It seems like it’s been forever since we last saw Alabama beat Georgia in an epic encounter in the National Championship game. But the wait, for all of us college football junkies will end with five days of key action this weekend. I will get the season kicked off by attending two games. I’ll be in Denver for the big rivalry game between Colorado and Colorado State on Friday night. Saturday morning I’ll make the two-hour drive to Laramie, Wyoming to catch Washington State at Wyoming. The weekend will end Monday night with an interesting ACC battle, between Virginia Tech and Florida State. My focus in week one, will be the debut’s of new head coaches, especially in the SEC and PAC-12. Before I make some fearless predictions for Week one action, I will leave you with my picks for the playoffs and my Heisman Trophy winner.
PLAYOFF PARTICIPANTS…….. ALABAMA, GEORGIA, TEXAS, CLEMSON.
HEISMAN…………. Bryce Love, Stanford
THIS WEEKS FEATURED GAMES
No.14 MICHIGAN AT No.12 NOTRE DAME These two heavyweights will kick off the 2018 season in South Bend. The wolverines hope that Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson will finally solve their quarterback problems from the past few years. The Wolverines should take a significant step up in offensive production in 2018. The defense is one of the best in the country. Nine starters return to a unit that allowed only 18 points per game a year ago. Notre Dame also returns nine starters on defense. They will feature one of the top secondaries in the country. This game comes down to who can generate the better offense. Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush has spent the off-season working on his throwing skills. From what I saw in the spring game, he needs more work. The Fighting Irish are 18-4 in home openers and have won six straight. I’LL BUCK THOSE TRENDS AND TAKE THE WOLVERINES 16-13.
NORTHWESTERN AT PURDUE This is actually a very under the radar game in the BIG 10. Both these squads figure to be on the bowl bubble in November. The Wildcats have won four straight in this series, by an average of 12 points. Quarterback Clayton Thorson, returns under center, but is also coming off a torn ACL and missed all of spring practices. The Wildcats lost their most productive player in Justin Jackson, but I think Jeremy Larkin is a star in the making. Purdue went to a bowl game last year for the first time since 2012. Head coach Jeff Brohm has his troops, thinking they can duplicate that success. With nine starters back on offense, the Boilers are ready to top last years 25 points per game. The defense is a major question mark. The front seven looks particularly vulnerable to a good rushing attack. This matchup could provide a good litmus test against the solid ground game of Northwestern. I’m just not sure how comfortable Thorson will be in the pocket, coming off major knee injury. PURDUE HAS WON 14 STRAIGHT HOME OPENERS, MAKE IT 15……………… 31-21.
LOUISVILLE VERSUS No.1 ALABAMA I’ll get straight to the point here. A few weeks ago Louisville wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick was quoted as saying “We can exploit the Alabama secondary”. Well Dez, you will get your chance in front of the nation, in primetime Saturday night. Head coach Bobby Petrino echoed that statement, when he proclaimed they will beat Alabama. I doubt that Alabama needed motivation for this game, but they surely have it now. The Cardinals will actually be a good team by seasons end. I am very excited to see how quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass develops. I believe he has a chance to be special. Head coach Nick Saban has decided that both Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa will see action against the Cardinals. The Tide has only one major concern and that is in the secondary, where all four starters have been replaced. A quarterback making his first career start, is not likely to take advantage. Alabama should be able to name the score. THIS GAME IS OVER BY HALFTIME, TIDE ROLLS 48-10.
No.23 TEXAS AT MARYLAND I’m shocked head coach D. J. Durkin still has his job. He has even said, he thinks he will be fired. I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams how the Terrapins can be focused for this game. Interim head coach Matt Canada will have a tall task ahead of him all season long, as the investigation into Jordan McNair’s death drags on. The good news for the Terrapins is the health of quarterback Kasim Hill. Hill has returned from a devastating knee injury. Texas is my sleeper pick to make the CFP. Head coach Tom Herman should have a clear path to the BIG 12 Championship if they can beat Oklahoma in the “Red River Rivalry”. Both Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele have waged a spirited battle to start at quarterback. Ehlinger got the nod for game one. I suspect both will play a large role as the season progresses. The Longhorns have lost five straight road openers and lets not forget, suffered a 51-41 loss to these same Terrapins in last season opening game. Herman will have his team ready to exact revenge in a big way. HORNS STAMPEDE THE TURTLE, 42-20.
No.6 WASHINGTON VERSUS No.9 AUBURN Washington will head to SEC country Saturday to take on Auburn in Atlanta. This game will feature a playoff atmosphere as both squads hope they have what it takes to make it to the College Football Playoff. Two of the best quarterbacks in the country will go head to head. Jake Browning (Washington) versus Jarrett Stidham (Auburn). Both teams also feature two of the best defenses in the country. I’ve struggled picking a winner for this game all week-long. The oddsmakers have this listed as a toss-up. Both these teams could lose this game and still make the playoff. The Huskies should be favored in all PAC-12 games. The Tigers would have a tougher road, with Georgia and Alabama on the schedule. This game will ultimately be decided by who wins the turnover battle. I think the Huskies have the edge with Head coach Chris Peterson over Gus Malzahn. Peterson is no stranger to these big opening games. This will be the Tigers third straight game in the Mercedes-Benz stadium. Two straight losses, in SEC title game and Peach Bowl. MAKE IT THREE, DAWGS 23-20.
OLE MISS VERSUS TEXAS TECH The Red Raiders are a field goal favorite in this contest. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury will debut a new quarterback to run the “Air Raid”, offense. McLane Carter will get the nod over Jeff Duffey. The Raiders will have to replace leading rusher Justin Stockton and the top two receivers from a year ago. The good news is, that the entire offensive line returns (93 career starts). Ten starters return to the defense, making this the strength of the team. The Rebels are not bowl eligible, but games like this are circled in advance. I love the Ole Miss offense to really be explosive this season. I don’t feel like the loss of quarterback Shea Patterson will have much of an effect here. Jordan Ta’amu is a very talented dual-threat quarterback. The Rebels feature a loaded receiving core led by future NFL prospect A.J. Brown. DeMarkus Lodge and D. K. Metcalf are also outstanding. Head coach Matt Luke hopes his defense will get back to the legendary “Landshark” status. The Rebels are simply the better team in this matchup. HOT TODDY BABY, REBS 38-28.
SUPER SIX PACK…………….. SIX GAMES, SIX WORDS, SIX PICKS
TENNESSEE VERSUS No.17 WEST VIRGINIA Jeremy Pruitt makes his head coaching debut. Will Grier gets last laugh, MOUNTIES 38-24.
OLD DOMINION AT LIBERTY Flames make FBS debut. BURN MONARCHS 33-27.
WASHINGTON STATE AT WYOMING Cougars are horrible in season openers. COWBOYS LASSO COUGS, 27-20.
No.8 MIAMI VERSUS No.25 LSU Mark Richt versus Ed Orgeron. I’LL TAKE THE HURRICANES, 27-13.
COLORADO VERSUS COLORADO STATE They say teams make the most progress between games one and two. THAT WON’T HELP THE RAMS. BUFFS 33-27.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT OKLAHOMA Can Lane Kiffin pull the upset with a former Sooner quarterback? NO! SOONERS AND MURRAY 41-28.