College football week 1 picks

Movie quote of the day:

“You play ball like a girl!”

– Hamilton “Ham” Porter, “The Sandlot” (1993)

I’m so excited for this weekend. This has to be the best week one matchups in college football history. There’s some stellar matchups on paper, I just hope this weekend lives up to the hype. Here are my week one predictions:

2015 record: 112-59 (65.5 percent)
2016 record: N/A

Most intriguing matchups for week one:

Tonight:

Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey.
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey.

Kansas State at No. 8 Stanford
Stanford Stadium
Palo Alto, Calif.
Line: STAN -13

I’ve learned to never ever sleep on Kansas State because when you count them out, Bill Snyder makes you pay. On paper, it looks like Stanford could make this a blowout, but I don’t think so. Stanford has one of the most exciting players in college football – Christian McCaffrey. However, David Shaw has his work cut out for him trying to find some offensive fire power this year. Kansas State will make this a close game in typical Snyder fashion, defense and special teams but I think Stanford pulls away late.

Prediction: Stanford 24, Kansas State 13

Saturday:

Missouri DE Charles Harris.
Missouri DE Charles Harris.

Missouri at West Virginia
Milan Puskar Stadium
Morgantown, W. Va.
Line: WVU -10

As a WVU fan, I’m a tad worried about this matchup. Missouri has a really good defense, and one of the best defensive fronts in the nation. The game will be decided if Skyler Howard and WVU’s offense can limit the turnovers because WVU’s offense returns nine starters and should have a lot of fire power. If WVU doesn’t turn the ball over, I don’t think that the Tigers can outscore WVU. Even though the Mountaineers lost nine starters off last year’s defense, Missouri had one of the worst offenses in the nation last year. While I’m expecting Missouri’s offense to be improved this season, I don’t think it’ll be enough. I think West Virginia struggles at first against Missouri’s defense but pulls away in the second half.

Prediction: WVU 28, Missouri 13

Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine.
Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine.

No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 Houston
NRG Stadium
Houston
Line: OKLA -11.5

I can’t believe that this game has an early kickoff because I think that this game has potential to be the best game of the weekend. Tom Herman and Houston made a huge splash last year in college football finishing the season 13-1 with a New Year’s Six bowl win. Both of these teams should have very explosive offenses. It’ll likely be a shootout and I think Oklahoma has the better defense to slow down Greg Ward Jr. and the rest of the Cougars’ offense. Houston will keep it within the spread, but I like the Sooners to win.

Prediction: Oklahoma 37, Houston 31

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Western Michigan at Northwestern
Ryan Field
Evanston, Ill.
Line: NW -5

This is probably the most underrated game of week one. Western Michigan has a good squad with a real chance of being the Group of Five representative in a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Broncos averaged 36 points per game offensively, and return eight starters to that unit. Northwestern is well coached, but lost a lot of production from last year’s squad that won 10 games. The Wildcats had one of the nation’s worst offenses last year (No. 115 in the country) and I don’t think that Northwestern will be able to keep up with Western Michigan offensively. This is my first upset of the season, I’m going with Western Michigan. #MACtion

Prediction: Western Michigan 24, Northwestern 20

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin.

No. 16 UCLA at Texas A&M
Kyle Field
College Station, Texas
Line: TA&M -3

I know I have UCLA winning the Pac-12, but I don’t like the Bruins’ odds for this game. Texas A&M improved a lot on defense last year after hiring John Chavis as its coordinator, and the Aggies return seven starters. UCLA has question marks on the offensive line and Texas A&M has one of the best pass rushers in the nation – Myles Garrett. If UCLA can keep Josh Rosen upright, the Bruins have a good chance of winning the game. However, UCLA has to travel across two time zones for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff (11:30 a.m. on the West Coast). Rosen is a young quarterback and Kyle Field might be the toughest environment he’ll ever play in. I’m picking another upset, I like the Aggies.

Prediction: Texas A&M 34, UCLA 28

Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst.
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst.

