Posted: 2:02 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013
By Brett Ludwiczak
After the success of Money, Cash, and Joe's last year, we are back this year to have you navigate the college football point spreads throughout the season. Each week we will hit you with the big national games of the week along with all the games that Big Ten teams are involved in that have a point spread set for it. Here are some picks to put all of the bitcoins on, since these picks are for entertainment only.
Last Season ATS: 68-51 (35-37 National, 33-14 B1G)
North Carolina vs. #6 South Carolina (-13) - Thursday 6:00 PM EST - ESPN
The first game of the 2013 college football season begins with a border battle FOR ALL OF THE CAROLINAS! Idea for Jadeveon Clowney to jumpstart his 2013 Heisman campaign: attempt to hit a Tar Heel running back so hard that their helmet pops off in Columbia and lands the 180 miles away in Chapel Hill. All jokes aside, the South Carolina defense should have their hands full with the Tar Heel up-tempo offense. Senior QB Bryn Renner has thrown for over 3,000 yards the last two seasons, and has the luxury of last year's leading receiver, sophomore Quinshad Davis returning. While South Carolina counters the Tar Heel duo with Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington, I just don't feel comfortable laying almost two touchdowns in this matchup the first week of the season between neighboring state schools.
South Carolina 27 North Carolina 20
Mississippi (-3) vs. Vanderbilt - Thursday 9:15 PM EST - ESPN
Honestly after Vanderbilt backed out of what should have been the season opener against Ohio State this year, I really hope that Mississippi puts on a good ol' fashioned #BEATEMDOWN. The Rebels certainly have the tools to do so with quarterback Bo Wallace and wide receivers Donte Moncrief and standout freshman Laquon Treadwell. Robert Nkemdiche, who could be the next standout defensive end to come out of the SEC, will also make his debut for Ole Miss. Vanderbilt has some holes to fill with the losses of QB Jordan Rodgers, RB Zac Stacy, and suspended WR Chris Boyd. Vandy is trending upward under head coach James Franklin, but there might be a little adjustment period after their losses of personnel.
Mississipi 33 Vanderbilt 27
#1 Alabama (-21) vs. Virginia Tech - 5:30 PM EST - ESPN
Much little 2009, Atlanta will be the host for a season opening matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Hokies. Alabama will be trying to send an early statement to the rest of the college football world as the start their campaign to try and win their third straight national championship. Nick Saban's crew comes into the game losing nine starters from last year's national championship team. Luckily, Saban has the luxury of having some of the best recruiting classes in the nation the last few years to try and fill those losses. I feel that Alabama will win this comfortably, but some garbage time points from Logan Thomas will gain the Hokies the cover.
Alabama 31 Virginia Tech 17
#5 Georgia (-2) vs. #8 Clemson - 8:00 PM EST - ABC
The spotlight game of the opening weekend of the college football season sends us down to Death Valley for a matchup between two top 10 teams. This matchup has all the makings of a shootout under the lights that with Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd squaring off in the quarterback battle. Even with them being at home, I still can't find myself being able to trust Dabo's team in this spot. The Bulldogs have had all summer to prepare for Boyd, Watkins, and the rest of the Clemson offense, and I think they walk out of Death Valley with the W. Also it doesn't hurt that Georgia is 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games as a road favorite.
Georgia 38 Clemson 31
#12 LSU (-5.5) vs. #20 TCU - 9:00 PM EST - ESPN
I really wanted to put my prediction on this game to a team vote, but I figured that the readers deserved better than that. While Georgia and Clemson might have a shootout cooking by the time this one kicks, this matchup could be the opposite with two nasty defenses going up against each other at Jerryworld. TCU will get quarterback Casey Pachall and running back Waymon James back, after both players missed most of last season. I have a feeling this game will come down to the last possession, with the Mad Hatter's team pulling out a late victory.
LSU 23 TCU 20
#11 Florida State (-10.5) vs. Pittsburgh - Monday 8:00 PM EST - ESPN
The Labor Day primetime game will feature the first game in the ACC for Pitt, and what a way to welcome them to the conference. Highly touted redshirt freshman Jameis Winston takes over for 1st round draft pick E.J. Manuel, while Pitt counters with former Rutgers and Arizona QB Tom Savage. The Seminoles could be a dark horse national championship contender if they can navigate road games against Clemson and Florida this year. Florida State just has too much speed and athleticism for Pitt in this matchup, giving the Panthers a rude welcoming to the conference.
Florida State 34 Pittsburgh 17
Buffalo vs. #2 Ohio State (-35) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPN2
While it is known that I grew up near Buffalo (about 70 miles south), I wouldn't mind seeing the Bulls get waxed inside The Horseshoe on Saturday. Not so much because the University of Buffalo has ever done anything wrong to me (aside from those giant patches they decided to put on their uniforms this year), I just want to see what could be a special Ohio State season start off with a rolling. The best player for Buffalo is linebacker Khalil Mack, and he should get plenty of opportunities to try and make some tackles against this high powered Buckeye offense. Will the Buckeyes miss running backs Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde? Of course. But I'm excited to get a look at those that will be trying to pick up the slack for those two. While in years past I might have taken the 35 points, this isn't Tresselball anymore. Urban Meyer won't be afraid to run up the score, especially since he knows with the weaker schedule this year that it close wins against lesser foes could be the difference between making the national title game or not.
