Throughout the offseason, I've seen Miami fans complaining about the team's early schedule. Why are we playing FAMU? Why don't we play much tougher competition the first few weeks? I kept shaking my head in confusion, but with the FAMU game finally here it's time to respond. As of now, the Canes play LSU in Week 1 in 2018 and Florida in Week 1 in 2019. Would I want Miami opening up with an SEC team in a huge showcase game this week? Absolutely not. I miss the days of "we'll play anyone anywhere" too, but the best thing for this current team is to gain confidence and experience against inferior opponents early in the season. Miami might be starting three freshmen linebackers. The Canes just lost two of their best players on defense to suspension and injuries to Harris and Moten mean the defensive line might be even younger for now. Miami has an entirely new coaching staff and Mark Richt is back calling plays for the first time in years. FAMU is the perfect opponent for the home opener. When October rolls around, the Canes should be 3-0 coming off a bye and more ready to handle the toughest part of the schedule. Miami can have a special season, but let's take it one step at a time.
Goals for the FAMU Game
Miami has a very talented roster, but doesn't have the depth to be able to deal with injuries to key players. While watching Brad Kaaya pad his stats would be fun, I'd rather have him watching the game from the sideline in the second half. Many of Miami's players enter the season like Donald Trump, in the best physical condition anyone has ever seen, with the best energy and stamina. Let's keep it that way.
If the choices are Miami winning 56-0 in utter domination or winning 42-10, I'd probably prefer the latter. The Canes have numerous guys making their collegiate debuts. It would be great if the freshmen linebackers are incredible from the start, but that's just not realistic. There are always growing pains with young players. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. I'd rather learn from a missed assignment against FAMU that doesn't impact the result than wait for that same mistake to happen against Georgia Tech or FSU.
Aggressive Play Calling
We all know if Miami simply ran the ball on most downs, the Canes would overpower FAMU and still win easily, but that doesn't accomplish much. Miami needs to play fast and try to create big plays on offense. Brad Kaaya has a few new receivers that he needs to build chemistry with. Throw some deep balls and have some fun. Defensively, the fans couldn't be more excited about the change to Manny Diaz at DC. It's time to see that aggressive attacking defense we have been waiting for. Against FAMU, if the defense gives up a few big plays as a result of taking chances, so be it.
RICHT PICKS (Highest Conviction)
NORTHWESTERN -5 vs Western Michigan - 12pm – ESPNU
WMU has an impressive QB/WR combo with Zach Terrell and Corey Davis, but Northwestern allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the nation in 2015. NU LB Anthony Walker Jr. is a tackling machine and he’ll lead this defense to another impressive year. Western Michigan will struggle to stop the run and Northwestern’s offense should be more balanced with QB Clayton Thorson entering the season with more confidence. Solomon Vault will make a big play and help the Wildcats win by two scores.
TULSA -5.5 vs San Jose State - 7pm - CBSSN
Tulsa’s senior QB Dane Evans is underrated and ready to have another huge season. WR Keevan Lucas is healthy again and should have a big game against SJSU. Tulsa’s fast paced offense under HC Philip Montgomery will be even better in his second year at the helm. San Jose State lost their star RB Tyler Ervin and QB Kenny Potter won’t be able to take advantage of Tulsa’s vulnerable secondary. Tulsa wins a high scoring game at home.
FSU -4.5 vs Ole Miss - 8pm (Orlando) - ESPN - Monday night
People keep saying things like “FSU has SEC level talent,” not realizing that the Noles will be better than Ole Miss on both sides of the ball this season. The game being played in Orlando is an added advantage for FSU. Ole Miss will be exciting on offense led by QB Chad Kelly, but he has to deal with five new starters on the offensive line. The Rebels defense will struggle to slow down FSU RB Dalvin Cook. QB Deondre Francois will be making his first career start for the Noles.
GEORGIA TECH -3 vs Boston College - 730am (Dublin) - ESPN2
Boston College was horrific on offense in 2015, but led the nation in total defense. Unfortunately for the Eagles, that success on defense led to the departure of DC Don Brown to Michigan. BC will start QB Patrick Towles who transferred from Kentucky. BC’s offense still lacks speed and playmakers and won’t be able to come from behind if Georgia Tech takes an early lead. GT QB Justin Thomas will bounce back from a tough 2015 season and lead his team to a conference win on Saturday morning. There needs to be a game in Ireland every weekend because this 730am kickoff is perfect.
HOUSTON +11.5 vs Oklahoma - 12pm - ABC
After beating FSU in the Peach Bowl, the Cougars are ready to face another highly ranked team. I love Houston HC Tom Herman and QB Greg Ward Jr. Oklahoma is loaded on offense with QB Baker Mayfield and RB’s Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. I expect the Sooners to win by a touchdown. Houston is good enough to keep this game within striking distance. This is the first big matchup of the day and has significant Playoff implications. Enjoy what should be one of the most interesting games of the weekend.
RUTGERS +26.5 at Washington - 2pm - Pac-12
I get the hype around Washington this season. The Huskies are loaded with talent and favored to potentially win the Pac-12. UW should beat Rutgers easily, but 26.5 points are too many to give in my opinion. UW QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin should both have big games against an average Rutgers defense. Look for the Scarlet Knights to score just enough to lose by 20 in Chris Ash’s head coaching debut.
