Miami opens the season with Bethune-Cookman on Saturday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium. This is the perfect opportunity for Miami's freshman to play and gain valuable experience. Miami's schedule lines up nicely. An easy win to open the year at home followed by a trip to Arkansas State. No one will confuse Jonesboro with Tallahassee, but it's fortunate the first road game of the season isn't against FSU.
What I'll be watching Saturday
Miami has three freshmen WR I'm excited to watch - Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, and DeeJay Dallas. All three can be factors in the return game as well. With the absence of Ahmmon Richards, these guys will get even more opportunities to make plays in their first college game.
Miami's defensive line should dominate on nearly every play against Bethune-Cookman. I can't wait to see the depth the Canes have at this position. We also should get to see heralded freshman DJ Johnson and Jon Garvin get some snaps.
How will Mark Richt handle the quarterbacks? Malik Rosier will start but will we see Shirreffs or Perry? I am hoping to see Rosier involved in the running game. The past few seasons, Miami could never truly threaten defenses with the thought of Brad Kaaya pulling the ball and running. Rosier isn't as fast as Perry but is certainly athletic enough to be a factor with his legs.
I hope Mark Walton exits the game at halftime. We know how talented he is and how little depth there is behind him. I'm looking for 10 carries, 100 yards, and a touchdown. Let Travis Homer carry the load and keep Walton fresh heading into the more important games.
Miami's secondary was thought of as a potential weakness heading into the offseason, but the additions of Dee Delaney, Trajan Bandy, and Jhavonte Dean have changed that narrative. Sheldrick Redwine seems to be settled into his new position at safety. Against a Bethune team that struggled passing in 2016, I expect Miami's defensive backs to come up with a few turnovers.
CALIFORNIA +12.5 vs North Carolina - 12pm
If Cal doesn't have issues with the 9am Pacific time kickoff, the Golden Bears will have a chance to win outright. North Carolina lost nearly every key skill position player from last season’s offense and hasn't found an answer yet to replace QB Mitch Trubisky. Cal's new coach Justin Wilcox should help improve the Bears’ defense. Beau Baldwin left Eastern Washington to become Cal's OC and his scheme is one of the most exciting in the nation. Look for a few big plays from WR Demetris Robertson and a strong performance by Cal.
VANDERBILT -3.5 at Middle Tennessee State - 8pm
Vanderbilt only has to travel 35 miles so expect their fans to make this feel like a bowl game. MTSU has a talented QB in Brent Stockstill, but Derek Mason has recruited well at Vanderbilt. The Commodores should be able to control the line of scrimmage. I expect RB's Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame to put up over 200 yards on the ground. QB Kyle Shurmur made strides in 2016 and is poised for a solid year. Vandy has beaten MTSU two straight seasons.
WYOMING +12 at Iowa - 12pm
I might regret this but I have to back Wyoming after how good the Cowboys were to me in 2016. Wyoming QB Josh Allen is good, but the hype around him this offseason has been crazy. If he even lives up to half of it I'll be satisfied on Saturday. Iowa is a team with a lot of question marks and will be starting a new QB in Nathan Stanley. Iowa RB Akrum Wadley will likely lead the Hawkeyes to a win in the second half, but it won't be easy.
MARYLAND +18.5 vs Texas - 12pm
Texas will be better in 2017, but 18 points seems insane. There is a clearly a Tom Herman premium which I'm not sure is deserved yet. Texas QB Shane Buechele will lead the Longhorns to a 7-14 point win. Maryland head coach DJ Durkin is one of the best defensive minds in the nation. His team will keep this competitive.
NCSTATE -5 vs South Carolina - 3pm (Charlotte)
It's time to find out if NCST will be a real challenger in the ACC. The Wolfpack are loaded on defense, led by Kentavius Street and Bradley Chubb. NCST returns QB Ryan Finley and Jaylen Samuels is an explosive playmaker on offense. I like South Carolina QB Jake Bentley, but he doesn't have enough talent around him. The ACC will earn a big win over the SEC in Charlotte.
