NCF Nation: Week 1 picks
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Well, here it is. Warning: I have a tendency to be either dead-on for these things or waaay off. Let's rock.
Miami 34, Charleston Southern 10: Despite the suspensions and a freshman starting at quarterback, Miami will have the upper hand against this small school that went 5-6 in the Big South Conference last year. The Buccaneers do have more experience at quarterback, though, as former Clemson backup Tribble Reese attempted 11 passes with the Tigers.
Georgia Tech 41, Jacksonville State 17: JSU might be favored to win the Ohio Valley Conference, but not this game. With three sophomores on the offensive line, the Yellow Jackets' defensive line will be too much even for Ryan Perrilloux to overcome.
Wake Forest 31, Baylor 14: Who will start at quarterback for Baylor is a mystery, and it could be Miami transfer Kirby Freeman. Regardless, the Demon Deacons have the edge at quarterback. Four starters return to Baylor's offensive line, but that's not necessarily a good thing considering the Bears ranked 113th in the nation in rushing last year with 77 yards per game.
Clemson 24, Alabama 21: In a game of experience versus youth, the Tigers have the edge. Alabama has only five starters returning on defense and its receiving corps took a hit. Third-year starter John Parker Wilson was a record-setter last year, and they've got the more experienced offensive line, but Tommy Bowden has the veteran team.
Duke 26, James Madison 17: JMU has 15 starters back from its 8-4 playoff season, and is 37-13 over the past four seasons under coach Mickey Matthews. There are no guaranteed wins for a team that won one game last year, but Duke has a new energy this season and home field advantage, not to mention one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC. I say Duke will beat the Dukes.
Maryland 23, Delaware 10: This is not Joe Flacco's Delaware team. Still, Maryland has a tendency to underperform in these types of games and keep things interesting. The Terps have a better offensive line and are stacked at linebacker. Jordan Steffy should have a successful comeback.
UNC 38, McNeese State 10: Brandon Take, Hakeem Nicks and T.J. Yates (not to mention Greg Little and Deunta Williams) are reason alone to pick the Tar Heels. With expectations soaring in Chapel Hill this year and a sold-out home crowd for this game, there's no question UNC will take care of business.
South Carolina 20, NCSU 10: These teams have enough in common it should be close. Both teams have an inexperienced quarterback, a starting running back out, and both were terrible against the run last year. I'm going with the home team. The program has a .775 winning percentage in home season openers.
USC 42, Virginia 21: There's a reason the Trojans are the favorite in the Pac-10. Starting at quarterback, the Trojans win this game, even if Pete Carroll goes with backup Aaron Corp. USC's defense is loaded, and should be just as good as it was last year, when it ranked second in the country.
Virginia Tech 21, East Carolina 17: This shouldn't be much different from last year. If there was an upset watch this week, this would be it. Both teams have named their starting quarterbacks but Sean Glennon is the more experienced of the two, and East Carolina lost its top running back, Dominique Lindsay.
Boston College 24, Kent State 17: The Eagles are eager to prove the naysayers wrong, and BC's defense will carry will this team through the first few games. There is no doubt, though, that Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis will get his yards on these guys.
FSU is off.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Welcome to the first installment of Big Ten picks, which will appear every Thursday throughout the season. I'll pick the winners and the scores, using a bit of logic as well as some good ol' gut instinct. The Big Ten isn't one of those wacky leagues that plays games on Tuesday morning or Friday night, so I'll recap the picks after every weekend.
Let's get to it:
Illinois 31, Missouri 30: Illini quarterback Juice Williams has made the necessary steps as a passer and has the weapons to work with, including a fully healthy Rejus Benn. Chase Daniel will do his thing, but an underrated Illinois defensive line makes enough plays, including a key fourth-quarter takeaway to seal a mini-upset.
