College football’s wide open is tonight. Those of us who have waited like good boys and girls to do some wagering for entertaining purposes are overjoyed our ship has finally come in. It’s way too early to brag, but we are currently 1-0 and undefeated, thanks to a Colorado State cover easily coming to fruition last Saturday. It could be the high-water mark. Here’s hoping otherwise.
To the picks …
Tulsa at Oklahoma State (OVER 69.5): The Cowboys boast of the most prolific offenses in nation with Mason Rudolph slinging it around to a James Washington-led receiving corps that added five-star transfer Tyron Johnson. Running back Justice Hill provides balance from the backfield and led all freshman rushers with 1,142 yards last season. Tulsa is coming off an impressive 10-3 season but is without accomplished quarterback Dane Evans. One of two unproved signal-callers will take the field and likely be forced to throw early and often. If Oklahoma State has a weakness, it could be their untested secondary. Prediction: Oklahoma State 55, Tulsa 28.
ILLINOIS -6.5 over Ball State: If Lovie Smith can’t take care of a decent but unintimidating MAC team in the season opener, it’s a bad sign for his rebuild. The Illini must stop Cardinals running back James Gilbert from getting loose and force quarterback Riley Neal to throw the ball. On offense, Illinois has to ride Kendrick Foster, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry last year. Chayce Crouch and his WB-character-like name should have his way against a defense returning just three returning starters. Prediction: Illinois 38, Ball State 20.
UCLA -3.5 over Texas A&M: Classic Sophie’s choice right here. How does a sane person possibly pick between trusting Jim Mora or Kevin Sumlin. The answer is actually quite obvious. Go with the home team. Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen has the talent and moxie to take down an SEC defense. The Aggies don’t have a named starting QB and lost six of their top seven wide receivers. Both of these teams could end up being massive disappointments come November, but one has to win Sunday in Pasadena. UCLA feels like the safer bet. Prediction: UCLA: 30, Texas A&M 21.
Utah State +27.5 over Wisconsin: Look, no one appreciates the Badgers more than I do. But they are always good for an early season stumble out of the gates. For the first half at least. The last time the Aggies were in Madison, they fought to a 16-14 loss. Wisconsin loves to run the football and is effective when doing so. This shortens the game and makes underdogs attractive. Taking a flier here on a squeaker. Prediction: Wisconsin 41, Utah State 14.
Florida +5.5 over Michigan: It is not a good sign that Malik Zaire is not starting for the Gators. Then again, we all knew there were plenty of question marks surrounding that offensive unit. Do not let this distract you from the fact Michigan is also facing a long list of uncertainties: receiver, secondary, offensive line, uh, almost everywhere but head coach. This again is a volatile season opener we could look back on and realize was overvalued in the grand scheme of things (think Notre Dame-Texas last year). Michigan is the better team, I am just not sure they are 5.5 points better on a neutral field. Prediction: Florida 21, Michigan 20.