As a new college football season is upon us, and I am bored out of my mind, I decided to bring back my college football picks. I only pick AP Top 25 games, home teams are in CAPS, and all of these picks are 100 percent correct. Get those deposit slips ready, boys! (Lines are taken from Dan Sheridan's Odds page at USA Today. I'm writing this on Monday, but hopefully I'll be able to update the lines before the weekend.)
#1 FLORIDA (no line) over Charleston Southern
I'm not really familiar with Vegas's policy regarding FBS schools taking on FCS schools (or whatever Charleston Southern is), but apparently Dan Sheridan doesn't think anyone should be betting on these matchups. More importantly, should this game even be played? I remember when USC was the toast of the town a few years ago and everyone complained about their weak schedule (which was debatable; the Matt Leinart-era Trojans played non-conference games vs. Virginia Tech, at BYU, vs. Arkansas, vs. a Fresno State team that was ranked #16 at the time, and of course the annual games vs. the Brady Quinn-led Fighting Irish). Florida, on the other hand, hasn't played a non-conference game outside of the state of Florida since they lost at Syracuse in 1991. The Gators main in-state competition (Florida State and Miami) hasn't been nationally relevant since 2003. I know schools like to use the first game of the season as a "practice" game, but Florida isn't breaking in a freshman quarterback or installing a new defensive alignment. They are the defending national champions returning 19 starters (including the entire defense and a certain Heisman-winning quarterback); there is no way they should be playing Florida International, let alone Charleston Southern. I know the SEC is tough, and thus the Gators can be excused for going easy on themselves in their non-conference slate, but the idea that the SEC is that much tougher than the PAC-10 or Big 12 is a misnomer. (Besides, Alabama and Georgia have no problem scheduling tough non-conference opponents.) Florida should be ashamed of itself, and I can only hope that their cakewalk non-conference schedule (which also includes home games vs. Troy, Florida International, and Florida State) will somehow keep them out of the national title game.
(UPDATE: Apparently, Sheridan set the line for this game at -73, which would supposedly be the largest ever. I couldn't find it on his USA Today page, however, so I'm skeptical. If it's true, thought, then consider this my UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK! Give me Charleston Southern +73!!!)
#2 TEXAS (-40.5) over Louisiana-Monroe
I almost thought about picking Louisiana-Monroe, but then I took the fact that Florida is probably going to win by 50 into consideration, and decided that Mack Brown will probably feel pressure to keep-up-with-the-Meyers.
#3 OKLAHOMA (-22) over #20 BYU
BYU should be able to put up some points on a defense that gave up over 30 points five times last season; Oklahoma, however, will be able to put up scores more points on a defense that is struggling with injury in its backfield and just doesn't have the horses to keep pace.
#4 USC (-34) over San Jose State
True, USC is starting a true freshman quarterback, but San Jose State just lost three defensive starters to the NFL (DT Jarron Gilbert, CB Chris Owens, and CB Coye Francies, unbelievable, I know) and I don't think the Spartans have the recruiting pipeline to simply plug-in and replace three NFL-quality players.
# 7 VIRGINIA TECH (+7) over #5 Alabama
I'm assuming the line is so high because Virginia Tech just lost star running back Darren Evans for the year with a torn ACL. While that will make it difficult for Virginia Tech to score (which wasn't exactly easy for the Hokies with Evans), I don't see how it changes the fact that Alabama's offensive line (which is replacing two All-Americans--T Andre Smith and C Antoine Caldwell--as well as G Marlon Davis) has to deal with what is traditionally one of the stingiest defenses in the country. Besides the problems on the line, the Tide are also breaking in a new quarterback (junior Greg McElroy) as well as replacing Glenn Coffee (with sophomore Mark Ingram, who is no slouch [12 TDs in 2008], but still hasn't had to carry the load yet ). My point is, I just don't see enough points being scored for the difference in this game to be seven. Expect a score like 10-6 or 13-9, not 24-10.
#6 OHIO STATE (-22) over Navy
The Buckeyes are making a nice gesture to welcome a service academy to the Horseshoe for the first time since 1931, encouraging fans to stand and cheer for the Midshipmen, as well as including John Glenn, a former Naval cadet, in the pregame ceremonies. The niceties should be over by kickoff, however, as Ohio State should have little trouble with Navy. Some people are saying the Buckeyes may have problems with the triple option, but the big Achilles' heel for Jim Tressel defenses has always been a spread out field filled with dink-and-dunk passes. No team has really ever been able to run on them, and I don't see that changing today.
