For those new to my predictions, the rules are simple. I'm going to pick all games involving Big Ten teams, and I'll make a pick on any game that involves two ranked teams. Outside of that, it's just a subjective deal by me. I try to find the potential upsets, and the interesting games. At the end, I'll debut a new feature we're going to try every week.
This week, we have a lot of games. Let's get it on!
(All games Saturday unless noted)
Utah at Oregon State (Thursday): The Utes get Brian Johnson back under center (well, in the shotgun more often than not, I guess). Oregon State is trying to slog through without top receiver Sammie Stroughter, but they're at home, and they have enough talent to win. A Utah upset would set the table for a Mountain West title run. I think the Utes have the goods to contend in their league, but they don't quite have enough muscle to pull this road upset.
The pick: Oregon State
Appalachian State at Michigan: Hey, at least the Mountaineers won a national title last year. ASU has a chance to contend again in I-AA, and they might keep this game close for a half. However, Michigan has way too much speed, skill, and depth. They'll win going away.
The pick: Michigan
Florida International at Penn State: FIU was competitive in some games last year, but was still an 0-12 disaster better known for the fight at Miami than anything they did while actually playing football. The Panthers have a new coaching staff and a more upbeat outlook. They're still no match for Penn State, and this is not a quality test for Anthony Morelli. Next week will be.
The pick: Penn State
Youngstown State at Ohio State: Good tuneup for tOSU, debuting a new QB in Todd Boeckman, who is no Troy Smith and won't have to be on this day.
The pick: Ohio State
Northeastern at Northwestern: The Wildcats came on strong late last season, and were a better team at the end than the one that lost to New Hampshire early. Northeastern isn't nearly as strong as UNH was last year, and shouldn't be much of a threat.
The pick: Northwestern
UAB at Michigan State: There are a lot of mid-majors who could really give Michigan State a run for their money early in the season. Sparty is working with a leaky defense and a new QB in Brian Hoyer. UAB might be able to control the ball for some time, but it's going to be extremely difficult for an overmatched UAB team to win this game.
The pick: Michigan State
Washington State at Wisconsin: The Badgers have very high expectations, but also a new quarterback. Washington State may be a tad overlooked in the Pac Ten, but are hardly a top-notch opponent. Wisconsin may have to win this game with their defense while the offense gets used to new starting QB Tyler Donovan. This is going to be a low-scoring game, but Wisconsin will win comfortably.
The pick: Wisconsin
Iowa at Northern Illinois (Soldier Field, Chicago): No more Drew Tate, but the way he played down the stretch last year, that might be a good thing. No more Garrett Wolfe for NIU, and that's hardly a good thing. The Huskies will achieve a greater offensive balance this year, but the adjustment to no Wolfe will take some time.
The pick: Iowa
Missouri vs Illinois (Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis): This could set up as a bit of a surprise. Illinois has bowl aspirations this year, and that 2-10 record they posted a year ago is a bit misleading. Missouri is the pick of many to win the Big 12 North. Of all the games involving Big Ten teams this week, this could be the best, and it's easily the toughest one to pick. Despite my Big Ten biases, and the fact that I do like Illinois to win seven games this year, I'm going with Missouri to win an entertaining game.
The pick: Missouri
Purdue at Toledo: The Rockets have a QB controversy, and the offense has some pressure to perform after a down year in 2006. Purdue has a ton of players back from last year's bowl team, and they are setting up for a possible run at a major bowl this year. If anything, Purdue's defense is going to set them back. If Toledo can get it together, this should be a high-scoring game.
The pick: Purdue
Indiana State at Indiana: The Hoosiers won't be that this year.
The pick: Indiana
Bowling Green at Minnesota: Debuting Gophers coach Tim Brewster has a freshman QB in Adam Weber, and this is a nice way to start his career. Bowling Green shouldn't present too many challenges for Mike Dunbar's newly-installed spread offense, but the athletic Falcons might cause the Gophers' defense a few problems. Expect Minnesota to get enough points to hold off the Falcons.
