Welcome back to the Big E College Football Picks!
At long last, football is back and it's time to start battling Vegas for our own little mythical championship on this site. A handful of games kicked off the official beginning of college football last night, but as always we stick to picking the traditional Saturday games.
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Let's get to this weekend's 8 picks.
AP rankings are used where appropriate.
Notre Dame (-15.5) at Navy
9:00 AM ET
PICK: Notre Dame
See: Game Day Countdown: Notre Dame vs. Navy
Ohio (+6.5) at Penn State
12:00 PM ET
Until I see what kind of team we're looking at I am staying away from Penn State covering. There are just so many question marks for this program and I imagine the atmosphere for this game is going to be incredibly subdued and lacking in excitement---think UConn 2009 during Weis' funeral procession of a final home game.
Perhaps some think Bill O'Brien is going to energize the Nittany Lion offense, but I doubt that is happening with Matt McGloin at quarterback. And oh yeah, the offense also lost it's best running back and receiver to transfer. Even their kicker---who could be the difference in this type of game---is gone.
Ohio is one of the stronger teams in the MAC, they have a really good coach in Frank Zolich, and their offense returns enough production to keep this game close. Some are even calling for an outright upset by the Bobcats, and that wouldn't surprise me.
Marshall (+24.5) at No. 11 West Virginia
12:00 PM ET
PICK: West Virginia
This is likely the last game between these inter-state rivals as the Mountaineers transition to the Big 12 conference and will walk away from a series that hasn't been very interesting in football anyway. Do the Herd come out swinging with one last chance and make this a game?
Probably not---West Virginia has too much offense. Seeing as how Geno Smith was my pick to win the Heisman I'm pretty sure I should expect him to have a great game against a non-BCS opponent. I'm buying stock in this Holgo offense and I'm sure the 'Neers will pile close to 50 points on the board in this one.
The spread is a touch too high for my comfort level, but I'm sticking with the blue and yellow.
Miami (-2.5) at Boston College
3:30 PM ET
As few as 10 days ago the Eagles were the home favorites in this game, albeit as slim of a favorite as you can be. Since then BC had a starting receiver declared out for the opener and the Hurricanes were making some noise about talented freshmen impressing the heck out of head coach Al Golden.
Both of these teams should suck this year, but Miami should suck less. Even with much fewer returning starters, the Canes still have some top-end talent that Boston College utterly lacks. I don't have much faith that the Eagles will be able to consistently move the ball and I'm not betting on their defense right now sans-Kuechly.
Boston College opened up at home last year and lost an ugly game to Northwestern by a touchdown. I expect a similar result this year with Da U coming to town.
Southern Miss (+19.5) at No. 17 Nebraska
3:30 PM ET
After going back and forth with this pick, I'm going with the Huskers. Even though Southern Miss had a big year in 2011 and this has tough game written all over it, I think the Eagles have a really hard time replacing head coach Larry Fedora and some key playmakers on offense.
Nebraska will have the home crowd, a nice duo of T-Magic and Burkhead running the ball, and I foresee just enough offense from them to cover. I'm going against my gut here which is telling me to take the points.
No. 14 Clemson (-3.5) at Auburn
7:00 PM ET
Pretty interesting spread, I'd say.
Clemson is without star receiver Sammy Watkins, got mollywopped in their last game in the Orange Bowl and is still a favorite on the road to begin the season against a legit SEC team?
I don't know about that one. I'm a little worried about Auburn's new coaches, but they bring back nearly their entire defense and I think the Tiger offense is going to be a little better than last year with some maturation at quarterback. I don't feel comfortable picking Clemson in this situation, with Dabo & Co. entering a hostile atmosphere against an Auburn team that has been recruiting with the best of them in recent years.
No. 8 Michigan (+13.5) at No. 2 Alabama
8:00 PM ET
I've been planning on taking Michigan all offseason and I'm sticking to it. I'll be more than happy to be wrong on this one though.
However, as tantalizing as an Alabama defense against Denard Robinson is, I think the Tide have lost enough personnel on that side of the ball to give Michigan some hope. Perhaps more importantly, I don't see Saban doing anything but being ultra-conservative on offense and running the ball constantly. It's the first game of the season and he knows pounding it on the ground will be enough to take home a win.
As such, this game is going to be short and I just don't see Alabama scoring more than 25 or 30 points. Heck, the Tide didn't even score 30 in two meetings against Penn State in recent years and only won those games by 16 and 21 points.
Maybe you could make a case that Penn State's defense was a little better than this Michigan defense, but I doubt it. And I know for sure that their offense wasn't in the same zip code as Michigan's. I'll take Alabama pulling away in the fourth but the Wolverines still covering.
Arkansas State (+36.5) at No. 5 Oregon
10:30 PM ET
PICK: Arkansas State
Crazy, right? We know Oregon is going to score a bunch of points so why bet against them versus a non-BCS team?
Back door cover all day baby.
There are whispers that this might be Oregon's best defense in a long time. Black Mamba and Kenjon Barner return on offense as well. But as talented as the Ducks new quarterback may be, you never know what kind of mistakes could be made in the season opener.
I think Guz Malzahn has enough pieces to work with from a very good Arkansas State team last year to score 15 to 20 points in this game and cover. Plain and simple, I'm relying on your genius Mr. Malzahn.
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