College football week 1 picks

Movie Quote of the Day:

“Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby.”

– Maverick, Top Gun (1986)

The 2015 college football season begins tonight. There’s a few matchups in week one that intrigue me. In my opinion, here’s the top matchups in week one and my predictions:

All-time record: N/A

Thursday:

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier (left) and North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora shake hands after their 2013 matchup.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier (left) and North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora shake hands after their 2013 matchup.

North Carolina vs. South Carolina
Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte, N.C.
Line: South Carolina -3.5

Both teams have their share of question marks heading into the season. Both defenses were really bad last season; North Carolina’s was absolutely porous. Both teams are also breaking in new defensive coordinators. Both offenses have experience returning, but North Carolina returns almost every contributor from last year’s team. Also, both head coaches are great offensive minds. This game ought to be a good one with a lot of points scored. In a game that will most likely be a shootout, I like the offense with the most experience.

Prediction: North Carolina 45, South Carolina 41

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan vs. Utah
Rice-Eccles Stadium
Salt Lake City, Utah
Line: Utah -3

It’s the moment Michigan fans have been waiting for since December, Jim Harbaugh’s debut as head coach. Harbaugh is one of the best in the business when it comes to coaching quarterbacks, so I expect improvement to Michigan’s offense. However, you never know what to expect from a first year head coach. Harbaugh’s first game is on the road, halfway across the country. Utah returns some playmakers that I think will be enough to outscore Michigan. I have to take the home team.

Prediction: Utah 23, Michigan 17

TCU QB Trevone Boykin.
TCU QB Trevone Boykin.

#2 TCU vs. Minnesota
TCF Bank Stadium
Minneapolis, Minn.
Line: TCU -16

TCU is my pick to win the national championship, but this is an interesting matchup. Minnesota is a well coached team and they’re no slouch. Jerry Kill has the Golden Gophers heading in the right direction. I’ll be shocked if TCF Bank Stadium isn’t rocking tonight, and I’m sure the fans will make it hostile for TCU. However, Minnesota doesn’t have near the talent as TCU. This will be a dog fight, but TCU will pull away late in the game.

Prediction: TCU 34, Minnesota 17

Friday:

Washington head coach Chris Petersen.
Washington head coach Chris Petersen.

Washington vs. #23 Boise State
Bronco Stadium
Boise, Idaho
Line: Boise State -11

Chris Petersen makes a return to Boise where he was the head coach for eight years. Petersen is a great coach, but he will have his hands full this year in Washington. Boise State returns nine offensive starters, but they did lose some defensive studs. Petersen ought to have Washington prepared for this game because they’ve had all offseason to prepare and because Petersen used to coach the Broncos. However, I’m still taking the Broncos because they have the better team.

Prediction: Boise State 31, Washington 17

Saturday:

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan.

#21 Stanford vs. Northwestern
Ryan Field
Evanston, Ill.
Line: Stanford -10

I expect Stanford head coach David Shaw to have a better squad this year. They return offensive playmakers, but they will lack depth on defense. Northwestern will have a great defense in 2015, but will struggle on offense. I expect this to be a pretty good game. Both teams are well coached. Stanford has to travel two time zones away to play a noon kickoff. I think Northwestern will be ready to play, but Stanford has better talent.

Prediction: Stanford 23, Northwestern 20

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.
Nebraska head coach Mike Riley.

BYU vs. Nebraska
Memorial Stadium
Lincoln, Neb.
Line: Nebraska -7.5

BYU returns a lot of playmakers on offense, but question marks surround quarterback Taysom Hill as he comes off a broken leg. BYU’s defense should have a pretty good front seven, but the secondary has some issues. Nebraska has plenty of talent on offense, but they put in a new system in the offseason under new head coach Mike Riley. They only return one starter returning on the offensive line. That could pose some trouble with the Cougars’ front seven. The depth on defense is also a concern for Nebraska. Like I said above, you never know what to expect from a first year head coach. I think BYU matches up well for this game.