TEXAS A&M -3 vs Ucla - 330pm - CBS
I look forward to rooting against Josh Rosen this season. He said this week that the noise at Kyle Field won’t be an issue. I think he’ll regret that comment after the game. Texas A&M is now led by QB Trevor Knight who transferred from Oklahoma. Knight has more weapons on offense with three impressive WR’s (Christian Kirk, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Josh Reynolds). Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett could be the first pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He’ll make his presence felt early and often and make life difficult for Rosen and the Bruins. The Aggies win a close one at home.
LSU -10 vs Wisconsin - 330pm (Green Bay) - ABC
LSU has Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice in the backfield. That might be the main difference in the game. QB Brandon Harris needs to be more consistent if the Tigers are going to challenge Alabama in the SEC. Wisconsin is starting a new QB in Bart Houston. Wisconsin’s star RB Corey Clement won’t have many running lanes against the Tigers, especially now that former Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda is running the defense for LSU. Les Miles has warned his players not to attempt the Lambeau leap, but they’ll still be able to celebrate a convincing win against the Badgers.
GEORGIA -3 vs North Carolina (Atlanta) - 530pm - ESPN
New Georgia head coach Kirby Smart says his stud RB Nick Chubb is healthy and ready to play. The Bulldogs should be able to control the line of scrimmage and have success on the ground. UNC’s run defense was a disaster against quality opponents last season. The Tar Heels have their own talented RB in Elijah Hood, but I think Smart’s defense will do a better job holding up. Look for a close game throughout, with Georgia’s strength up front being the difference.
KENTUCKY -6.5 vs Southern Miss - 730pm - ESPNU
This game is a popular upset pick this weekend. Don’t worry about it. I think Kentucky will be better than people expect in 2016. QB Drew Barker is young but has a great potential. Kentucky’s offensive line should be able to move around an undersized Southern Miss defense. The Golden Eagles have a terrific QB in Nick Mullens, but UK has one of the SEC’s best secondaries. Kentucky wins by 10 at home.
UMASS +36.5 at Florida - 730pm - SECN
Admittedly this pick is more for fun than anything else. The Gators will win easily. I’m just hoping for a dramatic late UMass touchdown that cuts the lead from 42 to 35 as time expires.
FRESNO STATE +28.5 at Nebraska - 8pm - BTN
The huge line in this game is more about how bad Fresno State is expected to be. Tim DeRuyter hired six new assistant coaches after a disappointing 2015 so scheme wise,
this team is a bit of a mystery. Nebraska has been turnover prone with QB Tommy Armstrong leading the offense. Fresno State’s new QB is Chason Virgil, a redshirt freshman who is already one of the team’s leaders. Nebraska will certainly be able to run the ball with relative ease, but the Huskers will give up 17+ points, making it difficult to overcome the 28.5. Nebraska wins by 20.
ALABAMA -12 vs Usc - 8pm - ABC
It won’t matter who plays quarterback for Alabama (Cooper Bateman or Blake Barnett). USC’s defense has struggled in recent years and won’t be able to slow down Lane Kiffin and company. USC WR Juju Smith-Schuster is an explosive playmaker, but he’ll be relying on QB Max Browne who is making his first career start against the nation’s best defense. The Crimson Tide are absolutely loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Tim Williams and the Bama defensive line will create havoc in the USC backfield. Nick Saban’s team should roll on Saturday night.
AUBURN +8 vs Clemson - 9pm - ESPN
I expected to be taking Clemson in this game all summer. It seems like everyone is picking Clemson in a blowout, but the line is just 8 points. Auburn playing at home with a 9pm kickoff will definitely be a factor. The atmosphere should be incredible. While Auburn doesn’t have many big names, the Tigers should have a pretty good defense this season. QB Sean White won the job this summer and Gus will have a better gameplan to fit his skill set compared to 2015. Clemson’s offense has all the stars back - Watson, Scott, Williams, & Gallman. I think Clemson ends up winning a close game after getting an early scare on the road. If Auburn makes a few big plays or creates some turnovers, this game will be very interesting.
ARIZONA -1.5 vs Byu - 1030pm (Glendale) - FS1
BYU returns 26-year-old QB Taysom Hill and RB Jamaal Williams, but the Cougars have a brand new coaching staff. While this is a “neutral site” game, it is still in Arizona and will feel like a home game for the Wildcats. QB Anu Solomon is still technically in competition with Brandon Dawkins. I expect the veteran Solomon to take more snaps Saturday night. He’ll have playmakers all around him in star RB Nick Wilson and explosive WR’s Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips. I’m worried about Arizona’s defensive line, but I think the Wildcats win it on the final possession in a shootout.
NOTRE DAME -3.5 at Texas - 730pm - ABC
I don’t feel comfortable picking Texas until their QB situation is resolved. I assume true freshman Shane Buechele will be the main guy this season. Making your first start in a game of this magnitude is a tough situation to be in. Both Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will play at quarterback for Notre Dame on Sunday night and I have confidence in both players. Texas will be a much better team in the second half of the year once Buechele gets comfortable. This game won’t resemble last year’s 38-3 blowout, but the Irish will still be able to leave Austin with a 7-10 point victory.
If you missed my picks for the games tonight and tomorrow, here they are - Vandy, Tulane, Tennessee, Rice, Oregon State, Indiana, Colorado, Stanford and Toledo. Enjoy the first college football weekend of the year. Time to win.