Last year was touted as the greatest opening weekend in college football history, head-lined by the #1 Alabama vs #2 Florida State matchup. This year we do not have that great matchup, however, we do have some pretty great games. The following are my top 5 games this weekend (includes Monday) along with a couple betting notes on each game.
Florida Atlantic @ #7 Oklahoma – Noon – Fox
Last season’s surprise team of the year (Florida Atlantic) travels to Norman to take on the Big-12 favorites Oklahoma. First, we will look at Lane Kiffin and his FAU Owls. They return five starters on offense, including their leading rusher Devin “motor” Singletary. Who will be handing off to Singletary? That is still up in the air, Kiffin will choose between two former 5-star recruits (Chris Robinson and DeAndre Johnson). Robinson is a former Oklahoma Sooner who transferred after sitting behind Baker Mayfield and current Sooner starter Kyler Murray. Johnson, is the more athletic and explosive option for Kiffin but has also struggled with injuries including last season’s Blood Clot scare. Whoever the quarterback is they will return 2 of their top 3 receivers from last year, including Willie Wright their leading receiver. The Owls return 10 starters on defense from last year, including their leading tackler from last year Azeez Al-Shaair (2nd team All C-USA).
For Oklahoma, they will have a new quarterback this year (Kyler Murray) after losing Baker Mayfield to the NFL draft. Murray was drafted in the MLB draft earlier this year and this will be his last year playing QB for the Sooners. He will return six starters from last year’s offense, including his top two playmakers (Rodney Anderson and Marquise Brown). The Sooners defense will also return six starters from last year’s defense. The Sooners will be relying on talented sophomores and juniors to step in on defense and perform.
FAU is 0-10 against ranked opponents in road openers. Oklahoma has won 30 of its last 32 home openers. Right now the line is Oklahoma favored by 21 and the Over/Under is around 68. I will be staying away from this game, however, I think there will be a lot of points scored in this game.
#6 Washington vs. #9 Auburn – 3:30pm – ABC
This will be the best match-up of the weekend. The Huskies will be traveling cross-country to Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta) to take on an SEC powerhouse. Washington is one of the most experienced team in the country returning eight starters on offense and nine on defense. On the defensive side, they return their top tackler (Ben Burr-Kirven) and last years Pac-12 freshman DPOY in Taylor Rapp. On the offensive side of the ball, both Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin have chances to become Washington’s career passing and rushing yardage leaders. Browning needs a little over 1,000 passing yards and Gaskin needs 55 rushing yards. The Huskies also have one of the best OT’s in the country in Trey Adams.
Adams will face off one of the best defensive lines in college football. Auburn returns nine of their top ten d-linemen from last year. They also return three of their top four tacklers from last season. On the offensive side, the Tigers return Heisman hopeful Jarrett Stidham at the quarterback position. They will
need to replace last year’s leading rusher Kerryon Johnson, and Gus Malzahn believes Kam Martin Jr. will get the job done. Auburn will get back their top five receivers’; however, two of them tore their ACL in the spring (Will Hastings and Eli Stove).
Washington is 3-10 all-time vs. SEC schools. This will be Auburn’s third straight game in the Mercedes- Benz stadium, they lost the previous two (SEC championship game and Bowl game vs. UCF). Auburn is currently a two-point favorite and the over/under is around 48.5. I am very interested in Washington money line in this one. I think the Huskies have the better offense, Special Teams and coaching staff.
#14 Michigan @ #12 Notre Dame – 7:30pm – NBC
This matchup pits two head coaches who very well could be on the hot seat with a poor 2018 campaign. Let’s start with Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan returns eight starters on offense and nine starters on defense. The Wolverines defense returns 14 of their top 16 tacklers from the 2017 season, including potential top ten draft pick Rashan Gary. This defense is going to be a top ten defense and will be fun to watch. On the offensive side, Harbaugh will get Ole Miss Transfer quarterback Shea Patterson. Patterson has walked into a great situation; he will get last season’s top eight receivers and the 2017 Wolverines top two rushers (Karan Higdon and Chris Evans).