Utah 24, Michigan 21: Two quarterbacks will play for Michigan and both will struggle. The Wolverines' improved defense will contain Utah for most of the game before veteran signal caller Brian Johnson takes control in crunch time. I've got to go with experience here, and Utah has plenty.
California 33, Michigan State 28: Cal's decision to start mobile sophomore quarterback Kevin Riley instead of statue-like senior Nate Longshore made me change my pick. Riley and dynamic running back Jahvid Best spell trouble for a Michigan State defense that loses two standout pass rushers and recently shuffled its secondary. Javon Ringer will have a big day for Sparty, but it won't be enough on the road.
Northwestern 34, Syracuse 21: The Orange aren't settled on a running back, but Northwestern knows exactly who will be carrying the ball Saturday. Wildcats senior Tyrell Sutton shows why he's one of the Big Ten's best running backs when healthy, and a new-look offensive line holds up at home.
Minnesota 30, Northern Illinois 24: Northern Illinois isn't the pest it was in the early part of this decade, and the Huskies don't have a definitive starter at quarterback, though defensive end Larry English is a beast. Gophers quarterback Adam Weber will start strong, finding wideout Eric Decker for two touchdowns as Minnesota matches last year's wins total.
Ohio State 41, Youngstown State 10: Beanie Wells had only 46 rushing yards against the Penguins last year, a number that should triple or quadruple as the Buckeyes begin their road to redemption. Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor produces a highlight or two as Ohio State rolls at home.
Wisconsin 31, Akron 17: The Badgers have some injury concerns and Akron will keep it close for a while. But new starting quarterback Allan Evridge will settle in after halftime as Wisconsin's running backs begin to wear down the Zips defense. Expect a big game for running back P.J. Hill and linebacker DeAndre Levy.
Iowa 24, Maine 13: Both teams averaged fewer than 19 points a game last season, so don't expect many offensive fireworks. Iowa will play two quarterbacks and one of them -- I'll go with Ricky Stanzi -- turns in a strong second half to seal a much-needed opening victory. Hawkeyes defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul force a turnover or two.
Penn State 33, Coastal Carolina 14: Daryll Clark's debut as the starting quarterback will be a good one, thanks in part to an opponent that went 5-6 last season. Get ready for the Stephfon Green experience as Penn State's Spread HD offense flexes its muscles in the opener.
Indiana 31, Western Kentucky 17: It might take a quarter for Kellen Lewis to get settled, but the junior will prove why he was the right choice at quarterback. Indiana's defense should be much improved this fall, and despite not having sack master Greg Middleton, the Hoosiers will stymie Western Kentucky.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
The best thing about the preseason is that everybody's unbeaten, even those of us who dare to pick college football games. Here's my stab at Week 1 in the SEC:
South Carolina 31, N.C. State 17: Quarterback Tommy Beecher makes his first career start for the Gamecocks, and Steve Spurrier Jr. makes his play-calling debut in Columbia. I'm still going to have to see that to believe it. What I do believe is that South Carolina will shred N.C. State's defense, which was next to last in the ACC a year ago.
Vanderbilt 21, Miami (Ohio) 17: Vanderbilt defensive end Broderick Stewart says the Commodores will have the fastest defense in the SEC, hands-down. The fastest defense in the SEC ought to be good enough to win at Miami (Ohio), right?
Clemson 31, Alabama 21: The expectations are pretty lofty at Clemson this season. That hasn't always been a good mix for the Tigers. This game will be tight for a while, but Alabama's inexperience and lack of depth on defense will get the Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss 34, Memphis 20: The Rebels are going to have to make due without their best two defensive linemen these first few weeks. But Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty, the Rebels have themselves a quarterback in Jevan Snead, and you better not blink when freshman tailback Enrique Davis gets the ball. He can scoot.
Miss. State 23, Louisiana Tech 17: This one has trap game written all over it for the Bulldogs, who may be without starting left offensive tackle Derek Sherrod. Star safety Derek Pegues is already out due to a one-game suspension. Ultimately, quarterback Wesley Carroll will make enough plays for the Bulldogs to gut it out on the road.
