Skinner's Winners: College Football week-one picks
We are back, baby! College football is only one sleep away. Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso will be smiling back through your T.V. when you wake up tomorrow morning. With thousands of fans and hundreds of signs that will be waving back at you for hours as the College Game Day crew breaks down the first Saturday in college football. Is this one of the best days of the calendar year? Absolutely.
Over the years, week one has one or two decent match-ups that are surrounded by games you have on your T.V. just so you can have some sort of competitive football on (the number of hours that I have wasted watching games like Nicholls State vs Oregon, Georgia vs Buffalo, and NAU vs Arizona are seemingly endless, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything).
This week is different than week ones in the past, where you waited all day for the 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT ABC game between two teams that the preseason poll told you might be good. This year, it’s loaded from start to finish. (Side note: just because the Mountain West tries to be edgy every year and open their season a week before everyone else doesn’t mean I am going to give them “Week One” honors.)
With the College Football Playoff implemented earlier this decade, football programs were forced to do away with the cupcake Football Championship Subdivision opponents that many programs used as filler before focusing on conference games that would get them to the prestigious bowls.
Now that playing a lower-tier team is scrutinized by the selection committee, it has forced the athletic directors of big-time programs to fill the first few weeks of their seasons with teams that could boost their resume, resulting in the now-popular trend of neutral-site kickoff games. The best teams in college football being forced to play other good college football teams? It’s something I think I could get behind.
The loaded opening slate is not only terrible for your significant other, who has to witness you laying on the couch for an unspeakable amount of time, It’s also terrible news for all of our wallets; as the dream of our collective football knowledge culminating into the hot streak of a lifetime has all of us putting money on our shady “gift cards” and loading up the offshore account.
For this week’s picks, I will choose between the Over/Under total points or the spread that has been laid out by Vegas this week. Just a disclaimer, these lines are as of Thursday morning, and could very well adjust a couple points either way depending on weather, injuries or freak firings so please take that into account before you wring my online neck for having the wrong line or point total. Here are my picks for week one:
Washington vs Auburn (-2) – O/U 48.0 – Saturday, 12:30 p.m. MST (ABC)
In one of the most intriguing matchups of the entire season, much less Week One, two of the most consistent and often overlooked programs in the nation get the entire country's undivided attention. Chris Petersen and Gus Malzahn have had the entire summer to prepare for this match-up. One half of the coaching match-up beat an Adrian Peterson-led Oklahoma team with flea-flickers and a statue-of-liberty play, while the other side has been at the forefront of the motion-spread offense this past decade. I imagine both of these football mad-scientists spending hours in their top-secret lab drawing up the most elaborate play calls with their trusty assistants on hand.
But I am picking Washington (+2) for one reason: The last time Petersen led his team into Atlanta against a traditional Southeastern Conference power on the opening weekend of a season, he walked out of town with a win against Georgia in the Georgia Dome (R.I.P.). He’s done it before, and I think with the best team he’s possibly ever had as a head coach, he’ll do it again.
Michigan @ Notre Dame (-2) – O/U 47.0 – Saturday, 4:30 p.m. MST (NBC)
Many West Coast homers are going to scoff at my next statement, but there are only a couple rivalries in college football that are more storied and important as the one that will be taking place at the feet of Touchdown Jesus on Saturday afternoon. The two cornerstones of college football get to go at each other in what could be the most important game for the coaches on the sideline, Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly, both of whom have been receiving media criticism for underperforming.
For these two coaches, there is no better way to shut up the annoying boosters who are planning their exits than by beating your historic rival. The win can wash away all of the offseason doubt that has mounted due to the months of inactivity, with both coaches able to move on to the next week knowing that they just bought themselves a little more room on their respective leashes. I think Harbaugh gets it done on the road, sending Kelly reeling into the rest of his season. I’m going Michigan (+2).
Arizona (-11.5) vs BYU – O/U 60.5 – Saturday, 7:45 p.m. MST (ESPN)
The two match-ups I highlighted above are both top-of-the-line coaching battles, but Arizona and Brigham Young University's matchup is going to be decided by how one teenager plays. That is, Khalil Tate. With his offensive line depleted and his defense with more questions than Jeopardy, Tate is going to be the tipping point of this game.
If BYU can use their signature elder statesmen to neutralize Tate and force him to beat them through the air, BYU has a puncher's chance in Tucson. However, if Arizona can put some stops together and give their dynamic leader a few more drives to work with, then Arizona will be in business. The amount of unknowns and question marks for me are keeping me away from the spread. I just don’t know how Arizona is 10 points better with zero games played, and that line could be nightmarish if BYU gets on the board first. I do believe there will be a lot of points scored though, and that’s why I am taking the over for this one.
Miami (-3.5) vs LSU – O/U 47.0 – Sunday, 4:30 p.m. MST (ABC)
To help us all ease into Labor Day weekend, the football gods decided to shower their blessings upon us and spread the football over three days, knowing that once we got the initial taste on Saturday, we wouldn’t be able to wait a whole week for more football. This matchup will be waiting for you once you wake up from your Sunday-afternoon nap, easing you into your day off on Monday. Even though the matchup is between two of the most iconic programs in college football, the coaches leading them are two of my least favorites, Ed Orgeron and Mark Richt.
I will be watching just to witness how one of these two coaches will end up bungling their way into a loss. That’s why I am staying away from the tricky spread Vegas has laid and going with the under on the point total. I know these two coaches have had all summer to prepare, but neither of these teams are confident in their quarterbacks and both defenses love to fly around. I don’t see these teams putting on an offensive clinic in Jerry’s World.
Virginia Tech @ Florida State (-7.5) – O/U 55.5 – Monday, 5 p.m. MST (ESPN)
This is an odd, early-season conference matchup that sees two of the most promising young coaches face off for the first time in Tallahassee. Even though Jimbo left unceremoniously to Texas A&M, he was nice enough to leave the cupboard fully stocked for new coach Willie Taggart. I think FSU will be carrying a serious chip on its shoulder after a season that saw the Seminoles lose almost half of their games, something that rarely happens at Florida State. I think FSU will let the country know that last year was an anomaly. I’m taking FSU (-7.5).
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