On the Notre Dame side, Coach Brian Kelly will return six starters on offense and nine on defense. Many believe Kelly will have the best defense, since the 2012 defense led by Manti T’eo. On the offensive side, the Irish will be led by Brandon Wimbush, who took over for the Irish last season. He will lose a lot from last season including his top two rushers from 2017. The Irish also lose three of their top five receivers.
The home team has won the last four games in this series. Notre Dame is a currently a one-point favorite and the over/under is at 47. I like Michigan ML, Notre Dame TT under and the game under.
#8 Miami vs. #25 LSU – 7:30pm (Sunday) – ABC
This is one of only a handful of games on Sunday but puts a resurgent Miami program against an LSU program that is looking for an identity. Miami returns seven starters on both offense and defense. Let’s start with their calling card, that defense. The turnover chain is back, and the man who held it the most last year (Jaquan Johnson) is back as well. Johnson led the team with 6 interceptions, their other leader this year is sack specialist Joe Jackson. On the offensive side of the ball, Miami returns both their quarterback (Malik Rosier) and their leading rusher (Travis Homer). The Hurricanes did lose their top two wide receivers, however, they have a couple studs waiting in the wings, the best is Ahmon Richards.
The LSU program has been in disarray the past couple years after the departure of Les Miles. Now in his second year, Ed Orgeron returns five starters on both offense and defense, the least amount of returning starters for LSU in the last ten years. Despite the lack of experience, they have two potential first round picks on defense, ILB Devin White, and CB Greedy Williams. On the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers will start Ohio State transfer, Joe Burrow. The lefty will try and give the Tigers fans something to cheer for at the quarterback position. Burrow will not have the help of the Tigers four leading rushers from last year. They will lean another transfer for their receiving threat, Johnathan Giles (Texas Tech
Transfer) who was a 1,000-yard receiver with Patrick Mahomes. The new offensive coordinator may have some adjustments to make with a whole new crop of offensive weapons.
Miami is 3-9 all-time against LSU. LSU has played 3 neutral site openers and they have gone 2-1, with their only loss to Wisconsin in Lambeau Field. Miami is a three-point favorite right now and the over/under is at 48. I like Miami ML in this one, and I would look at the LSU TT under.
#20 Virginia Tech @ #19 Florida State – 8 pm (Monday) – ESPN
There is nothing like coming right out of the gates and facing one of the top teams in your conference. The Virginia Tech Hokies and third-year coach Sean Fuente travel to Tallahassee to take on new Head Coach Willie Taggert and his Florida State Seminoles in a Labor Day matchup. The Hokies return seven starters on offense, including their dual-threat quarterback Josh Jackson. Jackson will also return with his leading rusher from last season (Deshawn McClease) and three of his top four receivers. The defense will only retain five starters from last year’s team, they lost both Edmunds brothers, who became first-round picks in the draft. I am interested to see how Bud Foster can rally this young defense together.
As mentioned above, the Seminoles have a new coach this year. Willie Taggert has come over from Oregon to take over the FSU program from Jimbo Fisher. He had a tough choice to make the spring between returning starter James Blackman Jr. and DeAndre Francois (who started before he got injured in last year’s first game vs. Alabama). Francois has won the job and he will have a load of weapons to work with. He will have both of his leading rushers from last season back (Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick) as well as the leading receiver from last year’s team in Nyqwan Murray. With only four starters returning on defense, the Seminoles young players will have to step up if they want to challenge Clemson this year in the ACC.
Virginia Tech has played on Labor Day three times and they are 1-2 on those occasions. Florida State has won their last seven Home openers and is 14-2 vs. Virginia Tech all-time (6-0 at Doak Campbell Stadium). With that being said Florida State is a seven-point favorite and the over/under is at 56.5. I believe Florida State is going to win this game, however, seven points is a lot for a team with a new head coach and a brand new defense. So I am staying away unless you want to put FSU in a teaser.