Florida 48, Hawaii 13: With so many players out for Florida, the Gators will get a chance to showcase some of those new faces we've been hearing about: Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps, Deonte Thompson and Emmanuel Moody.
Auburn 34, Louisiana-Monroe 10: Finally, the Auburn players get to fight somebody other than themselves. Well, at least in the football sense. I just get the feel that this is Auburn's year. If the spread offense is a good fit and one of the quarterbacks comes through, look out.
LSU 24, Appalachian State 10: We've heard the "We have great respect for Appalachian State" mantra coming out of the LSU camp all week. The truth is that the Tigers think they will win this game easily if they play their game. I still think it might be close for a while.
Georgia 42, Georgia Southern 17: At least the Bulldogs will get one breather in a schedule that looks more ominous every time I glance at it. The most underrated part of this team is its defense. You want fast and menacing? Watch the Bulldogs on defense this season.
Arkansas 35, Western Illinois: 13: The Bobby Petrino era begins in the Ozarks. He's happy to be back in college football and likes his chances at Arkansas. He'll need at least one more recruiting class, though, before Arkansas is a factor in the West. The Hogs will still score plenty of points this season.
Louisville 24, Kentucky 20: The one thing Rich Brooks hasn't been able to do at Kentucky is consistently beat Louisville. In fact, the Wildcats won last season for the first time since Brooks arrived in Lexington. There are just too many unanswered questions on offense for the Wildcats for me to pick them on the road in this first game.
Tennessee 30, UCLA 17: Tennessee didn't fare very well when it had to go all the way across the country to open the season a year ago. But this is a UCLA team that's been rocked with injuries. In short, if the Vols truly are a contender in the East this season, this is a game they should win going away.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
And now comes the part where I embarrass myself on a weekly basis. At least there are four gimmes this week in an underwhelming slate of Big East games -- at least until Monday.
The picks ...
Connecticut 28, Hofstra 3: There's no chance the Huskies will come in overconfident after feeling disrespected all offseason. And UConn's defense is far too strong for a Colonial Athletic Association team to spring an upset.
Cincinnati 35, Eastern Kentucky 10: Will Ben Mauk get cleared to play by the NCAA in the afternoon and suit up for the Bearcats at night? No, you watch too many movies. Cincinnati won't need him, even as it faces a perennially strong FCS team and holds a few things back for Oklahoma next week.
Northwestern 31, Syracuse 14: These schools are home to two of the nation's finest journalism programs, so the best two-deep coverage might occur in the press box. Each football team has gone the way of newspaper stock in recent times. But at least Northwestern has plenty of offensive playmakers, like quarterback C.J. Bacher and tailback Tyrell Sutton. Syracuse has got, um ... hey, did you know Bob Costas went there?
Pittsburgh 37, Bowling Green 19: The Pittsburgh bandwagon will need a serious tune-up if the Panthers don't come out strong for their opener. Bowling Green can inflict some damage with an offense that averaged 30 points a game last year. But Pitt should be up for the challenge. If not, I'm going back and rewriting my preseason predictions.
West Virginia 61, Villanova 17: If Scottie Reynolds hits a bunch of three-pointers, then ... oh wait, wrong Big East sport. Too bad for 'Nova. Pat White, Noel Devine, Jock Sanders and all the other West Virginia speedsters will run free all day.
South Florida 55, Tennessee-Martin 9: George Selvie will get four sacks. Then, while he's sitting out the second half, he'll go sack Steve Martin, Tee Martin and Mark Martin just for fun.
Louisville 23, Kentucky 20: I've gone back-and-forth on this pick about 100 times. It's impossible to predict what's going to happen in a game with so many unknowns on both sides. Finally, I went with my hard-and-fast rule on season openers: When everything else appears equal, take the team with the experienced quarterback (in this case, senior Hunter Cantwell for Louisville) over the unseasoned one (first-time Kentucky starter Mike Hartline).