#9 OKLAHOMA STATE (-5) over #13 Georgia
I'm tempted to take Georgia, if only because Oklahoma State's defense can't even be called subpar. But then again, there were some games last year when Georgia's D wasn't all that hot, either, and now they have to play one of the best offenses in the country. And who exactly is scoring the ball for Georgia, anyway? Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, and Mohammed Massoquoi are all gone, and while I don't doubt the Bulldogs have been able to recruit some extremely able replacements, I do doubt that those replacements will be ready for an opening day game against the number 9 team in the country in their newly refurbished stadium. Give me the Cowboys in a romp. (Besides, would you ever pick against this 40-year-old man?)
#9 PENN STATE (-27) over Akron
I remember a time when the MAC seemed like a conference on the rise. Marshall was dominating (and producing Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwitch, and Randy Moss), but other programs were producing the likes of Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio), Charlie Frye (Akron), Garrett Wolfe (Northern Illinois), Josh Cribbs (Kent State) and Omar Jacobs (Bowling Green, where he produced one of the greatest college football seasons ever). Then, Marshall left for the Conference USA, and seemed to take all the upward momentum of the MAC (and the Marshall program) with them. Now, the conference is a collection of lower-tiered teams who can't even produce Super Bowl quarterbacks any more (although Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan may end up turning into something). Akron, for example, has as good a shot as eight other teams of winning the league, but wouldn't even belong on the same field as Vanderbilt, let alone Penn State. The MAC's precipitous fall in football (and, to a lesser extent, basketball) depresses me greatly. LOCK OF THE WEEK.
#11 LSU (-17) over WASHINGTON
Seventeen points is a lot to give for an Eastern time zone BCS school travelling to a Pacific time zone BCS school, but it just goes to show you how terrible Washington is. Can you believe the Huskies won a national title more recently than both Notre Dame and Penn State?
Maryland (+21.5) over #12 CAL
21 1/2 points is a lot for a team that relies so much on a running back (albeit the Best one in the nation). Maryland may struggle this season, but I don't think they're 22 points worse than Cal, even in Berkeley.
#14 BOISE STATE (-4) over #16 Oregon
The toughest game to call, no matter what the line is, but at 4, it is almost impossible. I like Boise State to win on the blue turf, but it should be a close one, as the Ducks have a score to settle, both for last year's defeat in Eugene, and for a couple of late hits the Broncos committed in that same game (including one that concussed Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli). Game of the week.
#15 GEORGIA TECH (no line) over Jacksonville State
Another team that should be ashamed of themselves, the Yellow Jackets have 10 starters returning on offense. What is the point of this game?
Miami (+6) over #18 Florida State
The last two times (2005, 2006) these teams met on the Monday of opening weekend, Florida State won by a combined score of 23-17. In other words, it wouldn't be surprising if neither team even reached six points.
#19 UTAH(-20.5) over Utah State
The battle to finally decide which of these teams is truly the second best team in Utah.
#21 NORTH CAROLINA (no line) over The Citadel
#22 IOWA (no line) over Northern Iowa
The NCAA should enforce a rule that if you schedule an FCS school, you should forfeit a home game. I don't mean you should have a home game count as a loss, but instead you will play an unbalanced schedule, with one more road game than home. Maybe then teams will be discouraged from scheduling these wastes of time (but what about Appalachian State-Michigan? you ask. With what has happened to Michigan since (2008 Capital One Bowl notwithstanding), Appalachian State's victory should have ended this farce, but instead teams want to keep testing fate and risk having their entire program flushed down the toilet. The only way to stop this is for the NCAA to drop the hammer.)
Nevada (+14) over #23 NOTRE DAME
Nevada is a dangerous football team, and I'm kind of shocked the line is this high. If Notre Dame's entire season (and Charlie Weiss's career) didn't hang in the balance, I'd almost predict an outright win for the Wolfpack. Instead, the Fighting Irish will just barely survive a hell of a scare.
#24NEBRASKA (-21.5) over Florida Atlantic
In games like this, I wonder if Cornhusker fans pretend it's 1995 and all is right in the world.
#25 KANSAS (no line) over Northern Colorado
Does anyone remember the crazy story involving the Northern Colorado punters?
Since I didn't have the time (nor motivation) to fulfill my dream of a conference-by-conference preview of the 2009 season, I will just quickly predict conference champions and the BCS bowl participants.
ACC: Georgia Tech
Big East: South Florida
Big 12: Texas
Big Ten: Penn State
Conference USA: Southern Miss
MAC: Central Michigan
Mountain West: BYU
Sun Belt: Troy
WAC: Boise State
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl: Boise State vs. Alabama
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. South Florida
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Penn State
National Championship Game: Florida vs. Texas
National Champions: Florida