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College Football Picks: Predicting Every Game in Week 1

Bo Scarbrough

Bo Scarbrough

The Week 1 edition of picking every game on the college football schedule features some huge matchups between elite teams, most notably the No. 1 vs. No. 3 clash between Alabama and Florida State in Atlanta. The slate of games also concludes in Atlanta on Monday night, when Tennessee and Georgia Tech meet in an intriguing SEC vs. ACC showdown.

Thursday, Aug. 31


Butch Davis makes his return to the collegiate game as his FIU Panthers travel to Orlando to face UCF. Last year, the Knights outgained FIU 501-to-189 en route to a 53–14 win in Miami. It might not be quite as lopsided this time around, but UCF should roll. UCF 48, FIU 20 

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Presbyterian at Wake Forest

The only thing interesting about this game will be how Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson employs his quarterbacks. Kendall Hinton likely will start, but John Wolford — who has looked good in preseason camp — also figures to see significant playing time. Wake Forest 41, Presbyterian 10

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Rhode Island at Central Michigan

Here’s an answer to a trivia question: Rhode Island and Texas. Here’s the trivia question: Name the only two teams to lose to Kansas in the past three seasons. The Rams, quite simply, are not very good. Central Michigan 47, Rhode Island 7

College Football Rankings: Central Michigan

Austin Peay at Cincinnati

Austin Peay coach Will Healy is making waves in recruiting in Tennessee, but that has yet to translate into wins — literally. The Governors went 0–11 in 2016, Healy’s first season, and are an unfathomable 1–45 in the last four years. Cincinnati 58, Austin Peay 0

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Tennessee State at Georgia State

Two notable items about this game: Georgia State will be playing its first game in Georgia State Stadium, the venue formerly known as Turner Field, and the starting quarterback for Tennessee State is former Florida Gator Treon Harris. Georgia State 33, Tennessee State 27

College Football Rankings: Georgia State

Buffalo at Minnesota

P.J. Fleck’s first game at Minnesota is against a team from his previous conference. He faced Buffalo twice while at Western Michigan, losing 33–0 in 2013 and winning 38–0 last season. Minnesota 34, Buffalo 0

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Elon at Toledo

Logan Woodside and the Toledo offense will feast on an Elon team that went 2–9 overall and 1–7 in the CAA last season. This will get ugly very early. Toledo 58, Elon 13     

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Tulsa at Oklahoma State       

This is a sneaky good game that would have been sneakier had Tulsa not lost a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receiver sand one 1,000-yard rusher. The Golden Hurricane simply lost too much firepower to pull off the upset. Oklahoma State 48, Tulsa 24

College Football Top 25: Oklahoma State

North Dakota at Utah

North Dakota is one of the top FCS programs in the nation, but the Fighting Hawks figure to have trouble moving the ball against a stout Utah defense. The Utes will start sophomore Tyler Huntley at quarterback. Utah 28, North Dakota 10

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Holy Cross at Connecticut

Randy Edsall makes his (not so) triumphant return to UConn, where his mission is to jumpstart a Husky offense that ranked last nationally in scoring a year ago. Connecticut 13, Holy Cross 11

College Football Rankings: UConn

Florida A&M at Arkansas (Little Rock)

Arkansas opens the season with its only trip to Little Rock to face a Florida A&M team that rolled past Texas Southern 29–7 in Week 0. The Rattlers will be 1–1 after this game. Arkansas 41, Florida A&M 10

College football rankings: Arkansas

Ohio State at Indiana

The big storyline in Bloomington will be Kevin Wilson’s return to Indiana as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State. This should be a fun game... but Ohio State is too talented to slip up. Ohio State 34, Indiana 20

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Ohio State

Sacramento State at Idaho

Idaho begins its final season in the FBS ranks with a visit from Sacramento State. In 2018, this will be conference game (in the Big Sky). Idaho 38, Sacramento State 10

College Football Rankings: Idaho

ULM at Memphis

ULM eases into the second season of the Matt Viator era with trips to Memphis and Florida State. Good luck. Memphis 38, ULM 13

