The college football season kicks off this week with a snorer of a slate. Nothing like padding your resume with wins over Chattanooga, Georgia Southern and Tennessee-Martin (That means you Oklahoma, Georgia and South Florida).
I am not expecting any Appalachian State-type upsets this season during the first week, not even from Appalachian State. LSU might not have its defensive core from last season, but they are no 2007-version Michigan (or 2008-version Michigan either).
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the games that actually mean something this weekend:
Illinois vs. Missouri (-9) in St. Louis – Missouri is coming off a high last season, and Chase Daniel is a likely strong contender for the Heisman. Illinois might have a strong defense, but they have lost Rashard Mendenhall and the Juice (Williams) might end up getting squeezed with the loss of his backfield-mate. Illinois head coach Ron Zook should be a little scared. The Tigers are one of the strongest teams in the country on both sides of the ball.
Look for Missouri to cover in the Border War.
Alabama vs. Clemson (-4.5) in Atlanta – Call me crazy, but I can see Tommy Bowden’s season at Clemson getting off to a rough start. While the Tigers might be the best in a very mediocre ACC, Alabama just rings of a better season, even if its final win total might be less than Clemson. I think the Tiger line troubles might be too much to overcome this early in the season.
Take Alabama with the points.
Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina (+9.5) in Charlotte – I worry about Virginia Tech. There is a quarterback situation, the defense is a major question mark and the ACC is so weak, they might get a big head thinking they have an easy road ahead. That is a perfect storm of a situation for East Carolina, a team that should be among the class of Conference USA.
Take the Pirates with the points.
Tennessee at UCLA (+7.5) – UCLA’s struggles with injuries at the quarterback position continue into the Neuheisel era, with both Ben Oldon and Patrick Cowan out. That should serve to make things ugly in his first season. Tennessee, meanwhile, is just a middle pack team in the SEC, but should still be able to run all over the Bruins.
Tennessee covers the 7.5.
Utah at Michigan (-3.5) – Ready to see Michigan fans cry after the opener for the second season in a row? Utah is strong enough to make it happen. Add in the first season under Rich Rodriguez, with the wrong personnel for his system, and it is more likely.
The Utes cover, and pull the straight-up upset.
Michigan State at Cal (-5.5) – Ever have one of those games that you just can’t tell? The Spartans look like they could be anywhere from mediocre to decent. The Bears look like they have a lot of work to do on offense to really finish high in the PAC-10 as they are predicted to do.
I am feeling the 5.5 for Michigan State, but this is my shakiest pick of the weekend.
Colorado at Colorado State (+11) in Denver – The big rivalry game of the weekend, because honestly, who cares about Kentucky or Louisville this year? Then again, who cares about Colorado and Colorado State outside of the attendees at the Democratic National Convention? I really like Colorado this season, and think they will be last year’s Kansas in the Big XII. They won’t win 12 games, but they should finish respectably, and ahead of the Jayhawks. Colorado State, by contrast is bad. Not rotten old fish bad, but bad. There is too much going against the Rams.
Take the Buffs to cover the spread.