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USC-Alabama and Ole Miss-Florida State headline Week 1’s college football bets, odds

College football returns with a stellar opening weekend schedule.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama vs Clemson Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For yet another year Money, Cash, & Joes to make all the important college football picks for the week (for entertainment purposes only). Thursdays will consist of the big national game picks for the weeks. This week has a couple Big Ten picks included since two games kick tonight. Fridays will have all the Big Ten games for the weekend. Last year’s record was right around .500, so hopefully this year can see the win percentage improve a bit.

Last year ATS: 108-105-4 (51-48-3 National, 57-57-1 B1G)

National games: (All games Saturday unless otherwise noted)

Kansas State v. No. 8 Stanford (-14) - Friday 9:00 PM EST - Fox Sports 1

Stanford will be looking to avoid losing their second straight season opener to a team clad in purple when they take on Kansas State on Friday night. Last year the Cardinal dropped their opener to Northwestern, and the loss was a big reason why Stanford was left out of the College Football Playoff.

All eyes in Palo Alto will be on Christian McCaffery, who last year broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season, and ended up finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting. The Cardinal will lean heavily on McCaffery after they lost quarterback Kevin Hogan to graduation and a few of their top receiving targets from last year.

Lightning won’t strike twice and see Stanford fall victim to purple power in their season opener again, but Kansas State should be able to give the Cardinal a little bit of a game. This feels like one of those point spreads that Bill Snyder teams always find a way to cover. Stanford wins but the margin of victory is inside two touchdowns.

Stanford 31, Kansas State 20

No. 3 Oklahoma (-11.5) v. No. 15 Houston - 12:00 PM EST - ABC

Oklahoma may be hosting Ohio State in a couple weeks but they have to be careful to not look past Houston. Tom Herman made a statement in his first year as head coach of the Cougars, ending the season with authority by leading his team to a 38-24 win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl.

The quarterbacks will be the stars of the show in Houston on Saturday. Baker Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns, helping Oklahoma make the College Football Playoff. Greg Ward Jr. was the only quarterback aside from Deshaun Watson to throw for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards.

If the Cougars can be as opportunistic on defense as they were last year, where they topped the FBS by forcing 35 turnovers, they have a shot at the upset. Even if they can’t, I still like Houston to keep things tight with the Sooners.

Oklahoma 37, Houston 30

No. 16 UCLA v. Texas A&M (-3) - 3:30 PM EST - CBS

Will Texas A&M start the season 5-0 again and then fall on their faces to the tune of a 3-5 finish for the third straight year? This year’s flavor at quarterback for the Aggies is Trevor Knight. Remember him? The graduate transfer from Oklahoma led the Sooners to a win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl but hasn’t done much since.

Jim Mora will see a familiar face across the sidelines in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who was UCLA’s offensive coordinator for the previous four seasons. Mazzone’s familiarity with the UCLA offense could give the Texas A&M defense a little to work with in terms of trying to stop sophomore QB Josh Rosen, who passed for 3,670 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. Another big part of the plan to stop Rosen is with stud defensive lineman Myles Garrett, who registered 12.5 sacks last year.

There are plenty of questions for both teams heading into the season, but here I have to side with the home team. Rosen has never seen a crowd as big and as loud as he’ll see on Saturday and he’ll show some nerves. The Aggies win a back-and-forth affair in College Station.

Texas A&M 41, UCLA 34

No. 18 Georgia (-3) v. No. 22 North Carolina - 5:30 PM EST - ESPN

It felt like decades that Mark Richt was at Georgia but in reality in was only 15 years. Following last season the school decided they had enough and fired Richt and hired Kirby Smart, who had been Alabama’s defensive coordinator since 2008. At least Smart’s job will get a little easier with the return of Nick Chubb from a knee injury he suffered last year. Sony Michel is a game-time decision as he recovers from a broken arm he suffered earlier in the summer.

This contest is the biggest toss-up for me of the opening weekend games. Both teams have question marks, and while I should take the points in this one, I just feel like Chubb (and possibly Michel) will be a little too much for the Tar Heels. Also, North Carolina won’t have Mack Hollins, last year’s FBS leader in yards per catch, for the first half after he was ejected in the bowl game against Baylor for targeting.

Georgia 27, North Carolina 17

No. 20 USC v. No. 1 Alabama (-12) - 8:00 PM EST - ABC

Something has to give at the Jerrydome on Saturday night. Alabama has won their last 14 season openers while USC has won their last 17 season openers. Oh yeah, don’t forgot about Lane Kiffin coaching against his former team. What a juicy start to the college football season.

