It’s time for kickoff in ESPN’s College Pick’Em this weekend as college football starts the 2012 season. Saturdays just got a lot more interesting. If you’re looking for a cheering interest in the biggest games of each weekend com on over, create your entry, and join our group.
The game is base on a confidence system where you put one point through 10 points at risk in each pick. 10 points is the most confident pick of the week, but for the sake of this article I’ll start with one and work my way up to my most confident pick.
This weekend there’s not many games between ranked teams, but there are a number of intriguing games as we start to assess what teams will be in the hunt for bowls and ultimately conference championships and the National Championship. Here’s a brief preview and my picks for this Saturday:
1 point – Syracuse over Northwestern: In the toss-up of the week Northwestern visits Syracuse to open the season at 12:00 on ESPN2. Northwestern has had more recent success, but they graduated much of your team while Syracuse returns over half of their starters. I’d be surprised to see either team in a bowl, but I think the Orange will pull the win out in this one. I’d be more confident if I thought the Orange were in for a big year, but even as a Syracuse fan I think a bowl berth may be a bit optimistic.
2 points- Colorado over Colorado State: The Buffs face Colorado State as they face off at Mile High. CSU was a wreck last season after a 3-1 start they went 1-6 the rest of the year. The Buffalos first season int he Pac 12 wasn’t any better as the finished 3-10. Neither of these teams figure to be great this year, but I’ll go with Colorado who leads the head-to-head series 61-20-2 and plays in a better conference. I’d be more confident if I was more optimistic about Colorado’s season.
3 points- Penn State over Ohio: If there’s a big “upset,” this could be it. Ohio is coming off a solid season behind dual-threat QB Tyler Tettleton and their up-tempo no-huddle offense. However, despite all the turmoil, Penn State still should be able to handle Coach Frank Solich’s squad. Bill O’Brien and the Nittany Lions will have the support of their Happy Valley crowd as they open their season against the Bobcats at 12:00 on ESPN in what’s sure to be one of the most-watched games of the weekend. If this game was in Ohio, I’d go with the upset; but it’s tough to see a team going into Happy Valley and winning as the PSU faithful rally in an us-against-the-world start to their season. For all things Penn State, check out our fellow-Fansided site Victory Bell Rings.
4 points- Miami over Boston College: Coach Al Golden starts his second year in Miami with a new QB, a new feature RB, and a familiar foe. The Eagles and the Hurricanes faced off in their season finale last year which BC took 24-17 in Miami. BC will have a new offense in this one too with Stephen Morris as their new starter. Both teams are trying to get their programs heading in the right direction and desperately need a win. I have confidence in Golden’s ability to get things turned around. I’ll take the ‘Canes to start with a nice road win, but I could see it going either way. This game kicks off at 3:30 on ESPN2.
5 points- Clemson over Auburn: It’s ACC vs. SEC as the #14 Clemson Tigers take on Auburn in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game. Clemson will look to start this season better than it finished the last one in a 70-33 waxing at the Orange Bowl at the hands of West Virginia (see below for more on WVU). Auburn ended last eason in a Chik-fil-A game and beat Virginia 43-24. Coach Dabo Sweeney led the Tigers to their first win over Auburn since 1951 last season and returns QB Tahj Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, and RB Andre Ellington to a solid offensive attack. Watkins will be out of this game with a suspension which could make Clemson vulnerable, but Auburn has had a rough offseason and has two new coordinators to get used to. I’ll go with the Tigers from Clemson in this all-Tiger showdown.
6 points- California over Nevada: Nevada and it’s “pistol” offense heads west to face the Golden Bears of Cal in an interesting MWC-Pac 1 showdown. Nevada could win the MWC and should cover the 11-point spread, but I don’t think they’ll beat Coach Jeff Tedford’s team as they play their first home game in the newly renovated Memorial Stadium after playing home games in Fan Francisco last year.
7 points- Alabama over Michigan: National Champion Alabama heads to Arlington for the Cowboy Classic as they face off with Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines. The Tide are huge 13 point favorites and with good reason after the way they dominated the title game against LSU and landed another huge recruiting class. Michigan didn’t look nearly as good in its bowl game as they beat Virginia Tech in a not-so-beautiful Sugar Bowl. Alabama’s defense will face the difficult task of shutting down Denard Robinson, but Robinson’s mistakes may be too much for the Maize and Blue to overcome. I wouldn’t give 13 points, but I think the Tide will roll in this one. It’s definitely the top matchup of the week and all College Football fans will want to make sure to make the 8:00 kickoff on ABC.
8 points- Nebraska over Southern Miss: The Cornhuskers had a relatively successful maiden voyage in the Big Ten but ‘Husker fans are fired up to join the top programs again as they kick off Coach Bo Pelini’s fifth season. Nebraska hasn’t lost in 27 straight openers as they host the Conference USA Champs, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. With Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead back to spearhead the Husker attack, they’ll be a force to reckon with in their second season in the Big 10 and I could easily see them in the Rose Bowl this year. Not ready to make that pick yet, but I feel confident that they can beat a USM team that lost Austin Davis their starting QB and Larry Fedora their Head Coach (now at UNC).
9 points- Iowa over Northern Illinois: The Hawkeyes and Huskies square off in Soldier Field as Iowa goes for it’s 12th straight season-opening victory. Northern Illinois will be a factor in the MAC again this year, but expecting them to knock of Iowa in their first game after losing MAC MVP Chandler Harnish is too much to ask. Iowa is a pretty safe pick here.
10 points- West Virginia over Marshall: The Moutaineers have won all 11 meetings between these to schools in the Coal Bowl. It hasn’t been close recently and with WVU’s offensive-minded Dana Holgorsen at the helm expect plenty of points to be piled on the visiting Herd. Last year (as pictured above) the game was called with 14:36 left due to inclement weather conditions. WVU got the win since they lead 34-13 at the time. I think WVU will go off this week as my College Football Challenge picks reflect. They are the safest pick on the board this weekend.