Rutgers 38, Fresno State 33: Now here's an intriguing opener. I'm expecting a high-scoring, back-and-forth thriller that will liven up your Labor Day cookout. Flip a coin, really, but I'll take Rutgers simply because of the home-field advantage.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The Big 12 starts its season tonight with a pair of games involving its two cellar-dwelling teams from last season.
It's good for Iowa State and Baylor to get their exposure early. Because Big 12 fans are so excited about the upcoming season that they'll be satisfied with games involving those two downtrodden programs to kick off the season.
Baylor's game with Wake Forest actually could be entertaining although the Iowa State-South Dakota State matchup will likely be for die-hards only.
On Saturday, only two Big 12 teams face games against foes from BCS conferences. And Oklahoma State's game against Washington State and Missouri's key test against Illinois will be the two best games involving Big 12 teams all weekend. And that includes Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger's smack-fueled trip to Austin to pick up a $900,000 paycheck against the Longhorns.
Sunday's game will feature old rivals Colorado and Colorado State meeting in Denver. But Steve Fairchild's first team won't look like Sonny Lubick's old teams that used to torment Gary Barnett. The Buffaloes should roll.
Baylor is the only Big 12 that is an underdog this weekend. And for respectability purposes, the conference needs an 11-1 week to show the nation it really merits consideration among the nation's best.
Wake Forest 34, Baylor 20: The Bears stay close for a half before Wake Forest's defense will force some late mistakes. New Baylor coach Art Briles will be attempting to halt a trend where Baylor has lost five of its last six openers and 38 of its last 40 games against ranked teams.
Iowa State 34, South Dakota State 14: Gene Chizik had trouble settling on whether Austen Arnaud or Phillip Bates should be his starting quarterback. Both will look good Thursday against the undermanned Jackrabbits, who are making their Division I-AA debut.
Oklahoma State 31, Washington State 21: The Cowboys will take advantage of a powerful offensive line that has helped them lead the Big 12 in rushing in each of the last two years. Beau Johnson and Kendall Hunter will take care of the holes, silencing a supposedly hostile crowd in Seattle.
Kansas 45, Florida International 7: The Golden Panthers were blistered for season-worst 615 yards by the Jayhawks last season and it could be even worse this time around. Kansas will be looking to build continuity on the offensive line and celebrate last season's BCS appearance. And they'll do it in style.
Kansas State 44, North Texas 17: Look for the Wildcats to try and build confidence for budding running game against Mean Green, which finished 2-10 and let Florida International beat them in the final game last season. Former walk-on TB Keithen Valentine will get the first start of his career.
Nebraska 34, Western Michigan 17: The Bo Pelini era kicks off in Lincoln against Broncos, who won at Iowa and qualified for their first bowl game since 1988 last season.The biggest question will be how much improvement Pelini coaxes out of a defense ranked No. 112 nationally last season.
Oklahoma 55, Chattanooga 7: Even the banged-up Sooners defense will look dominant against Moccasins' defense that is even more injured. Chattanooga has already lost two offensive starters and had eight other starters miss practice in preparation for the game. And that's before the lights even come on at Owen Field.
Texas 44, Florida Atlantic 20: Even with a green secondary facing the Sun Belt's top returning passer in FAU's Rusty Smith, it's still not wise to pull on Superman's cape. I would have thought that Howard Schnellenberger had been around football long enough to know that.
Texas A&M 31, Arkansas State 14: QB Stephen McGee will show a quick grasp of Coach Mike Sherman's pro-style offensive attack and probably will feel much better -- and with fewer bruises -- on Sunday morning. The big question will be how A&M's retooled 4-3 defense performs under excitable new coordinator Joe Kines.
Texas Tech 62, Eastern Washington 3: Graham Harrell needs only six touchdown passes to break Kliff Kingsbury's school record. He might get them all before the end of the first half against the defensively-challenged Eagles, who ranked 104th nationally in Division I-AA against the pass last season.