Alabama is Alabama. We know they are going to crush skulls each year, but this year they do have to replace Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, as well as find a new quarterback. Whoever the quarterback is will have the luxury of throwing to Calvin Ridley, who caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards in his freshman season.

USC has their own standout wide receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, who also caught 89 passes last season. Add in Ronald Jones II, who ran for a USC freshman record 987 yards last year, and it’ll help take the pressure off of Cody Kessler’s replacement, junior quarterback Max Browne.

On a neutral field I do like the points with USC here. The Trojans certainly have the talent to keep pace with the Crimson Tide, I just don’t know if they have the coaching staff to pull off the victory. With all the turnover on their roster I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Crimson Tide come out of the gate slow but turn it on towards the end.

Alabama 24, USC 20

No. 2 Clemson (-8) v. Auburn - 9:00 PM EST - ESPN

After nearly taking down Alabama in the title game last year, Clemson will start their 2016 campaign with another foe from Alabama. There are some questions about how Clemson’s defense will respond after losing seven starters, but there are certainly no questions about the offense with Deshaun Watson at the helm. Last year Watson became the first FBS quarterback to pass for at least 4,000 yards in a season and rush for 1,000 yards.

Auburn doesn’t have quite the same punch that Clemson does on offense. Sean White was named the starter, but he didn’t impress much in the time he was on the field last year, tossing four interceptions and just one touchdown. Jeremy Johnson (remember last year when people were talking about him for Heisman?!?) and John Franklin II could see time.

I’m not thrilled about laying over a touchdown on the road but I think Clemson wins this by double digits. Auburn may keep it close for a while, but Clemson pulls away late.

Clemson 41, Auburn 28

No. 10 Notre Dame (-3.5) v. Texas - Sunday 7:30 PM - ABC

At this point Notre Dame has to be hoping to make it to Sunday without having to suspend anyone else. The good news for the Irish is they get Malik Zaire back after he was injured early last year. DeShone Kizer held his own at quarterback after Zaire was injured, taking the Fighting Irish to the Fiesta Bowl. Both will see time behind center on Sunday.

This is a make-or-break year for Charlie Strong. If Texas struggles again it’s hard to see Strong making it to next year. Freshman quarterback Shane Beuchele is being thrown into the fire in his first start, having to take on this tough Notre Dame defense.

With as much turmoil as the Notre Dame has been going through lately it’s hard for me to back them. This has the feel of a game where Texas finds a way to pull the upset. Longhorns win by a field goal.

Texas 23, Notre Dame 20

No. 11 Ole Miss v. No. 4 Florida State (-4.5) - Monday 8:00 PM - ESPN

What a game to cap off the first full weekend of college football this year! The game may technically be called a “neutral site” game but in all reality it’s essentially a home game for the Seminoles since it’s in Orlando.

Ole Miss has Chad Kelly back but he’ll be working with some new wide receivers and also some new offensive linemen. With the talent the Seminoles have on defense it might be hard for Kelly to find his feet early.

While Florida State will have Deondre Francois making his first start, they’ll have Dalvin Cook to lean on and it’ll be the difference here. Ole Miss may have a strong season this year, but I like the Seminoles and the short line here.

Florida State 33, Ole Miss 23

B1G Games:

Indiana (-10.5) v. Florida International - Thursday 7:30 PM EST - ESPNU

Indiana was so close to a winning season last year and then they remembered they were Indiana and lost to Duke 44-41 in overtime in the Pinstripe Bowl. Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard are gone, but Indiana will likely continue to point up points. At least they’ll have to if they want to finally get a winning season since their defense is always awful.

Florida International has three-year starter Alex McGough at quarterback so they might not be terrible this year (even though all Ron Turner teams are terrible). Just too many points for the Hoosiers to lay on the road here.

Indiana 45, Florida International 38

Oregon State v. Minnesota (-13) - Thursday 9:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network

Mitch Leidner is entering his 74th season as starting quarterback for Minnesota, but it’ll be his first full season with Tracy Claeys as head coach. Leidner needs two rushing touchdowns to tie for most rushing touchdowns in school history.

Gary Andersen will have a familiar face at quarterback when the Beavers taken the field. Darrell Garretson transferred from Utah State, where Andersen originally recruited him. The Beavers are young but they should have a decent team coming back and at least be able to keep it within two touchdowns of a Minnesota defense that lost a lot.

Minnesota 28, Oregon State 17