College Football Rankings: Memphis Football

New Mexico State at Arizona State

In a mildly surprising development, it appears that Manny Wilkins has held off Alabama transfer Blake Barnett as the Sun Devils’ starting quarterback. For now. Arizona State 41, New Mexico State 13

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Friday, Sept. 1

Fordham at Army

This is not a gimme for the Black Knights. Fordham went 8–3 last season and features one of the top running backs in the FCS in Chase Edmonds (5,285 rushing yards and 69 TDs in his career). Army 30, Fordham 27

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Charlotte at Eastern Michigan

Chris Creighton has done a tremendous job at Eastern Michigan, one of the most difficult jobs in the FBS ranks. Quarterback Brogan Roback is poised for a big senior season. Eastern Michigan 34, Charlotte 17

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Central Connecticut State at Syracuse

Eric Dungey and the Syracuse offense should have little trouble lighting up the scoreboard against a CCSU team that went 2–9 last year and allowed 34.8 points per game. Syracuse 58, Central Connecticut State 14

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Washington at Rutgers

Washington is hoping for two things: an easy win over Rutgers and then for Rutgers to show significant improvement as the season progresses to boost the Huskies’ playoff résumé. The former is highly likely. The latter: not so much. Washington 41, Rutgers 14

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Washington

This is a tasty Friday night appetizer to the first big Saturday of college football. Navy’s triple option attack vs. Lane Kiffin’s debut with the Owls. Sign me up. Navy 33, FAU 24    

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Colorado State vs. Colorado (Denver)

Colorado stamped itself as a team on the rise last year with a surprisingly dominant 44–7 win over the Rams in Week 1. It might not be so easy this time around, but the Buffs are still the better team. Colorado 47, Colorado State 40

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Utah State at Wisconsin

It’s the Gary Andersen bowl! Wisconsin 37, Utah State 10

College Football Top 25: Wisconsin

Boston College at Northern Illinois

Rod Carey has a 26–6 record in the MAC in four seasons at Northern Illinois yet the pressure is mounting thanks to an overall mark of 13–13 in the last two seasons. This is a big game for both coaches. Boston College 24, Northern Illinois 20

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Saturday, Sept. 2

Maryland at Texas

The Tom Herman era begins with a decent test against a Maryland team that went to a bowl game last season despite not defeating an opponent with a winning record. Junior running back Ty Johnson is the player to watch for the Terps; he averaged 8.5 yards per carry in 2016. Texas 34, Maryland 13

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Texas

Akron at Penn State

Penn State is 5–0 all-time against Akron with an average margin of victory of 28.8 points. This shouldn’t be much of a challenge for the Nittany Lions. Penn State 48, Akron 10

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Penn State

Bowling Green at Michigan State

Bowling Green salvaged the first season of the Mike Jinks era by feasting on the underbelly of the MAC East to win its final three games to finish with a 4–8 mark in 2016. Earlier in the 2016 season, the Falcons gave up 77 points to both Ohio State and Memphis. Michigan State 48, Bowling Green 20

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan State

Missouri State at Missouri

Missouri has won its last two games against FCS opponents by a combined score of 113–3. This will not go well for the Bears. Missouri 51, Missouri State 3

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Ball State at Illinois

The Fighting Illini closed Lovie Smith’s first season with three straight losses by combined score of 118–24 to finish with a 3–9 record. Getting off to a good start in Year 2 is imperative. Illinois 27, Ball State 13

College Football Rankings: Illinois

Kent State at Clemson

It’s the defending national champs vs. team No. 127 in Athlon Sports’ preseason poll. There’s still some intrigue, however, as Kelly Bryant will make his debut at quarterback in the first game of the post-Deshaun Watson era. Clemson 51, Kent State 0 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Clemson

Wyoming at Iowa

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, a top NFL prospect, will be on a national stage as the Cowboys head to Iowa City. His last trip to Big Ten country did not go well; he threw five interceptions in a 52–17 loss at Nebraska in Week 2 of last season. Iowa will be missing its top cornerback, senior Manny Rugamba, who is out with a one-game suspension. Iowa 34, Wyoming 32

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California at North Carolina

Justin Wilcox makes his debut as the California head coach with a cross-country trip to Chapel Hill. This is the first-ever meeting between the two schools. North Carolina 34, California 16

North Carolina Football Schedule 2019

Bethune-Cookman at Miami (Fla.)

