Alright, folks. Let's kick this thing off with some predictions. I went 148-66 (69.2%) straight up and 118.5-95.5 (55.4%) against the spread picking last season, which is so-so. Gotta do better.
UNLV (+35.5) @ Wisconsin
Tricky one right off the bat. The Badgers are high on everyone's preseason lists, and they should romp in this one (and many others), but they're working with a lot of new parts - getting everyone in sync might take some time. The Runnin' Rebels were pretty bad last year, but they did manage to hang with Wisconsin for a while...
The Call: Wisconsin wins, but UNLV covers the spread
The Result: Wisconsin 51-17
See, garbage-time points can be helpful. Dominant performance by the Badgers until the hit the brakes. Tough night for the Runnin' Rebels - it can only get better though.
Wake Forest @ Syracuse (-6)
The Demon Deacons are looking to rebound a bit in the ACC, where they could make some waves amongst all the turmoil. The Orangemen are coming off a solid 8-5 season and a bowl victory over Kansas State, which should give them a boost here.
The Call: Syracuse by 11
The Result: Syracuse 36-29 (OT)
Damn exciting game - well played, boys.
Western Kentucky @ Kentucky (-17.5)
The Wildcats should be their usual ho-hum selves this year, winning easy non-conference games but falling short in the SEC. The Hilltoppers, with just 4 wins over the last three seasons, need a shot in the arm, somehow. But they're not going to get it.
The Call: Kentucky by 24
The Result: Kentucky 14-3
Really, Wildcats? Really? It's gonna be a loooooong year for these two.
TCU (-4.5) @ Baylor
The last few seasons, people have been pretty high on the Bears going into the season, mainly because of Griffin. But they've never lived up to those expectations, and I don't see this year being any different, especially in the uber-volatile Big12. The Horned Frogs are still the Horned Frogs - having them give less than a TD is rather an insult, if you ask me...
The Call: TCU by 17
The Result: Baylor 50-48
Thus ends one of the dominant defenses of the last few seasons. Yeah yeah, I know - Griffin is good. I'm still curious how he'll do in the rest of the Big12 this year, but it was a solid game. But the Horned Frogs D isn't going to scare anyone anymore - they'd better keep scoring points in high numbers.
Miami OH (+20.5) @ Missouri
The Tigers are the ranked team coming into this, and their D should be solid again this year, but breaking in a new QB might be a little tough. The Redhawks were a good 10-4 last year, but they're breaking in a new coach. On the fence with this one...
The Call: Missouri wins, but Miami covers the spread
The Result: Missouri 17-6
Nice. Quite happy with that call.
Akron (+34) @ Ohio State
Few teams have faced more off-season controversy than the Buckeyes, and they've lost a big chunk of their starters from last season. Throw in a new head coach and we're likely to see a big push on the ground from the offense. The Zips were just bad last year, and I don't see them improving much this season. Even a vanilla, mediocre effort from Ohio State's talent should do it.
The Call: Ohio State by 38
The Result: Ohio State 42-0
The Buckeye D might get a chance to breathe a bit this year, apparently.
UCLA (+3) @ Houston
Everyone knows this is basically the last chance for Neuheisel with the Bruins, and they need to come out of the gate strong this season to keep the wheels from falling off. The Cougars weren't good either last year, but they should be much better this year with Keenum back at QB. Does UCLA have any of that magic left that smashed Texas in Austin last season? I have my doubts.
The Call: Houston by 10
The Result: Houston 38-34
Though you gotta admit, there's been a certain cursedness to Neuheisel's tenure, especially when it comes to QB injuries. You just gotta shake your head at that. Keenum is well on his way to and through the record books, though the Cougars as a whole might find the going a bit difficult this season.
Minnesota @ USC (-23)
The Trojans are returning a bunch of skill players and should be able to run & gun with teams this season, but the D is still suspect - I'll believe they can hold their own when I see it. The Golden Gophers are coming in after some down seasons - will their new coach be gutsy enough to get a little bold in the Coliseum?
The Call: USC by 28
The Result: USC 19-17
Quite the tale of two halves there. Will the Trojans ever cover? Minnesota has some hope this year, and should be able to improve on last years three wins, by the look of things.
South Florida @ Notre Dame (-10)
The Irish are going to be better this year than their 8-5 last year, and a 10-win / BCS bowl are almost expected. The Bulls might be better than their 8-5 last year, but Kelly should have them pegged from his BigEast days.
The Call: Notre Dame by 14
The Result: South Florida 23-20
Talk about not finishing - on multiple fronts. I can't remember a time when a team was that inept in the red zone... the Irish are gonna have to go back to the drawing board with this season. Nice job staying focused by the Bulls - they're gonna be tough in the BigEast.
BYU (-3) @ Mississippi
The Cougars are going on the road in the SEC, but their newfound independence might give them a refreshing boost. The Rebels (and their new mascot) usually do well in non-conference games, but they usually don't play teams like BYU.
The Call: BYU by 9
The Result: BYU 14-13
Give the Cougars credit for hanging in there, after doing well but not putting up any points and especially after that pick six. The Rebels are in for a long season.
East Carolina @ South Carolina (-20.5)
The Gamecocks are still the favorites in the SEC East, and the should be able to put up better numbers than last season. The Pirates D isn't going to be able to withstand the drubbing they'll get.
The Call: South Carolina by 28
The Result: South Carolina 56-37
And garbage-time can taketh away too... damn. I was wondering how long it was going to be before we saw Garcia, and apparently three fumbles in the first quarter is the tipping point. But credit the old ball coach for adjusting and making the necessary changes to get things back on track. That one'll go a long way to keeping confidence up over the course of games this season.
Boise State v Georgia (+3.5)
Should be a great game, this one. The Dawgs have underperformed the past couple of seasons, but they've got a lot of starters back and seem to have more of an identity going into this season. The Broncos are finally getting some credit for their stellar seasons year after year, holding down the #5 spot in the rakings, and they're a veteran team who knows how to win. Toughest call of the week.
The Call: Georgia by 6
The Result: Boise State 35-21
Not a surprising result at all. It took a while for these two to feel each other out in the first quarter, but after that it was the Broncos who got into their own rhythm and dictated how the game was going to go. Another undefeated season is on the horizon. The Dawgs suffered a lot from injuries, which is a shame because it impacted not only their opening game but will certainly put them at a disadvantage here on out, especially with South Carolina coming to town next week.
Oregon v LSU
Why they have this game on at the same time as the Georgia-Boise State one is baffling. Both of these teams are missing key components, the Tigers on offense and the Ducks on defense, but I don't know that that'll have much of an impact on the overall game. The big matchup is going to be the Duck offense against the Tiger D - I think LSU will manage to stifle Oregon and maybe even score some points.
The Call: LSU by 4
The Result: LSU 40-27
See, that's the thing about the Duck game - it's gotta be working perfectly in sync for everything to go right. One little hitch and the wheels come flying off, whether it's a turnover, injury... the Tigers did a great job capitalizing on the mistakes and staying on target all night.
Not the greatest start to the season. 10-3 straight up is fine, but 6-7 against the spread isn't going to cut it. Time to buckle down.