"Mediocre people don't like high achievers, and high achievers don't like mediocre people." - Nick Saban
We are four games into the 2017 season and the gravitational pull of Precise Mediocrity is already in full control. After winning the first two, USF came up a point short in San Jose and Rice came up a billion points short in Sydney. The Owls have landed on my DO NOT PICK LIST faster than any team in recent memory. Heading into ESPN's Super Bowl style coverage of Ohio State vs Indiana, I remain fully confident in my abilities to have a strong showing this week. With dozens of interesting matchups and conference bragging rights on the line, my offseason research gives me the best chance to win more coin flips than I lose. Jim Harbaugh and Jim McElwain stole the offseason headlines with trips to Rome and alleged shark interactions, but their current standoff regarding QB's and roster releases is pathetic. Unlike these two millionaire children, I will be releasing all of my picks ahead of time to allow everyone to scrutinize me and potentially pick the opposite in all occasions.
On Friday night, I will make the trek north beyond the wall of Broward County. Boca Raton, FL is now the home of Lane Kiffin and the decades of baggage and intrigue he brings with him. His farm system in Scooba, MS has quickly helped boost FAU's roster and I'm anxious to watch the Owls play Navy in person. Let's hope there aren't multiple questionable lightning delays during my return to FAU stadium. The slate of games on Thursday and Friday isn't exactly inspiring, but I did manage to come up with 11 potential winners because I'm just so excited the season is finally here.
Before we get to the picks, I wanted to mention the events in Texas and Louisiana over the past week. Our thoughts are with everyone dealing with Hurricane Harvey. Here is a great guide on how you can help from the staff at SB Nation.
FIU +17 vs Ucf - 6pm
When in doubt, trust Butch Davis. FIU has a tough RB in Alex Gardner and a returning starter at QB - Alex McGough. UCF has more talent on both sides of the ball but isn't good enough to overwhelm the Golden Panthers. UCF QB McKenzie Milton struggled as a passer in 2016. Both rosters are very familiar with each other from high school football. Look for a competitive game and a 7-10 point UCF win.
BUFFALO +25 vs Minnesota - 7pm
I might be the biggest P.J. Fleck fan out there, but I can't pick the Gophers to win by four touchdowns. If you haven't watched Fleck's show on ESPNU, catch up this weekend. The Gophers have two stud RB's in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. The question mark is at QB with Conor Rhoda or Demry Croft. By the end of the year, Fleck's team will be playing well, but in the opener I think Buffalo will do just enough to hang around. QB Tyree Jackson showed flashes in 2016 and should be able to put up at least 15-20 points on Thursday night.
OKLAHOMA STATE -18 vs Tulsa - 730pm
The hype for the Cowboys has been relentless this offseason. QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill, and WR James Washington should all put up monster numbers this year. OKST's defense is the big question. The Cowboys are fortunate that Tulsa lost nearly every key contributor on offense to the NFL or graduation. Phil Montgomery's offense will put up points, but it won't be enough as OKST pulls away to win by 20+ in the second half.
INDIANA +21 vs Ohio State - 8pm
Kevin Wilson returning to Indiana as the Ohio State offensive coordinator is a fascinating subplot to this game. Indiana's players are eager to stick it to their former coach. This game is being covered like a major event by ESPN so the atmosphere should be as good as it could ever be in Bloomington. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett will be a Heisman candidate, but he must show significant improvement in the passing game this season. The Buckeyes are loaded with talented skill players, they just don't have much experience. Don't be surprised if Ohio State struggles to get going early. Indiana QB Richard Lagow has an impressive group of receivers to throw to. If the Hoosiers can create a big play early, this game will be interesting heading into the second half. Ohio State wins by 14-20.
ARIZONA STATE -22.5 vs New Mexico State - 1030pm
Arizona State started 5-1 in 2016 before losing six consecutive Pac-12 games. Todd Graham's team was decimated by injuries and will be eager to make a strong statement on opening night. QB Manny Wilkins should have a big game. The talent gap will be obvious in the first few minutes. The Sun Devils put up 50 points and win easily.
MEMPHIS -26 vs Louisiana Monroe - 915pm
ULM is one of the worst teams in the country and Memphis is poised for a huge season. QB Riley Ferguson is a star and returning senior WR Anthony Miller had 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. Look for the Tigers to run it up and leave no doubt.
EASTERN MICHIGAN -14 vs Charlotte - 630pm
Eastern Michigan turned a corner last year, winning seven games. The Eagles return most of their key players from last season and beat Charlotte on the road 37-19 in 2016. EMU QB Brogan Roback has three years of experience and should be one of the best players in the MAC. The Eagles will win big on the gray turf.
FAU +10 vs Navy - 8pm
I expect De'Andre Johnson to start at QB for the Owls. Lane Kiffin could mix in last season's starter Jason Driskel as well. Kiffin and Kendal Briles will have an exciting offense and should be able to take advantage of an undersized Navy defense. Navy's option offense will certainly be able to put up points, but not enough to pull away. My vocal support alone can keep the Owls competitive into the fourth quarter.
COLORADO STATE +5.5 vs Colorado - 8pm
Colorado dominated 44-7 in last year's matchup, but I think the Rams are a much different team now, especially after watching the dominating performance against Oregon State last week. It is a huge advantage for CSU to already have a game under their belt. Colorado State QB Nick Stevens and WR Michael Gallup will have success against a Colorado secondary that lost both corners to the NFL. The Buffs will be able to score with talent back at RB and WR (Lindsay, Fields, Ross, and Bobo). Expect a shootout where the team with the ball last wins a close one.
WASHINGTON -27.5 vs Rutgers - 8pm
Rutgers is doing a decent job generating publicity for this game by installing a Jacuzzi in the student section. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, the product on the field won't be competitive. Rutgers averaged a disgraceful 15.7 points a game in 2016 and now turns the offense over to Louisville transfer QB Kyle Bolin. UW RB Myles Gaskin and QB Jake Browning should put up 40+ points and DT Vita Vea leads an elite Huskies' defense. Washington won 48-13 in Seattle last year - this result will be similar.
UTAH STATE +28 vs Wisconsin - 9pm
Utah State should improve significantly in 2017, led by senior QB Kent Myers. The Aggies were unlucky in close games last year, and this line has been getting smaller for months. Wisconsin will be able to run the ball with ease, but I expect a conservative game-plan for QB Alex Hornibrook. The Badgers win 38-17.