Two years ago, Miami topped Bethune-Cookman 45–0 in Week 1 and allowed only 79 total yards of offense. The Wildcats should be able to top 100 yards this time around. Miami 55, Bethune-Cookman 3

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Miami

Youngstown State at Pittsburgh

Bo Pelini guided the Penguins to the FCS national title game last season, his second at the school. He opens Year 3 with a short trip to play Pittsburgh. The Panthers have turned to Max Browne, the former USC Trojan, to start at quarterback. Pittsburgh 37, Youngstown State 14  

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Portland State at Oregon State                     

Oregon State is fresh off a disappointing showing in a Week 0 loss at Colorado State. The Beavers did some nice things on offense but were torched on defense. They need to get back on track. Oregon State 37, Portland State 17

College football rankings: Oregon State

VMI at Air Force

Air Force features an emerging star at quarterback in junior Arion Worthman, who guided the Falcons to wins in their final six games of the 2016 season. VMI went 3–8 last season. Air Force 48, VMI 10   

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NC State vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

This is one of the most intriguing games of the weekend. NC State, led by its outstanding defensive line, is getting a ton of hype as the season nears. South Carolina has issues on defense but should be potent on offense in Jake Bentley’s first full season as the starter. NC State 30, South Carolina 23 

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Nevada at Northwestern

This was shaping up to be a nice showcase for two of the nation’s most underrated running backs — Nevada’s James Butler and Northwestern’s Justin Jackson. But Butler bolted Reno for Iowa City as a grad transfer over the summer and will instead play in Evanston on Oct. 21 as a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Northwestern 31, Nevada 11

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Michigan vs. Florida (Arlington, Texas)

Florida’s suspect offense — which will be without star wideout Antonio Callaway — will take on a rebuilt Michigan defense that has serious star power up front. Jim Harbaugh would like nothing more than for his team to open the season with a win over a big-name team from the SEC. Michigan 24, Florida 17

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Michigan

UTEP at Oklahoma

UTEP has one elite player, senior guard Will Hernandez. Oklahoma has many elite players. Oklahoma 48, UTEP 10

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Oklahoma

Alabama A&M at UAB

UAB football is back after a two-year hiatus. The coach, Bill Clark, is the same, but the roster has few recognizable names. The 2017 season could be a struggle for the Blazers. UAB 30, Alabama A&M 13

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William & Mary at Virginia

The Bronco Mendenhall era began with a Week 1 loss to an FBS opponent (Richmond) a year ago. That won’t happen again … at least I don’t think it will. Virginia 31, William & Mary 12

Virginia: college football picks against the spread

Temple at Notre Dame

Temple’s last three openers can be described in one word: weird. In 2014, the Owls, coming off a two-win season, stunned Vanderbilt, a nine-win team the previous year, 37–7 in Nashville; in 2015, they knocked off Penn State 27–10 in Philadelphia; and last year, as a 14.5-point favorite, Temple lost at home to Army 28–13. Notre Dame 34, Temple 16

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Notre Dame

Troy at Boise State

This is by far the best game of the opening weekend that involves two Group of 5 teams. Troy took eventual national champion Clemson to the wire last year in Week 2 before losing 30–24. Boise State went 10–3 in 2016 and beat both Washington State and Oregon State in the regular season. Boise State 38, Troy 30

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College Football Top 25 Rankings: Boise State

Charleston Southern at Mississippi State

Mississippi State will be on upset alert after losing at home to South Alabama in Week 1 a year ago. Charleston Southern is a quality FCS opponent, but the Bulldogs should be too strong on both lines of scrimmage. Mississippi State 30, Charleston Southern 10

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Mississippi State

Eastern Washington at Texas Tech

This could be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. We all know Texas Tech’s M.O. — throw the ball … a lot. Well, Eastern Washington is the Texas Tech of the FCS ranks. Last year, EWU quarterback Gage Gubrud set an FCS single-season record with 5,160 passing yards. Texas Tech 58, Eastern Washington 51     

