“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Miami dominated FAMU on nearly every play. The talent and size gap was massive, especially in person. In terms of projecting Miami’s season, it is difficult to come away with significant takeaways from the FAMU game. That being said, I did notice one glaring difference versus recent years.
Enthusiasm. Passion. Energy. Hard Rock Stadium had a very different feel on Saturday night. The crowd was large, the noise was loud, and Miami’s players were clearly ready to perform. It was obvious how much fun the Canes were having and how much effort they were giving. We saw big plays on special teams, receivers and linemen finishing blocks downfield, and saw a defensive line creating pressure all night. If Miami brings that level of intensity to every game this season, except a big year for Mark Richt’s team. Last year, Miami struggled early and wasn’t sharp against FAU in Boca Raton. I expect the Canes to play more aggressively and jump on the Owls early. FAU’s defense gave up big plays and 500+ yards against Southern Illinois. Brad Kaaya didn’t need to do much against FAMU, with three Miami running backs each breaking off long touchdown runs. Saturday night will be Kaaya’s first big performance of the season. Expect 300+ yards and at least one connection on a deep ball to Stacy Coley.
Appalachian State nearly beat Tennessee, losing 20-13 in overtime in Knoxville. Since that game, the obvious overreaction has occurred. Analysts and pundits keep circling the game against Miami. "The Canes better watch out," etc. Fortunately for Miami, Mark Richt will be on the sidelines instead of Butch Jones and his helpless expressions. I actually think the close game was extremely helpful for UM. There is no way for the Canes to overlook App State now with the entire country predicting an "upset alert." App State had just two offensive plays that gained 20 yards or more and lacks big-play ability on offense. Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs played terribly and the Vols never really challenged the Mountaineers downfield in the passing game, the one exception being the 67-yard touchdown to Josh Malone that tied the game at 13. Brad Kaaya and the Canes will be a much bigger challenge for the App State secondary. Watch for this to happen now - Tennessee will play much better against Virginia Tech and win by three scores, resulting in App State getting more credit for playing the Vols so close. When Miami wins convincingly on September 17th, the Canes will be praised and move up in the polls.
Georgia Tech wasn't impressive and probably should have lost to Boston College. The Yellow Jackets looked decent on defense, but BC's offense is average at best. At least one week in, it doesn't appear that Georgia Tech has the talent to bounce back from a very disappointing 2015 season.
FSU is scary good. After falling behind 28-6 to Ole Miss, they proved they aint no puppies. QB Deondre Francois led the Noles on a 33-0 run to take control of the game. FSU is loaded with talent at nearly every position and will be difficult to beat. Fortunately for the Canes the game is in Miami. We'll learn even more about the Noles next Saturday when they play a difficult road game at Louisville. I know many Miami fans always root against the Noles, but I would rather the Canes face an undefeated Top-5 ranked FSU. I want max hype, max atmosphere, and as much on the line as possible for Miami-FSU every year.
UNC led early but couldn't hold on against Georgia. The Tar Heels couldn't stop Georgia's running game, allowing 289 yards rushing on 52 carries. The UNC game is at a tricky spot in Miami's schedule, sandwiched between the showdown with FSU and a Thursday night game in Blacksburg.
We didn't learn much about Virginia Tech, Pitt, NCST, or Duke given the quality of their opponents. All four blew out an FCS team like Miami did. Virginia, however, looks destined to have a rough season. The Cavaliers were dominated in a 37-20 loss to Richmond - outgained 524-302 and only managed to gain 38 rushing yards. I'm excited that one of Miami's four ACC road games is in Charlottesville.
Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer played an incredible game Sunday night, but the Irish lost in double overtime at Texas. Notre Dame's defense is young and looked vulnerable across the board. Miami's trip to South Bend will likely be a shootout and it will take a big night from Brad Kaaya to put the Canes in position to win.
Overall, I had a successful Week 1. Winning 54% to start the season gives me positive momentum going forward. My 4-0-1 record in the ACC is nice to see since I’ll be relying heavily on the conference this year. FSU’s comeback win gave me a 2-1 record in Richt Picks. Let’s keep things moving in the right direction. A few more winning weeks and my column will likely be surpassing the view count of Skip Bayless’s new show.
