Western Michigan 17
California v. Northwestern (-11) - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
After kicking off last season in Berkeley, the scene shifts to Evanston this year for the return matchup between these two teams. Not much went right for either team, as Cal struggled to a 1-11 campaign in Sonny Dykes' first year in charge, while Northwestern started the season strong but slumped to a 5-7 record. Northwestern was thought to have Venric Mark for another season, but he transferred recently to West Texas A&M. Cal shouldn't be as bad as last year and the future looks bright for sophomore Jared Goff, who set school records for passing yards and completions as a true freshman. With the number of returning starters that Cal has, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Golden Bears keep this one close.
Northwestern 38 California 31
Florida Atlantic v. #22 Nebraska (-21.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Oh what could've been. Had Carl Pelini not resigned in late October last year, this matchup would've been the Pelini Bowl. Instead we get Bo Pelini matching up against Charlie Partridge, who comes from the BERT coaching tree. Nebraska returns quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr, who filled in admirably after Taylor Martinez was injured early in the season, and running back Ameer Abdullah, who ran for 1,690 yards last season. Armstrong has the luxury of throwing to receiver Kenny Bell, which could make for a long day for Partridge's team. At least Pa had a lot of practice with long days after coaching under BERT at Arkansas last year
Nebraska 47 Florida Atlantic 20
#14 Wisconsin v. #13 LSU (-5) - 9:00 PM EST - ESPN
The best game of the opening weekend of the college football weekend happens in Houston on Saturday night. LSU has a tough test if they hope to extend their nation-best non-conference winning streak, which currently sits at 46 games. In a bit of a surprise, Tanner McEvoy will take the snaps from center in this game, ahead of returning starter Joel Stave. Whether it was McEvoy or Stave, the Badger offense figures to feature a heavy dose of running back Melvin Gordon, who ran for 1,609 yards last season. LSU's offense won't look too much different in that there should be plenty of handoffs. Terrence McGee and Kenny Hilliard return at running back, but who everyone wants to see is true freshman Leonard Fournette, who looks like he is about 54 years old. This feels like a game that'll come down to the wire, but the SEC finds a way to pull it out again against a Big Ten team.
LSU 24 Wisconsin 21
#5 Ohio State (-16.5) v. Navy - 12:00 PM EST - CBS Sports Network
Last time Ohio State opened the season against Navy, the Midshipmen pushed the Buckeyes to the limit in Columbus. This time the teams will square off in Baltimore, so get your crab cakes hot for this one. With such high expectations before the season, things got off to a rough start before the first kick for the Buckeyes with the season-ending shoulder injury to senior quarterback Braxton Miller. This doesn't mean that we should cancel the season though, as redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett possesses plenty of talent, and has numerous weapons surrounding him on the offense that should help to ease his transition to starter. Sure the Buckeyes have to replace Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde on offense from last year's team that went to the Orange Bowl, but in Urban we trust.
Where the Buckeyes are really going to be tested on Saturday is against the triple-option attack of Navy. Lucky for them they've had all offseason to prepare for Keenan Reynolds and the Navy offense. Last year Ohio State was stout against the run, so I don't think you'll see Navy be able to gouge the defense. Where Ohio State got victimized was against the pass, and that's not exactly in Navy's bag of tricks. The defensive line of the Buckeyes is so good, even without suspended Noah Spence, so it could be a long day for those lining up in the backfield for Navy.
I think this Buckeye team has a chip on their shoulder after everybody is seemingly writing them off after the injury to Braxton. They have something that they want to prove, and I think it isn't quite as close as many are thinking it'll be. The defense steps up as the offense finds their stride early and sets the table for a strong regular season. Navy is going to be a pretty good team this year, so as the season goes on this win will look better and better for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State 38 Navy 17