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Kentucky at Southern Miss   

Southern Miss stunned Kentucky with 34 unanswered points en route to a 44–35 win in Lexington in last season’s opener. It’s a bit of a surprise that Kentucky is a double-digit favorite in the rematch in Hattiesburg. Kentucky 37, Southern Miss 28

Kentucky football schedule

Stony Brook at South Florida

If you followed Twitter Saturday afternoon, Charlie Strong’s job was on the line in the second quarter when South Florida trailed San Jose State 16–0. The Bulls regrouped and outscored the Spartans 42–6 the rest of the way for a convincing win. His job is safe. For now. South Florida 55, Stony Brook 10

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Western Michigan at USC

P.J. Fleck is no longer the coach at Western Michigan. That’s a problem. Also a problem: The Broncos must replace quarterback Zach Terrell and record-breaking wide receiver Corey Davis. The biggest problem, however, will be the opponent this week. USC is loaded. USC 44, Western Michigan 14  

College Football Top 25 Rankings: USC

NC Central at Duke

NC Central was outscored 119–27 in its two games against FBS opponents last season, including a 49–6 loss at Duke in Week 1. The Blue Devils should have an opportunity to flex their offensive muscles on Saturday. Duke 47, NC Central 13

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James Madison at East Carolina

The defending FCS national champions open the season in Greenville against an ECU team hoping to bounce back from a 3–9 record in Year 1 of the Scottie Montgomery era. Analysis: There will be a lot of purple on the field. East Carolina 48, James Madison 38

College Football Rankings: East Carolina

Albany at Old Dominion

Old Dominion was one of 26 teams to win at least 10 games last season. Not bad for a program in its third season in the FBS ranks. Things might not go quite as well in 2017, but the Monarchs should be a factor the C-USA East Division race. Old Dominion 37, Albany 17

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Appalachian State at Georgia

Appalachian State had mixed results in its two games against Power 5 opponents last season (though both ended in defeat) — an overtime loss at Tennessee and a blowout loss at home to Miami (Fla.). The common thread in those two losses was an inability to sustain success on offense. Georgia 21, Appalachian State 7

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Georgia

Miami (Ohio) at Marshall

Miami last season became the first FBS team ever to finish 6–6 in the regular season after starting 0–6. The Redhawks should continue that positive momentum thanks to the return of 16 starters, including junior quarterback Gus Ragland. This is a pivotal season at Marshall for Doc Holliday. A Week 1 loss at home would be damaging. Marshall 23, Miami 21

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Liberty at Baylor

Baylor returns to the field after another tumultuous offseason. Unlike last year at this time, however, there is stable leadership in the football program with Matt Rhule taking control after a successful run at Temple. The Week 1 opponent is Liberty, where former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw somehow found employment. Baylor 41, Liberty 14

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Northwestern State at Louisiana Tech

Some of the Week 1 FCS vs. FBS games could be interesting. This will not be one of them. Northwestern State went 1–10 last season, with its only win over Kentucky Wesleyan. Louisiana Tech 60, Northwestern State 7

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UMass at Coastal Carolina

UMass suffered a crushing Week 0 defeat, giving up a late touchdown to Hawaii to lose 38–35 in Amherst. Now, the Minutemen hit the road to play a Coastal Carolina team playing its first game as a member of the FBS ranks. Coastal Carolina 34, UMass 30

College Football Rankings: Coastal Carolina

Lamar at North Texas

The good news: Seth Littrell guided North Texas to a bowl game in his first season as the school’s head coach. The bad news: North Texas lost eight games. All in all, it was a positive first act for Littrell, the former North Carolina, Indiana and Arizona offensive coordinator. North Texas 30, Lamar 10     

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Eastern Kentucky at Western Kentucky

There is a new leader at WKU — Mike Sanford takes over for Purdue-bound Jeff Brohm — but the high-scoring ways should continue in Bowling Green. Especially this week, against an Eastern Kentucky team that went 3–8 a year ago. Western Kentucky 50, Eastern Kentucky 17

College Football Rankings: WKU

Stephen F. Austin at SMU     

Chad Morris remains a hot name in the coaching circles despite his 7–17 record in two years at SMU (in a difficult rebuild). He will need to show more progress in Year 3 to remain on other schools’ radar. SMU 41, Stephen F. Austin 24

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Houston Baptist at Texas State 