Prediction: BYU 27, Nebraska 24

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.

Louisville vs. #6 Auburn
Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Ga.
Line: Auburn -10.5

Louisville lost a lot on both sides of the ball from last year. Bobby Petrino is a good coach, but Louisville will have their issues this year. Auburn has a lot of playmakers on offense this year. Their defense should have a manageable test to start the season since Louisville is breaking in a new quarterback. Auburn has a lot more talent than Louisville. I expect Louisville to put up a good fight, but I won’t be surprised if this game gets ugly.

Prediction: Auburn 37, Louisville 20

UCLA linebacker Miles Jack.
UCLA linebacker Miles Jack.

Virginia vs. #13 UCLA
Rose Bowl
Pasadena, Calif.
Line: UCLA -14.5

Virginia has question marks all over their team, and their head coach is on the hot seat. They lost a huge chunk of their defense from last year as well. UCLA has a solid squad, returning 17 of 22 starters. However, the Bruins have a glaring question mark at quarterback. Their defense has a ton of talent as well. UCLA has more talent, and Virginia has to travel all the way across the country to play this game. I’ll take the home team.

Prediction: UCLA 35, Virginia 13

Texas A&M wide receiver Speedy Noil.
Texas A&M wide receiver Speedy Noil.

Texas A&M vs. #15 Arizona State
NRG Stadium
Houston, Texas
Line: Texas A&M -3

Texas A&M has a quarterback and a plethora of receivers returning for 2015. However, it’s their defense that will be an issue. They hired John Chavis to be defensive coordinator in the offseason, but he has a lot of work to do to fix the Aggies’ defense. I expect improvement, but nothing major. Arizona State is my pick to win the PAC-12 because of their experience on defense. They also return some playmakers on offense. This is going to be an interesting game, and it could be a shootout.

Prediction: Arizona State 37, Texas A&M 34

Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.
Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.

Texas vs. #11 Notre Dame
Notre Dame Stadium
South Bend, Ind.
Line: Notre Dame -9

Texas is getting a lot of hype heading into Charlie Strong’s second year. They return a lot of playmakers on defense, but the Longhorns have questions on offense. They’re breaking in a new system with uncertainty at quarterback, that could be trouble. Notre Dame has some uncertainty on offense as well, returning only four starters. They do return the majority of a defensive unit that was up and down most of the season. Both teams are built similarly, but I think Brian Kelly is the better coach. I have to take the home team.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Texas 17

Monday:

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

#1 Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech
Lane Stadium
Blacksburg, Va.
Line: Ohio State -14

Everyone knows the kind of talent that Ohio State has for this season. There’s not very many holes on this Buckeyes team. However, they will be without four players for this Virginia Tech game due to suspension. Question marks surround Virginia Tech’s offense once again. They return their starting quarterback who was inconsistent last year, but they have some weapons to work with. As always, expect the Hokies to have a great defense under defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Despite the suspensions, I expect Ohio State to be ready for this game since Virginia Tech ruined their chance for a perfect season last year.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Virginia Tech 14

Game of the Week:

Alabama running back Derrick Henry.
Alabama running back Derrick Henry.

#20 Wisconsin vs. #3 Alabama
AT&T Stadium
Arlington, Texas
Line: Alabama -10

Wisconsin has some question marks on their team, particularly on offense. The Badgers have to find a way to replace three starters on the offensive line and running back Melvin Gordon. First year head coach Paul Chryst is a great offensive mind and Wisconsin thrived when he was the offensive coordinator there a few years ago. The Badgers have to replace some production on defense, but they still have a solid group of players returning to build around. Alabama is in a similar boat as Wisconsin, in regards to offense. They have to find a new quarterback, and replace production left by running back T.J. Yeldon, and wide receivers Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White. The Tide’s defense will be stout once again, like it always is under head coach Nick Saban. Wisconsin matches up well with Alabama because of style of play. I expect a close, low-scoring game with Alabama pulling away late.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Wisconsin 16

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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