Missouri 33, Illinois 21 (at St. Louis): The Tigers start their march to a BCS bowl against a tough opponent that gave them fits last season. This time around, the Tigers provide a consistent defensive effort that will flummox Illinois QB Juice Williams all through the game.
Colorado 27, Colorado State 14 (at Denver): Still unsure exactly what to expect from new CSU coach Steve Fairchild, the Buffaloes will pitch a strong defensive effort neutralizing the Rams' tailback combination of Kyle Bell and Gartrell Johnson. And look for heralded Colorado TB Darrell Scott to show some flashes, too.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
For entertainment purposes only. And if I'm wrong, I'm guessing you'll be entertained.
Oregon State 24, Stanford 20: This smelled like a potential Stanford upset, but then the Cardinal got hit with a couple of injuries on the OL and at WR, so the Beavers get the nod in a game that figures to be low scoring. Oregon State's biggest edge is at the skill positions, and here's a guess that QB Lyle Moevao will be much smoother this season distributing the ball.
Oklahoma State 38, Washington State 24: The Cougars were hit hard by bad news this week with DT Andy Roof being kicked out of school and OT Dan Rowlands retiring due to recurring shoulder problems. The Cougars are thin on both lines. Meanwhile, the Cowboys' offensive line boasts 89 career starts, which makes this a mismatch up front.
USC 42, Virginia 10: The biggest point of interest here is how well USC QB Mark Sanchez plays after his rapid recovery from a dislocated knee. It's also worth watching to see how Pete Carroll distributes the ball among his six tailbacks. And you might want to catch the nation's best defense. Virginia is rebuilding, with just 11 starters back, and the Trojans don't do that.
California 28, Michigan State 24: This might be the best matchup of the weekend. Kevin Riley surged late to win the Bears QB job over Nate Longshore, but Longshore is expected to see some action. Will TB Jahvid Best put on a show? Speaking of shows, Spartans tailback Javon Ringer and a huge OL will test the Bears' new 3-4 look.
Oregon 35, Washington 24: Justin Roper takes over Oregon's spread-option offense after Nate Costa went down with a knee injury, and his strong performance in the Sun Bowl suggests he is fully capable. He'll get a lot of help from Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount in the backfield and an offensive line that should have its way with the young Huskies front. A Washington upset will require a spectacular performance from QB Jake Locker, which is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Arizona 44, Idaho 20: Arizona needs a fast start and it will get it here. The veteran Wildcats offense should look good out of the gate, even without outstanding TE Rob Gronkowski. Moreover, the young defense probably will build up its confidence against an overmatched Idaho offense.
Arizona State 48, Northern Arizona 17: The Sun Devils get a preseason game. They might want to recall Appalachian State at Michigan a year ago and remember to show up.
Tennessee 27, UCLA 17: New UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel's debut is a tough one, with an SEC power coming to town. The UCLA defense and special teams could keep this one close, but the offense -- even with guru Norm Chow calling the shots -- figures to struggle mightily against a tough Vols DL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
While the other bloggers were asked to pick all of the games within their conferences, I was left with the opportunity to pick and choose. I grabbed three games from each conference and what was left of the Independents and made it into a 16-team prediction bonanza.
Most of the games are pretty clear cut, but there are a couple interesting upsets, including my upset of the week, which I'll write more about later today.
Temple 28, Army 3: This is the year Temple makes Saturdays fun again for its fans. The Owls defense is one of the best in the country and since it returns almost all of its starters, it will shut down Army and its eight returning starters fairly easily.
Nebraska 35, Western Michigan 14: If this game were at Western Michigan, the Broncos would have a chance, but in Lincoln on the opening weekend of a much-anticipated season the Broncos have no chance. Nebraska's offense is going to be fine, it's the defense that will get a test from quarterback Tim Hiller and wide receiver Jamarko Simmons.
