Western Michigan (+5): Seeing a MAC team on the road at a BIG 10 team and only being a 5 point dog will cause you to look twice. Usually peoples first reaction will be to blindly lay the 5 points with the home team from the power conference and fade the MAC team on the road. Western Michigan however isn’t your typical garbage MAC team. The Broncos won 8 games last year and I think they’ll be even better this season. The main reason is the return of Senior QB Zach Terrell. Terrell is coming off a Junior season where he threw for 3522 yards, completed 65% of his passes, and had 29 TD to go with only 9 INT. Also back are the RB duo of Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan who combined for nearly 1800 yards and 21 TD’s last year. In short this is a WMU offense that shouldn’t have trouble moving the ball, be in through the air or on the ground. Their defense only returns 5 starters so there is a little cause for concern there, but the offense should be very good. Northwestern won 10 games last year which to most will make this line look even stranger. Like I said a 10 win BIG 10 team at home only laying 5 against a MAC team? I already went into why on the WMU and now I’ll talk Northwestern. The Cats realistically aren’t going to sniff 10 wins again this year and they really over-achieved to get their last season. This is a team that won a ton of close games and did it with a very, very, very mediocre offense. To be honest mediocre is probably even putting it kindly. I think WMU goes in here and pulls off the mild upset in Week 1.
Southern Mississippi (+6.5): Similar story here as the MAC at BIG 10 game I talked about with WMU at Northwestern. When a C-USA team goes on the road to face an SEC team and the line is still under a TD it raises eyebrows. This Southern Miss team won 9 games last year and I think they’ll be right there flirting with double digit wins this season. QB Nick Mullens leads the way for USM. He was the C-USA player of the year in 2015 and is the preseason player of the year in 2016. Mullens last year went for 4476 yards, 38 TD and only 12 INT. To put it simply he’s a stud, and he won’t be in awe or intimidated by facing an SEC defense. RB Jalen Richard is now a Raider but RB Ito Smith returns this year, and with a bigger role in the offense he should run wild. Last year Smith ran for 1128 yards on 6.6 yards per carry and scored 10 TD’s. With him running and Mullens chucking it all over the yard the USM offense should be in very good hands. While I mentioned how set USM is at QB, it’s the exact opposite for Kentucky who hands the ball to first time starter Drew Barker. Now while some are high on Barker the facts remain he is unproven and an unknown. Kentucky should be respectable this year and they’ll flirt with being bowl eligible but I just see too many question marks with them pass on taking 6.5 with Southern Miss. This is a line I was honestly expecting to be at 3 or 3.5, so 6.5 is a no brainer for me to get involved.
Texas A&M (-3): Fully expecting Texas A&M to pull off the “upset” this week and knock off UCLA. This will be one of those games that if the Aggies win you’ll hear all the media talking heads claiming it was an upset because UCLA is ranked #16 and Texas A&M is unranked. Make no mistake, if A&M wins this game it won’t be an upset, frankly it should be expected. At QB for Texas A&M will be a guy who many of you will remember from his time at Oklahoma, Trevor Knight. It looked for a while like Knight would be absolute star in Norman but after things came apart there a little it’ll be as an Aggie that he finishes his college career. I still think Knight can really play, and boy oh boy is he walking into a nice situation. He was offensive guru Kevin Sumlin at the helm and he inherited one hell of a group of WR’s to throw the ball to. The trio of Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones are one of the best groups you’ll find in the nation. There’s some good news, bad news going on with the UCLA offense. The good news is QB Josh Rosen is back, the bad news is there are only 3 other starters from that offense returning with him. The defense should be good, but as I mentioned with all that talent A&M has on offense they’ll be tested right away. One thing that also can’t be overlooked here is A&M DE Myles Garrett who is arguably the best DE in the nation should be chasing Rosen all around the field Saturday. I mentioned only 4 starters back for UCLA on offense. With Garrett probably in Rosens back pocket all day, I think a few fumbles and/or INT’s from him are a very real possibility. Overall I just don’t think UCLA (despite an excellent QB) will have enough fire power to win this one.
San Jose State (+5.5): This isn’t the kind of game that generate much interest or attract many eye balls, but I think there’s some value with SJSU at this number. As was the case with UCLA in the last write up there’s some good news, bad news going on with the SJSU offense. The bad news is they lost RB Tyler Ervin who ran for 1600 yards and 13 TD’s last year. The good news he’s the only starter gone from last years offense, as the other 10 all return. With Ervin gone the role for QB Kenny Potter gets even bigger. Potter was plenty respectable last year completing 67.4% of his passes and having a better than 2:1 TD/INT ratio. He’s also a nice threat on the ground and provides a real solid dual threat weapon for the Spartans. With Tulsa things are pretty simple, the offense is solid but the defense is flat out horrid. After all the total in this game is 70 for a reason. Tulsa will put up plenty of points in this game, there’s absolutely no denying that. That said I truly think their defense should be bottom 5 in the country, and facing a team with 10 offensive starters returning could make for a very long day for the Tulsa D. This is a game where I was a expecting a line of about 3, so I’ll happily take the extra 2.5 points and go to battle with 5.5 in my pocket in a game that should be a shootout.
Georgia (-2.5, -115): Here we’ve got a UNC team that I think comes back to earth a bit this year, and a Georgia team that I think hits the ground running with Kirby Smart at the helm. Smart as you all know has been the defensive coordinator at Bama for years now, and finally landed himself a very nice head coaching roll. It should hardly come as a surprise that I expect the Georgia defense to be very solid this year. On the offensive side of the ball the Dogs run Nick Chubb and Sony Michel out there to form what is probably the best RB Duo in the nation. Today Chubb was officially cleared to play and Michel looks to still be day to day. I think Chubb runs wild on Saturday and Michel plays too that’s just gravy. At QB the Dogs will turn to heavily recruited Freshman Jacob Eason. Although Eason is very talented I’d assume in this one Smart will rely on his running game and defense to try and win the game while easing Eason into the game, and to big time college football in general. On the UNC side the obvious hole is at QB with do everything QB Marquise Williams is gone. Elijah Hood and his 1463 yards return at RB, but you know damn well Smart is going to stack the box and force new QB Mitch Trubisky to beat him. Trubisky has put up nice numbers as a backup, but there’s a big difference between coming into games in mop up duty and being the starter against a team like Georgia. At the end of the day each team should be very solid in the running game, but I like Georgia a bit more on the defensive side, a bit more at QB and a bit more at head coach. I think Georgia wins this one by a TD or so.