"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
I love starting a year off with that quote. I feel prepared and now it's time for results to follow. In this article, I've picked nine games on Saturday, one on Sunday afternoon, and one on Monday night. In case you missed my picks for tonight and tomorrow, here they are. All together I have chosen 20 games this week. If #PreciseMediocrity takes over, I'll finish a frustrating 10-10, but I've done my best to avoid that demoralizing scenario. Anything above 10 wins and I'll be able to gain some momentum. Anything below and I'll likely be as emotional and defensive as RGIII. Starting fast is crucial. Send the luck and positive vibes my way and enjoy a fantastic first week of college football.
Miami opens the season on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium. As I've mentioned before, I'm thrilled to be playing Bethune Cookman. This is a perfect opportunity to play younger players and have them gain experience and reps. UM finally has depth at key positions, especially DL and WR, and need to figure out a rotation at running back. My dream scenario is for the Canes to be up four scores by halftime, allowing Al Golden to pull starters as soon as possible. The margin of victory isn't important. What matters is getting an opportunity to evaluate and teach, while keeping this key contributors on this team as healthy as possible. I can't wait to see talented freshmen like Mark Walton, Jaquan Johnson, and Lawrence Cager take the the field in a Miami uniform. The ACC has four brutal non-conference games this weekend - UNC vs South Carolina, UVA at UCLA, Louisville at Auburn, and Virginia Tech vs Ohio State. The conference will be fortunate to win even one of those matchups. I'll never shy away from competition, but for a young team desperate for success, I'm glad Miami gets to wait a few weeks before being challenged. The Canes should have things clicking by the time Nebraska comes to town.
I've been trying to talk about it all offseason, but it doesn't seem like the message is being heard. Get excited about the new features and changes to Sun Life Stadium. I would love a smaller stadium of our own as much as anyone, but let's live in the present. The seats are much closer to the field and the areas of empty orange that became an eyesore on television, are now history. Embrace the change, head inside early, and come out in full force to support the 2015 Miami Hurricanes.
In the spirit of keeping up with the current trends in college football, I considered copying Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, and Jim Harbaugh. For my Golden Pick this week, I wanted to have it be Auburn OR Notre Dame OR Penn State OR Alabama, and then I would announce my final decision after the games had already started. In the end though, I decided to man up and show some actual conviction. Before we get started, check out the new "analytics" chart I have for this season. That Montana win makes things look pretty, at least for one week.
PENN STATE -6.5 at Temple - 330pm
Both teams return their star quarterbacks and while I do respect Temple's P.J. Walker, this pick is all about the emergence of Penn State's Christian Hackenberg. From all reports, the NFL prospect has made significant strides this offseason. He'll benefit from a better offensive line in 2015 and has a terrific playmaker on the perimeter in WR DaeSean Hamilton. I expect Penn State to continue to improve under James Franklin. Temple has a veteran defense and will play tough early, but Hackenberg will carry his team to victory.
NORTHWESTERN +12 vs Stanford - 12pm
Both teams are coming off disappointing 2014 seasons. Stanford has an experienced QB in Kevin Hogan, but he's struggled with consistency. RB Christian McCaffrey will be a star this year for the Cardinal. Northwestern's best offensive weapon is RB Justin Jackson and he'll help out his new starting QB, redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson. This game will feel like a 9am kickoff for Stanford and I look for Northwestern to control the game early. Stanford likely pulls the game out in the second half, but only by a touchdown.
BYU +7 at Nebraska - 330pm
This is a tough opener for Nebraska and new HC Mike Riley. The Huskers will be breaking in a new offense that requires QB Tommy Armstrong to improve as a passer this season to be successful. I love BYU QB Taysom Hill and feel confident in his ability to will his team to victory, even on the road. BYU will be missing a few guys due to suspension, but the Cougars should still be able to run the ball effectively. Nebraska will struggle to replace Kenny Bell, Ameer Abdullah, and lost their best returning playmaker to an injury in camp. Don't be surprised if BYU pulls the upset and wins outright.
VIRGINIA +19.5 at Ucla - 330pm
This won't be the blowout some are expecting. True freshman QB Josh Rosen certainly has star potential, but his inexperience could lead to a slow start for the Bruins. UCLA will be without star CB Ishmael Adams who was arrested over the weekend. UVA played the Bruins down to the final possession a year ago and won't be intimidated. Virginia QB Matt Johns showed flashes last season and played well in the three games he started. The Hoos have a quality defense that will allow them to stay within striking distance. UCLA wins by 10.