The pick: Minnesota
Colorado State vs. Colorado (Invesco Field, Denver): An improved Rams team faces an improved Buffaloes team. CU debuts coach Dan Hawkins' son, Cody, as their starting QB. The Buffaloes should have a stout defense, and even though the Rams are talented up front and at RB with the returning Kyle Bell, they don't have enough horses to hold off Colorado.
The pick: Colorado
Nevada at Nebraska: Nebraska has a tough non-conference schedule. Nevada is no pansy, and the 'Huskers travel to Wake Forest before hosting USC in two weeks. The Nebraska offense appears to have all the tools necessary to win this putrid division they're in, and Nevada should give them a nice test without scaring them too much.
The pick: Nebraska
Wake Forest at Boston College: For Wake, this is the test. Was last year a fluke? They get their young QB back with a ton of experience under his belt. They get their star RB back after a season-ending injury early last year, and coach Jim Grobe stocked that position with talented recruits. Boston College returns possibly the ACC's best QB in Matt Ryan, but will the offense gel under new coaches? I like BC at home, but not by much, and a BC win doesn't do anything to devalue what Wake accomplished last year.
The pick: Boston College
Georgia Tech at Notre Dame: Really, Charlie, it doesn't matter who the quarterback is. Your team has problems in this matchup. The Irish have lost a lot of great players, and while Georgia Tech lost Calvin Johnson, they have the makings of a great defense. That defense will chew up whatever quarterback Charlie Weis has decided to use as the Notre Dame starter, and Tech will win a close, low-scoring game...the same kind of game Notre Dame beat them in last year.
The pick: Georgia Tech
Arizona at BYU: Last year, Arizona won a very close game at home, and BYU went on to win eleven of their last twelve games. The Cougars have a new QB, but should still be able to score points in bunches. Playing at home in the altitude, BYU will turn the tables on the Wildcats, who may be playing for their coach's job this season.
The pick: BYU
Oklahoma State at Georgia: Oklahoma State is a chic upset pick for many. They have a talented young football team that is stuck playing in a tough division. Georgia, meanwhile, was a late-season surge away from not even making a bowl game last year. Both teams expect that they'll be improved, and I'm going to avoid the limb by picking the home team to win.
The pick: Georgia
Kansas State at Auburn: Kansas State surprised nicely last year, getting to the Texas Bowl. Auburn seems to be the forgotten soul of the SEC West and of major-college football in Alabama. That's still a very good, well-coached team. On paper, this one looks interesting, but I think the Tigers will win quite handily.
The pick: Auburn
Tennessee at California: This will be fun. The Volunteers embarrassed the Golden Bears in Knoxville, and Cal is out for revenge. Tennessee has new faces all over the offense, but leader Eric Ainge is back for his senior season. This game won't have last year's fireworks, and it will have a different result than we saw last year.
The pick: California
Texas Tech at SMU (Monday): There's a good chance that SMU will get back into a bowl game this year for the first time since the 1980s. This is a solid football team, but their defense is undersized and not quite athletic enough to contain Texas Tech's crazy offense. This could also be a high-scoring game, as TTU isn't exactly known for their defense, but in the end, Mike Leach's crew prevails.
The pick: Texas Tech
Florida State at Clemson (Monday): Clemson has a super one-two punch at running back, but there are issues at quarterback, as well as on defense. This is the first test for new FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, who should be a significant upgrade over Jeff Bowden. Florida State has way too much offensive talent to struggle like they did last year, and Fisher will get them back playing top-quality football. And don't worry, that defense is in fine shape.
The pick: Florida State
MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE WEEK
Every week, I'm going to pick a game that follows one basic rule: Both teams involved have to be from non-BCS conferences. It's a little tougher during the "non-conference season", but we slog ahead nonetheless.
Tulsa at Louisiana-Monroe (Thursday): Tulsa has skill talent back on offense, but they have to rebuild their line. The defense looks pretty good, and it will be tested by ULM. Charlie Weatherbie's Warhawks are loaded offensively, and they'll spread out Tulsa's defense and attack. The key will be the play of ULM's defense, which should be primed for a national TV appearance at home, but may not have the skill to hold up against Tulsa's offense.
The pick: Tulsa