MIAMI -24 vs Florida Atlantic - 6pm - ESPN3
UTAH -3.5 vs Byu - 730pm - FOX
Ty Detmer called a very conservative game for BYU’s offense in last week’s close win over Arizona. He’ll need to open things up and give QB Taysom Hill more opportunities to beat Utah. The Utes are much better defensively than Arizona, especially up front. I was intrigued with Utah QB Troy Williams when he was at Washington and he didn’t disappoint in his first start in Salt Lake City. The Utes have NFL talent in the trenches and will control the line of scrimmage. I give Utah the edge at home in one of the best rivalries in college football. Utah has won the last five games in this series, which is perfectly named The Holy War.
BOISE STATE -11.5 vs Washington State - 1015pm - ESPN2
I love Washington State QB Luke Falk and WR Gabe Marks. They’ll put up points like they always do. Unfortunately that’s only one side of the ball. WSU lost its opener to Eastern Washington and gave up 474 yards passing and 5 TD’s to EWU QB Gage Gubrud (making his first career start). The Cougars will get safety Shalom Luani back this Saturday, but his presence won’t be enough to slow down Boise State’s offense. The Broncos completely dominated Louisiana Lafayette, resulting in the earliest DC firing of the 2016 season. Boise State has a chance to go undefeated and will win by three scores Saturday night, behind a big game from QB Brett Rypien.
FIU +10.5 vs Maryland - 730pm - CBSSN
FIU played better than the score would indicate against Indiana. The Golden Panthers led 13-12 going into the fourth quarter. FIU QB Alex McGough threw three costly interceptions that cost his team the game. Maryland played great against Howard, but I’m not buying the turnaround just yet. Terps QB Perry Hills will lead his team to 7-point win on the road.
LOUISVILLE -14.5 at Syracuse - 8pm - ESPN2
UL QB Lamar Jackson is quickly becoming one of the nation’s hottest players. His speed in the open field combined with his arm strength is difficult to deal with for opposing defenses. Syracuse is eventually going to win under new head coach Dino Babers. His fast tempo and aggressive offense will make the Orange far more competitive in the ACC this season. Louisville’s defense will be the difference on Friday night. Bobby Petrino’s team has NFL talent across his front seven. Look for the Cardinals to create a few turnovers and pull away in the second half.
WYOMING +24.5 at Nebraska - 12pm - ESPN2
Wyoming won a thriller in overtime against Northern Illinois late Saturday night. Coach Craig Bohl clearly has the Cowboys headed in the right direction. Wyoming RB Brian Hill is one of the most underrated players in the country. Nebraska’s win over Fresno State showed a renewed emphasis on the running game. QB Tommy Armstrong won’t be asked to do too much unless the situation dictates it. The Cornhuskers win by double digits, but it won’t be as easy as some expect.
UMASS +17 vs Boston College - 12pm - SNY
BC QB Patrick Towles is a definite improvement for the Eagles, but this team will still struggle to score all season. A young UMass team did an impressive job hanging around against Florida. Boston College has an elite defense that will be the difference in the matchup. BC wins 24-10.
PURDUE +6 vs Cincinnati - 12pm - BTN
Cincinnati is a turnover machine - finishing 2015 near the bottom in turnover margin nationally. The Bearcats had three early turnovers against UT-Martin on Thursday and trailed at halftime before pulling away late. If Purdue can force a turnover or two early, this game will be close. The Boilermakers have a stud RB in Markell Jones and I expect QB David Blough to have a decent year. Cincinnati and QB Hayden Moore have more talent, but won’t be able to put this game away on the road.
PENN STATE +5 at Pittsburgh - 12pm - ESPN
Pitt RB James Conner is an inspiration and I wish him the best this season and beyond. Penn State is flying under the radar this season. Pitt is favored, but I think this game is a tossup. The Panthers won’t have a significant home-field advantage, with Penn State fans likely packing the stadium. Expect a low scoring battle, with a field goal deciding the winner late in the fourth quarter.
KANSAS -3 vs Ohio - 230pm - FSN
The Over/Under on Kansas wins this season in Vegas was set at 1.5. They might go over after Week 2. Ohio was favored originally, but the line has been flying to Kansas since it came out. The Jayhawks celebrated a blowout win over Rhode Island after finishing 0-12 in 2015. Kansas has two experienced quarterbacks and a group of capable running backs. Ohio lost at home to Texas State in triple overtime last week. The Jayhawks might not win a game in the Big 12, but this team will show significant improvement this season.
