<
>

Non-AQ picks, Week 1

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

A new year, another chance to better my picks record. Last year, I started strong and faded down the stretch. This year, I'm hoping for better results, but it's a tough week to pick games. Here's where my head is at:

No. 14 Boise State 28, No. 16 Oregon 17: Oregon’s man defense struggled last year; expect more of the same in the opener against Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore picked the secondary apart last year and with Austin Pettis and Titus Young, he’ll do it again. The Ducks are motivated to win this game, but I’m not sure they'll be able to conquer the magic of the blue turf.

No. 3 Oklahoma 42, No. 20 BYU 24: Theses teams aren’t on the same level, and while Oklahoma lost four offensive line starters from last season, the BYU defense is not fast enough to exploit it. I think Max Hall plays better in this game than he did in big games last season, but the Cougars don’t have the firepower, the speed or the talent to match the Sooners.

Nevada 41, No. 23 Notre Dame 38: This is my upset special for the week. There’s no denying that Nevada’s pass defense is terrible, but behind three 1,000-yard rushers, the offense levels the playing field. This game will be a shootout with the Irish passing game matching scores with the Nevada running game, but I think the Wolf Pack squeak a win out in the end.

East Carolina 31, Appalachian State 17: The loss of Armanti Edwards is a big blow to the Mountaineers and while backup DeAndre Presley has shown well in the games he’s played, he hasn’t gone up against a defense as strong as ECU’s. Look for the ECU defense and the Pirates' running game to carry the offense to victory in this one.

No. 6 Ohio State 31, Navy 21: This game is going to be a lot closer than many expect and much of that will be because of the versatile play of Navy’s new starting quarterback, Ricky Dobbs. In the end, though, Ohio State is going to have too many athletes for the Midshipmen to contain.

Western Michigan 24, Michigan 17: This would be considered an upset if I didn’t believe Western Michigan was the better team. Going into the Big House and winning isn’t easy, but teams such as Appalachian State and Utah have done it before and the Broncos already have beaten two Big Ten teams in the past two seasons. Factor in the off-field distractions for the Wolverines and the Broncos look good in this game.

Arizona 28, Central Michigan 24: This is a tough one to call, but Arizona gets the edge because it’s at home. CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour should be able to move the ball against the Wildcats' no-name defense, but I’m not sure CMU’s defense will be able to stop Arizona. The game likely will go to the team that makes the final stop and honestly, I could see this game going either way.

No. 24 Nebraska 38, Florida Atlantic 24: I liked this as a potential upset before FAU’s defensive line depth was depleted. I think quarterback Rusty Smith and the Owls will hang with the Huskers early, but there’s just too much athleticism and firepower on Nebraska’s side for FAU to pull this one out.

No. 8 Mississippi 24, Memphis 17: Memphis has lost four straight to Mississippi, but three of those meetings have been decided by an average of three points. I think it will be a similarly close game here. Memphis has the talent to match up with Mississippi and the game being in Memphis makes it intriguing. However, I’m not sure Memphis has jelled enough to beat out a top 10 team.

Colorado 38, Colorado State 10: I know I said this might be a good game, but the more I look at it, the more I’m thinking Colorado is just far superior to where Colorado State is right now. Think about it this way: The Rams had Gartrell Johnson and Billy Farris last season and were still smoked by 21 points. With an iffy quarterback situation and the game being in Boulder, I think it will be difficult for the Rams to compete.