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Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
We certainly do not condone gambling here at Athlon Sports, but much can be gleaned from a quick look at the points spreads. Week One of the college football season contains the most uncertainty of any week of year. Teams from coast to coast will wildly under- and over-achieve based upon preseason expectations, and there is much to be won because of it.
And since my number one lock of the week was Maryland getting 6.5 points at home against Miami on Labor Day night, I will start with No. 2. The Terps are now a slight favorite — I sure hope you got in on that one early in the week.
Week 1's Top Picks:
Season Record ATS: 0-0
2. Marshall at West Virginia (-21)
Sept. 4, 3:30 PM
The new regime in Morgantown has been foaming at the mouth to get onto the field. Offensive wizard Dana Holgorsen will look to hang a huge number on his in-state rival in his first-ever game as a head coach. The Thundering Herd nearly pulled the upset last season in Huntington but will have no such luck this time around. Geno Smith and company will run up the score on a team picked fifth in C-USA’s Eastern division.
My Pick: West Virginia -21
3. LSU vs. Oregon (-3)
Sept. 3, 8 PM, Arlington
I just don’t see the Ducks winning this game. The last two losses Oregon has suffered came at the hands of two dominant lines of scrimmage (Ohio State, Auburn), and that is the one area where LSU has a distinct advantage. The Cliff Harris suspension hurts his team worse than the Jordan Jefferson issue hurts the Bayou Bengals. Jarrett Lee has experience and made huge throws in key spots last fall for the Tigers. Look for LSU to control the ball and out-physical the finesse, feathery Pac-12 power.
My Pick: LSU +3
4. Northwestern at Boston College (-3)
Sept. 3, 12 PM
These are two very well-coached football teams, but one has superior talent and physicality. The Eagles are at home and will be facing a banged-up Dan Persa, as the Northwestern quarterback is not fully recovered from his torn Achilles’ tendon injury. If he plays, his mobility will be greatly affected, as he is not the same player without his ability to improvise. The Wildcats had the worst defense in the Big Ten last year, and BC will take advantage of a rebuilt linebacking corps on the ground.
My Pick: Boston College -3
5. Georgia vs. Boise State (-3.5)
Sept. 3, 8 PM, Atlanta
The last time Boise State visited the Peach State, Jared Zabransky threw five interceptions, and BSU got pummeled by the Dawgs. This is a different Broncos team — and a different UGA team. Both lines of scrimmage on both teams on both sides of the ball will be stout, and yards will be tough to come by. Expect a very similar showing to that of last year’s Boise State-Virginia Tech showdown where a field goal could win the back-and-forth affair.
My Pick: Georgia +3.5
6. TCU at Baylor (+6)
Sept. 2, 8 PM
The animosity in Waco towards those purple Frogs has reached a boiling point. TCU rolled up a 35-point win in Ft. Worth a year ago, holding the dynamic Robert Griffin to his lowest yardage output of the season. Art Briles has elevated the level of talent across the board at Baylor, and TCU returns only six total starters. Without Andy Dalton under center, TCU is ripe for an upset. Don’t be surprised if Baylor wins this one outright.
My Pick: Baylor +6
7. Western Michigan at Michigan (-13.5)
Sept. 3, 3:30 PM
I am not sure Brady Hoke has made a single bad decision since taking over as the head coach at Michigan. He has reenergized the alumni, has a stellar group of offensive players returning and invigorated Maize and Blue recruiting. Now, he needs a convincing showing in his first trip to the Big House's sideline. Reports indicate that the starters could play deep into the game regardless of the score. Hoke wants to make a statement in this game and he will — by a wide margin.
My Pick: Michigan -13.5
8. Utah State vs. Auburn (-21)
Sept. 3, 12 PM
Record-setting Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel is currently trying to win a roster spot in Green Bay, and Auburn is the defending national champion. Yes, the Tigers lost basically their entire starting 22 – technically, they return five starters – but Gene Chizik has loads of young talent. His team will make mistakes this season, but they are extremely gifted. Look for Michael Dyer (maybe) and Onterio McCalebb to roll up a big number against what was the 100th-ranked overall and 101st ranked scoring defense.
My Pick: Auburn -21
9. UCLA at Houston (-3)
Sept. 3, 3:30 PM
There is one thing that Rick Neuheisel has done incredibly well during his brief and embattled tenure as his alma mater’s head coach and that is recruit. The Bruins have superior talent to that of Houston and were beating the Cougars last season long before Case Keenum got hurt. (The game ended 31-13 in favor of UCLA.) Interestingly enough, UCLA has won seven of its last eight trips into the state of Texas dating back to 1988.
My Pick: UCLA +3
Tier-Two Picks if you're feeling lucky:
10. San Jose State at Stanford (-29)
Sept. 3, 5 PM
My Pick: Stanford -29
11. Miami, Ohio at Missouri (-18.5)
Sept. 3, 12 PM
My Pick: Mizzou -18.5
Athlon's Week One Previews:
ACC Predictions: Week 1
Big East Predictions: Week 1
Big Ten Predictions: Week 1
Big 12 Predictions: Week 1
Pac-12 Predictions: Week 1
SEC Predictions: Week 1