No. 5 LSU vs. Wisconsin
Lambeau Field
Green Bay, Wisc.
Line: LSU -11

Both of these teams match up well against each other. They both run pro-style offenses and have tough defenses. Wisconsin hasn’t faced a running back like Leonard Fournette, and I think he’ll have a big night against the Badgers. Wisconsin will have an unproven quarterback and a slightly above average running game against a very tough LSU defense. I think LSU will be able to run the ball effectively, chew clock, and rely on the defense to stop the Badgers’ offense. It’ll be tough but the Badgers should have crowd advantage in this “neutral” site game, but LSU has too much talent.

Prediction: LSU 24, Wisconsin 14

North Carolina RB Elijah Hood.
North Carolina RB Elijah Hood.

No. 18 Georgia vs. No. 22 North Carolina
Georgia Dome
Atlanta
Line: UGA -3

On paper, Georgia seems like the easy pick. Georgia returns a lot of starters and should have a tough defense with Kirby Smart as head coach, but the Bulldogs are inept at quarterback with Greyson Lambert. Don’t sleep on North Carolina. The Tar Heels return 14 starters from a unit that won 11 games last season and they have a very good, up-tempo offense that has the ability to score points. UNC also has the edge at quarterback with Mitch Trubisky and running back Elijah Hood is a stud. Even though Georgia’s run game should keep UNC’s offense off the field, I think Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels find a way to score enough points to win. Yep, I’m picking a third upset.

Prediction: North Carolina 24, Georgia 19

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson.
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson.

No. 2 Clemson at Auburn
Jordan-Hare Stadium
Auburn, Ala.
Line: CLEM -7.5

Clemson has received a lot of attention this offseason (rightfully so). Clemson has a ton of talent and arguably the best player in the country – quarterback Deshaun Watson. Clemson needs to replace a lot of production on defense which doesn’t bode well when facing a offensive mind like Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. At the end of the day, Auburn doesn’t have a playmaker to make more plays than Watson. I think the Auburn crowd will keep Auburn in the game, but I expect Clemson to pull away in the second half.

Prediction: Clemson 34, Auburn 21

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez.

Arizona vs. BYU
University of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, Ariz.
Line: BYU -1

I’ve learned to never count out BYU. Even with a new head coach and coaching staff, I think the Cougars have a realistic shot to win this game. BYU has a pretty good offense and defense, and returns a lot of production on both sides of the ball. Arizona had one of the worst defenses in the nation last year and I don’t think the Wildcats will be able to slow down BYU’s offense to win. Arizona might struggle to make a bowl game, so, I think BYU gets it done in front of the Arizona crowd.

Prediction: BYU 35, Arizona 30

Sunday:

Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire.
Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire.

No. 10 Notre Dame at Texas
Royal Texas Memorial Stadium
Austin, Texas
Line: ND -3.5

There’s a lot of hype around true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele in Austin. The Longhorns have lacked a quarterback since Colt McCoy left the program in 2009. However good Buechele might be, it’s still uncertain if he’ll win the starting job over Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard – both are below average quarterbacks. Notre Dame has the edge in almost every aspect of this matchup (quarterback, talent, coaching, etc.). Charlie Strong is coaching for his job this season, so, I think Texas will come out ready to play but Notre Dame will take over as the game progresses.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Texas 17

Monday:

Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly.
Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly.

No. 11 Ole Miss vs. No. 4 Florida State
Florida Citrus Bowl
Orlando, Fla.
Line: FSU -5

Florida State has talent across the board and has a very good chance to be a special team. This game will be a tough test for the Seminoles. Chad Kelly is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and could be a first-round draft pick in April. However, I think Ole Miss lost too much talent from last season’s squad, returning just 10 starters. I think Florida State has the coaching edge. I think having Kelly will keep Ole Miss in the game, but I think the Seminoles get it done.

Prediction: Florida State 31, Ole Miss 26

Game of the week:

Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

No. 20 USC vs. No. 1 Alabama
AT&T Stadium
Arlington, Texas
Line: BAMA -11.5

If USC had a proven quarterback, left tackle, and head coach, I think the Trojans would have a very good chance of winning this game. USC quarterback Max Browne has his work cut out for him in his first career start. Alabama should have a really good defense led by probably the best front seven in the nation, along with a stellar pass rush. USC’s defense might be able to keep USC in the game if it can force turnovers, which won’t be an impossible task since Alabama’s quarterbacks are also unproven. USC has too much uncertainty and it could be a very long day for the Trojans. I think Alabama wins comfortably.

Prediction: Alabama 37, USC 20

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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