MICHIGAN -5 vs Florida - 330pm - (Arlington)
Florida suspended 10 players, including their best WR and best RB. With no proven skill players, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks will be making his first start against a very talented Michigan defense. QB Wilton Speight's experience in big games will give the Wolverines an edge.
TROY +10.5 at Boise State - 345pm
This isn't your older brother's Boise State team. This game will be close throughout. There are still tickets available in Boise and the excitement level for the program is down. Troy returns QB Brandon Silvers and nearly all the key contributors on offense. I've never been impressed by Boise QB Brett Rypien and the Broncos were horrendous as a home favorite in 2016. Don't be shocked if Troy wins on Saturday.
SOUTH ALABAMA +23.5 vs Ole Miss - 730pm
Matt Luke takes over at Ole Miss after a wild offseason. I like Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson, but he has less talent around him than we've seen in recent years. South Alabama knocked off Mississippi State in 2016 and won't be intimidated in Oxford. This won't be a blowout.
PURDUE +24.5 vs Louisville - 730pm
Louisville has Lamar Jackson and that's enough to win on Saturday, but if Purdue can keep the Cards under 50 I'll be a winner too. Purdue QB David Blough is underrated and should thrive in Jeff Brohm's system. Louisville wins 49-27.
NEBRASKA -14.5 vs Arkansas State - 8pm
Nebraska is very excited about new transfer QB Tanner Lee. The Huskers have won 19 straight night games in Lincoln. The addition of Bob Diaco as the new DC will help Nebraska's defense significantly. WR Stanley Morgan Jr. and WR De'Mornay Pierson-El will create havoc for Arkansas State's defense. Nebraska wins by three scores.
FLORIDA STATE +7 vs Alabama - 8pm (Atlanta)
I've wavered on this pick all week. It is so hard to pick against Nick Saban, but I remain convinced that Florida State is good enough to keep this game within a touchdown. Derwin James is back and leads an impressive FSU defense. Deondre Francois is poised for a big year and his mobility will help against a relentless Alabama pass rush. Bama QB Jalen Hurts will need to be effective as a passer to beat the Noles. Alabama's transition to new OC Brian Daboll is one of the interesting things to watch on Saturday night. The Tide win, but only by a field goal.
LSU -15.5 vs Byu - 930pm
BYU was AWFUL last week against Portland State. LSU QB Danny Etling is back and the Tigers have one of the best running backs in the nation in Derrius Guice. BYU struggled up front against Portland State - imagine what Dave Aranda's LSU defense will be able to do. Even without star LB Arden Key, the Tigers will win easily in a defacto home game in New Orleans.
VIRGINIA TECH -4 vs West Virginia - 730pm (Landover, MD)
New VT QB Josh Jackson will be making his first career start and WVU QB Will Grier is making his return to college football after a lengthy suspension. I like the Hokies because they should have the better defense, led by Tremaine Edmunds and Brandon Facyson. West Virginia is in rebuilding mode, replacing most of 2016's key contributors. The Hokies won't beat WVU as bad as Miami did, but I don't need a large margin.
TEXAS A&M +3.5 at Ucla - 730pm
This is the biggest hot seat game of the weekend, with both Jim Mora and Kevin Sumlin desperate for a positive start to the season. I love picking against Josh Rosen. The Bruins have never been able to put everything together. I feel confident in Texas A&M's ability to have success running the ball with Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford. They'll help make life easier for new starting QB Nick Starkel.
TENNESSEE -3 vs Georgia Tech - 8pm (Atlanta)
With a trip to Florida looming in Week 3, this is a massive game for Butch Jones and his job security. Both teams will be breaking in new quarterbacks and Georgia Tech just kicked their best player off the team - RB Dedrick Mills. I don't expect a high scoring game. The Vols have more talent and depth on defense.