Texas State opened the Everett Withers era with a 56–54 overtime win at Ohio last September but did not beat another FBS opponent the rest of the season. The Bobcats ranked 117th or worse in total and scoring offense, total and scoring defense and turnover margin. Not good. Texas State 30, Houston Baptist 20

College Football Rankings: Texas State

Hampton at Ohio

Frank Solich, now in his 13th season at Ohio, should have the Bobcats in the thick of the MAC East race once again. This team lost six games overall last year, all by single digits. Ohio 37, Hampton 12

College Football Rankings: Ohio

SE Louisiana at Louisiana

Order was somewhat restored at Louisiana (formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette) as the Ragin’ Cajuns returned to a bowl game (the New Orleans Bowl, of course) after a one-year hiatus. But this team still went 6–7 overall to end with a losing record for the second straight season. Mark Hudspeth is hoping to get his program back in Sun Belt contention in 2017. Louisiana 31, SE Louisiana 20   

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SE Missouri State at Kansas

Kansas feasted on an FCS opponent (Rhode Island) in Week 1 last season to give David Beaty his first win as a head coach. SE Missouri State should be victim No. 3. Kansas 41, SE Missouri State 14

College Football Rankings: Kansas

Central Arkansas at Kansas State

Central Arkansas went 10–3 last season and defeated eventual Sun Belt champion Arkansas State 28–23 in late September. This is a good team that has Bill Snyder’s attention. Kansas State 34, Central Arkansas 17

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Georgia Southern at Auburn

Jarrett Stidham will make his long-awaited debut for Auburn when Georgia Southern comes calling. The Tigers had little trouble with the last Sun Belt team that visited Jordan-Hare Stadium, pounding Arkansas State 51–14 in Week 2 last September. Expect a similar result. Auburn 47, Georgia Southern 17

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Auburn

Cal Poly at San Jose State

Both teams played in Week 0. Both teams are 0–1, with Cal Poly losing at home to Colgate and San Jose State losing at home to South Florida (despite leading 16–0 at one point). The Spartans showed some nice energy under first-year coach Brent Brennan, who was an assistant at San Jose State from 2005-10 (after a four-year stint at Cal Poly). San Jose State 30, Cal Poly 10

College Football Rankings: San Jose State

South Alabama at Ole Miss

The Matt Luke era — which figures to last only one season — begins on Saturday in Oxford against a South Alabama team that is undefeated all time in road openers vs. SEC teams from the state of Mississippi. (The Jags won at Mississippi State, 21–20, in Week 1 last season.) Ole Miss 41, South Alabama 14

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Louisville at Purdue (Indianapolis)

Purdue made arguably the best hire of the offseason, luring Jeff Brohm from Western Kentucky to West Lafayette to restore order with the Boilermakers. It’s going to take time, but the ride back to respectability should be entertaining — if you like offense. Louisville 48, Purdue 28  

College football rankings: Louisville

Florida State at Alabama (Atlanta)

The marquee matchup of the weekend pits the Nos. 1 and 3 teams in the preseason polls. The key to the game for Florida State: protect quarterback Deondre Francois. The key for Alabama: success running the ball on first down in order to remain in manageable third down situations. Alabama 24, Florida State 17

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Alabama

Arkansas State at Nebraska

Tanner Lee’s Heisman campaign begins — okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration — as Mike Riley opens his third season as the boss at Nebraska. Arkansas State is a quality Sun Belt team but has lost eight straight regular-season non-conference games. Nebraska 37, Arkansas State 13

Nebraska's college football logo

Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee

Vanderbilt is eager to snap a five-game losing streak in season openers — all on Thursday night at home — as it makes the short trip to Murfreesboro to face Brent Stockstill and the Blue Raiders. The Commodores’ passing attack, which showed signs of life late last season, should be much improved. Vanderbilt 38, Middle Tennessee 28

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Northern Iowa at Iowa State                        

Iowa State should be improved in Year 2 of the Matt Campbell era, but it will still be a struggle for this team to get to six wins. And it will be more of a struggle if the Cyclones aren’t 1–0 after the first week of action. Beating Northern Iowa is vital. Iowa State 33, Northern Iowa 28