AUBURN -10.5 vs Louisville - 330pm (Game in Atlanta)
Auburn is a divisive team in 2015. You either believe the Tigers are a team to beat in the SEC or believe Auburn is vastly overrated and will struggle with new guys at key positions. I'm firmly on the Gus Malzahn bandwagon and expect the Tigers to be a factor in the playoff race. I'm sold on QB Jeremy Johnson being a Heisman candidate and can't wait to watch Auburn's group of stud running backs on Saturday afternoon - Roc Thomas, Jovon Robinson, and Peyton Barber. WR Duke Williams is a disaster off the field, but once the game starts, he's one of the toughest players to defend in the country. Louisville refuses to name a starting QB, frustrating everyone. Expect it to be Reggie Bonnafon, who played well at times last season. The Cardinals defense is solid, but it won't be able to slow Gus's high-speed attack. New Auburn DC Will Muschamp will benefit from the return of star DL Carl Lawson from an injury. Auburn wins by three scores at the Georgia Dome in front of a partisan crowd.
TEXAS A&M -3 vs Arizona State (Game in Houston) - 7pm
This might be the most exciting game all weekend. Expect a shootout between two high-powered offenses. Arizona State is led by QB Mike Bercovici and RB D.J. Foster. Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen should have a breakout season and has the benefit of an incredible group of wide receivers, led by Speedy Noil, Josh Reynolds, and Ricky Seals-Jones. RB Tra Carson should have a big night for the Aggies. I trust Kevin Sumlin more than Todd Graham and expect a close Texas A&M victory. Aggies' DE Myles Garrett is one of the best defensive players in the nation and he'll have a few key sacks to stop momentum.
NEW MEXICO STATE +37 at Florida - 730pm
Despite reports for a month that Will Grier was leading the competition, it turns out that Treon Harris will get the start at QB for the Gators. Both should play on Saturday in a blowout win, but the margin of victory will only be 20-30. UF has significant question marks on the offensive line and this is Jim McElwain's first game at the helm. New Mexico State returns nearly everyone and has a talented RB in Larry Rose III. NMSU will score a touchdown in the fourth quarter to earn me a victory.
NOTRE DAME -10 vs Texas - 730pm
This pick is painful because I always root against Notre Dame, but the Irish are going to be very good in 2015. ND has one of the nation's best offensive lines, a nice group of running backs, and the perfect QB for Brian Kelly's offense in Malik Zaire. Don't doubt Charlie Strong. He is going to bring Texas back to prominence in a few years. That being said, 2015 will be tough early for the Longhorns - starting six freshmen and playing more young players than most coaches would like. QB Tyrone Swoopes has yet to show he can carry his team and playing at Notre Dame will be a tough challenge for the junior. Notre Dame controls the line of scrimmage and wins by 14-20.
ALABAMA -12 vs Wisconsin (Game in Dallas) - 8pm
This game features two breakout RB's - Alabama's Derrick Henry and Wisconsin's Corey Clement. The difference will be Alabama's stout defense that finished ranked first in the nation a year ago. The Crimson Tide has a question mark at quarterback and we still have no idea who'll be starting on Saturday night. Batemen, Morris, or Coker won't have to do much though, because I think Wisconsin will have trouble scoring more than 17-20 points. Badgers' QB Joel Stave has always been inconsistent and he'll be facing arguably the best secondary he's seen in his career. DL A'Shawn Robinson and LB Reggie Ragland will create havoc in the backfield. Alabama's QB situation will be something to watch all season and will impact this team's chances of making the playoff, but the Tide match up too well against Wisconsin to lose this one.
PURDUE +7.5 at Marshall - 3pm
This is a big game for Purdue HC Darrell Hazell. It's his third year and his Boilermakers need to show progress. Starting QB Austin Appleby has full control of this offense, after playing the final seven Big Ten games of 2014. Appleby has a nice group of receivers, led by senior Danny Anthrop, and I expect him to play well. Marshall won't be able to replace the incredible production of QB Rakeem Cato and WR Tommy Shuler who both graduated last year. There will be some growing pains for new starting QB Michael Birdsong, but he does have a great option in the backfield in RB Devon Johnson, who had a record setting season in 2015. Look for this game to be close throughout and don't be surprised if Purdue pulls the upset.
OHIO STATE -14 at Virginia Tech - 8pm
The defending champs will be without their best player in DL Joey Bosa, as well as RB Dontre Wilson and WR Jalin Marshall. They won't miss a beat on Monday night. Expect both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett to play significant snaps as Urban Meyer tries to figure out the right direction for this year's team. Braxton Miller will have an instant impact on offense at WR and his elite explosiveness will be on display. Virginia Tech shocked the Buckeyes last season with an incredible defensive performance, but Bud Foster's group won't be able to repeat that success. The Hokies have a great defense, led by a dynamic secondary, but it won't be enough this time. Ohio State and Urban Meyer are motivated to avenge that loss and won't be intimidated by the environment in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech QB Michael Brewer might improve in 2015, but he'll struggle against a loaded OSU defense.