Bowling Green 21, Pittsburgh 20: This is one of those too-close-to-call games. A lot of people are high on Pitt and I don't know why. Bowling Green returns nearly everyone from a team that finished 8-5 and won at Minnesota. Don't sleep on BGSU quarterback Tyler Sheehan, he did throw for 3,000 yards last season.
East Carolina 17, Virginia Tech 7: Mmmm, upset special tastes like Hokie. East Carolina rolled into an emotionally charged atmosphere last year and suffered two critical turnovers. Virginia Tech's defense is just as good as last year, but East Carolina is better mentally and physically.
Rice 42, SMU 28: No happy beginning to June Jones' career at SMU. The young Mustangs will have a hard time hanging with the chemistry of quarterback Chase Clement and wide receiver Jarett Dillard. This game will have a lot of scoring with both teams sporting little defense.
Ole Miss 21, Memphis 7: Both these teams are breaking in new quarterbacks, but Ole Miss' Snead has played a Division I football game and he was pretty darn good when he was taking snaps at Texas. Neither Memphis' quarterback nor its running back can say the same.
Utah 31, Michigan 20: I'd call this an upset, but I'm not sure it is. There's too much uncertainty at Michigan to feel like the Wolverines have the upper hand in this matchup. I like Utah because it's a veteran team that's on a mission. These teams are similar on both offense and defense in terms of schemes, but Utah has the better defense and the more experienced backfield.
TCU 32, New Mexico 21: Tough draw for both of these teams because it's a game that doesn't allow younger players to get their feet wet. That's where it hurts New Mexico. New Mexico is loaded with young talent, but so little of it has played in a real game. TCU brings 15 starters back and they're still upset about the way last season ended up.
Colorado 45, Colorado State 10: Usually, these games are close, but this year there's too great of a disparity in the talent and the overall cohesiveness of the team. Colorado is going to be one of the top teams in the Big 12, and unless they sleep on the young, inexperienced Rams, should win this game easily.
Troy 20, Middle Tennessee 9: I'm all about the random scores today. Troy has won the last two meetings in the Battle of the Palladium and three of the last four. There are a lot more questions than answers for Middle Tennessee State and playing the two-quarterback system is going to hurt continuity. Troy is breaking in a lot of offensive skill players but the offensive line is veteran and that will make the difference.
Florida Atlantic 21, Texas 17: Crazy? Absolutely, but a strong pick. Texas is going to break in a freshman secondary against the arm of FAU quarterback Rusty Smith, who was the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year last season and has already been whispered about in Heisman long shot talk. The Owls return 18 players, including 10 on offense and will give Texas all it can handle on its home turf.
Auburn 35, Louisiana-Monroe 3: No upset here. Auburn is the class of the SEC West and should handle the Warhawks with relative ease. Auburn beat ULM, 33-0, in the 2004 season opener. Expect more of the same domination.
Fresno State 32, Rutgers 17: There's a lot of talk about this being a good game, but I don't see it. Rutgers had a lot of trouble last season with teams that aren't nearly as good as Fresno State. The Scarlet Knights had one great season, but that doesn't make them a football powerhouse.
Mississippi State 28, Louisiana Tech 17: Neither one of these teams impress me, but this game is interesting because of Louisiana Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett, a transfer from Georgia Tech. He has the advantage of having played teams similar to Mississippi State, but he doesn't have the players around him to get the win.
Florida 41, Hawaii 28: This is a tough test for a Hawaii team that is basically breaking in a whole new set of skill position players. Quarterback Brent Rausch has been nursing a sore shoulder and the offensive line has been playing musical chairs. Regardless of Florida's injury situation, it's still Florida and it has the talent to cruise.
Navy 30, Towson 10: The loss of starting quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada hurts, but not so much this week. Backup quarterback Jarod Bryant should hold his own and do enough to keep the Navy triple option offense moving.