KENTUCKY +16.5 at Florida - 330pm - CBS
Kentucky has lost to the Gators TWENTY-NINE times in a row, a feat that almost seems impossible. The Wildcats have been close though in the past two seasons, losing in overtime in 2014 and 14-9 in 2015. Mark Stoops is desperately in need of a strong performance following last week’s second-half collapse against Southern Miss. I expect his team to rally around him and play well. QB Drew Barker had things rolling early last week and has enough ability to keep this game within striking distance. Florida played lackluster in a win over UMass and looked vulnerable on the offensive line. UF wins by 7-10 and extends the streak another year.
DUKE -5 vs Wake Forest - 330pm - ESPNU
Duke’s freshman QB Daniel Jones had a nice game in his debut and David Cutcliffe loves his potential. Wake Forest’s 7-3 win over Tulane was difficult to watch. The Demon Deacons couldn’t do anything in the running game and Wake’s offense showed no ability to stretch the field. Wake’s defense has been keeping them in games the past few years, but without more offense this will be another long season in Winston-Salem. Duke wins by two scores behind Jones and a nice game from RB Jela Duncan.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -6.5 vs South Carolina - 7pm - ESPN2
After an inexplicable loss to South Alabama (blowing a 17-0 lead), the Bulldogs will be ready to play on Saturday night. I trust Dan Mullen’s ability to get more out of his team. South Carolina was fortunate to beat Vanderbilt in a dreadfully boring game. The Gamecocks will be starting Perry Orth at QB this week, but don’t have much of an identity on offense. MSU wins by a touchdown in their conference opener.
ARKANSAS +7.5 at Tcu - 7pm - ESPN
Don’t worry too much about Arkansas’s close call against Louisiana Tech. The Hogs have laid some early season eggs recently, but can still win the battle of the trenches against TCU. While Kenny Hill had a great game for the Horned Frogs against South Dakota State, the TCU defense was shredded for 41 points. I love Gary Patterson’s quote on this game: “Hopefully we’ll do a lot better job as a coaching staff of getting them put in position against Arkansas. If not, they’ll have 1,000 yards and 1,000 points. We’ve got to do a lot better job this week.” Expect this game to come down to the final possession.
IOWA STATE +15 at Iowa - 730pm - BTN
Yes I know how bad Iowa State might be. The Cyclones lost at home to Northern Iowa in the opener. Regardless, this game is usually close, with the last five meetings decided by a combined 29 points. The road team has won the infamous Cy-Hawk Trophy in each of the last four games. Iowa is the better team and has two talented RB’s in Akrum Wadley and Leshun Daniels Jr. I expect the Hawkeyes to win, but Iowa State will do just enough to keep things interesting in this heated rivalry.
TENNESSEE -11.5 vs Virginia Tech - 8pm (Bristol) - ABC
We know Tennessee can’t play worse. QB Josh Dobbs was uncomfortable all night and the Vols never seemed to have any energy throughout. Expect a much different team on Saturday night. I grew up watching Rusty Wallace dominate Bristol Motor Speedway and can’t wait to see this special atmosphere for college football with 150,000 fans in attendance. Tennessee RB’s Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd will combine for 200 yards on the ground in a 14-20 point win. Virginia Tech has one of the ACC’s best playmakers in WR Isaiah Ford, but the stage will be a little to big for new QB Jerod Evans.
TEXAS TECH +3 at Arizona State - 10pm - FS1
This game is underrated and will be one of the most exciting ones of the day. My pick is mostly based on my faith in Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes. His dual-threat ability makes him one of the best players in the nation as his position. Arizona State is still an unknown commodity with new QB Manny Wilkins leading the offense. Expect a ton of points with the experience and ability of Mahomes being the difference maker.
CALIFORNIA +7.5 at San Diego State - 1030pm - CBSSN
Cal’s opening night win against Hawaii seems to have been forgotten. QB Davis Webb looked solid leading his new team. I understand the hype for SDSU this season, but am still surprised the Aztecs are favored by more than a touchdown. SDSU RB Donnel Pumphrey is one of the best players you haven’t heard about. The Aztecs have an imposing defense and will win, but I think Webb and the Bears have enough talent on offense to keep it close. Cal’s defense is better than they showed against Hawaii.