Ohio State 55 Buffalo 17
UNLV vs. Minnesota (-14) - Thursday 7:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
It has been so long since we last college football that I had forgot that Minnesota actually made a bowl game last year until I started looking up information on this game. These two teams opened the season last year out in Las Vegas, with the Golden Gophers picking up a 30-27 win in triple-overtime. Minnesota has sophomore quarterback Phillip Nelson starting and looking to build on the seven starts that he made to close out last season. UNLV has nine starters returning on defense and their own sophomore quarterback returning after starting last season. I don't think this game hits overtime this year, but I don't see UNLV getting beat by two touchdowns either.
Minnesota 31 UNLV 21
Western Michigan vs. Michigan State (-28) - Friday 8:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Mark D'Antonio has named Andrew Maxwell as starting quarterback for the Spartans, but the bigger task Michigan State will be faced with is replacing running back Le'Veon Bell. Junior Jeremy Langford has been named the starter, but freshman Riley Burrough and junior Nick Hill should get chances to state their case as to why they should be starting. Michigan State is one of those teams that I'm always hesitant to lay big points with because more often than not it seems as if they'll slog through these non-conference gimmie games and pull away at the end to make the games seem closer than they really were. Also if you want to feel old, P.J. Fleck is now Western Michigan's head coach. That is all.
Michigan State 34 Western Michigan 10
Massachusetts vs. #23 Wisconsin (-44.5) - 12:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
Even though this is only Massachusetts' second year in FBS, I'll take a flyer on them to cover this high point spread. Wisconsin will roll in this game, but giving nearly 45 points in the first game of the season with a new coach isn't something that interests me.
Wisconsin 51 Massachusetts 13
Purdue vs. Cincinnati (-10.5) - 12:00 PM EST - ESPNU
After spending time as an Ohio State assistant and Kent State's head coach, it is fitting that Darrell Hazell's first game as Purdue's head coach takes place in the state of Ohio. This game will feature a couple of sixth-year senior seeing time, with Rob Henry being named the Purdue starter by Hazell, and Brendon Kay seeing at least some time for the Bearcats. Running back Akeem Hunt should have a big year for the Boilermakers as there has been a lot of comparisons to how Dri Archer thrived at Kent State under Hazell, Purdue will keep it close in Hazell's first game, but still has some work to do.
Cincinnati 31 Purdue 24
Central Michigan vs. #17 Michigan (-31.5) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
With the graduation of Denard Robinson, Devin Gardner has finally been given full reign of the Michigan offense and won't have to worry about splitting time with Robinson. Also returning for the Wolverines will be running back Fitz Toussaint after missing most of last season with a broken leg. The Wolverines have a rare home night game against Notre Dame next week, so I can see them not showing their full offense in the season opener on Saturday. Brady Hoke and company will want to keep a few tricks hidden for next week's showdown. The Wolverines win big this week, but not that big.
Michigan 42 Central Michigan 23
Northern Illinois vs. Iowa (-3) - 3:30 PM EST - Big Ten Network
These two teams opened last season with a nail-biter that saw Iowa pull out a 18-17 win over Northern Illinois, which was the Huskies only loss during the regular season. Quarterback Jordan Lynch returns for Northern Illinois, but the Huskies will be trying to adjust to the loss of head coach Dave Doeren and seven starters on defense. Sophomore Jake Rudock will take the snaps for Iowa and after last year you would think that the quarterback production for the Hawkeyes can only get better. Luckily Rudock will have tailbacks Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock to help him shoulder some of the load. Even though Lynch put up monster numbers last year, Iowa has a strong core of linebackers that should be able to hold Lynch in check.
Iowa 24 Northern Illinois 17
Penn State (-8) vs. Syracuse - 3:30 PM EST - ABC/ESPN2
The second year of the Bill O'Brien era kicks off at MetLife Stadium against new ACC member Syracuse on Saturday afternoon. Both teams have not announced who will be starting quarterbacks for the season opener. O'Brien will have to decide between sophomore QB Tyler Ferguson and super freshman Christian Hackenberg, while new Syracuse coach Scott Shaffer has sophomore Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen to decide between. While Shaffer is familiar with the Syracuse system and players since he was the defensive coordinator under Doug Marrone, I like what Bill O'Brien has done with this program even with the sanctions. At this point Penn State just has more weapons on offense and defense.
Penn State 27 Syracuse 14
Wyoming vs. #18 Nebraska (-29) - 8:00 PM EST - Big Ten Network
The biggest reason to watch this game is to see if Wyoming head coach goes nuclear after the game, like he did last year after the Air Force game. Just try and imagine Christensen and Bo Pelini yelling at each other over something silly. That would be the best pro wrestling promo ever. Hard to believe that Wyoming went 4-8 last year even though quarterback Brett Smith threw for 27 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2012. Smith returns along with seven starters on defense for Wyoming. Nebraska returns Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah, and Kenny Bell on offense, but their defense could be a little green to start the season. Nebraska wins but Wyoming puts up some points to cover the big spread.
Nebraska 48 Wyoming 28
#22 Northwestern (-5.5) vs. California - 10:30 PM EST - ESPN2
California will get their fill of Big Ten teams coming out to Berkeley this year, with Northwestern coming in to open the season followed by Ohio State in a couple weeks. Sonny Dykes and his "Bear Raid" offense can definitely light up the scoreboard (as show during his time at Louisiana Tech) but it's asking a lot for him and his team to do it in his first game in charge, which happens to come against a ranked team. Meanwhile, Northwestern has many core components back from a team that went 10-3 last year and won the Gator Bowl. Quarterback Kain Coulter and running back Venric Mark should be able to feast on a defensive that might still be trying to get a grip on switching from the 3-4 to 4-3.
Northwestern 41 California 24