So I'm sure you are dying to know my predictions for the 2016 college football season as I kick off my weekly news and line-movement stories on Fridays all season.
At Bovada , Alabama is the +600 favorite to repeat as National Champion, but I don't think the Tide make the playoff. My picks for that are SEC champion LSU (+650 to win the national title), Big 12 champion Oklahoma (+1400), ACC champion Florida State (+900) and "at-large" team Clemson (+650). Yes, for the first time in the short history of the College Football Playoff, one conference will get two schools in. That's because I believe FSU beats Clemson in a close game on Oct. 29 in Tallahassee. The Seminoles will finish unbeaten and the Tigers with just that one loss. The Pac-12 has no great teams and will be left out again. Meanwhile, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in the Big Ten will suffer two losses, and that conference will miss the playoff for the first time.
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BetOnline offers a prop on which conference the National Champion comes from. The SEC is predictably a favorite at +185, followed by the Big Ten at +300. And while I am leaning LSU at this moment, I'd take the ACC on that prop at +375 because of my belief that Clemson and FSU both reach the semifinals. This year's semis are unfortunately on New Year's Eve again and at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and Fiesta Bowl outside Phoenix. The title game is Monday, Jan. 9 in Tampa.
If you are familiar with these stories from last year, I try to point out any injury news that might have happened during the week or any big line moves and as a possible explanation of why they happened. So here are some news, notes and any line moves for some of Saturday's games around the country, in no particular order.
Hawaii at No. 7 Michigan (-40, 52.5): This opened at 42 but is still the largest spread on the board -- if you don't count any games involving FCS teams against FBS powerhouses: I'm looking at you, Oregon vs. UC Davis. It will have been quite a brutal first two games for Hawaii in terms of travel as the Rainbow Warriors opened the season on Aug. 26 with a 51-31 loss to California in Sydney, Australia. And now they fly another 4,500 miles or so to the Detroit area. In a pretty sorry move, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn't share a tape of his team's recent scrimmage with Hawaii even though UM obviously has scouting tape on the Warriors from the Cal game. Yeah, Harbaugh isn't obligated, but it's not going to change the outcome. Most likely, Harbaugh wants to keep his starting quarterback under wraps. He still hasn't announced whether it's Wilton Speight, last year's backup to Jake Rudock, or Houston transfer John O'Korn. I believe it will be Speight., a 6-foot-6 junior. Hawaii played at Ohio State and Wisconsin last year from the Big Ten and lost by a combined score of 66-0.
No. 18 Georgia vs. No. 22 North Carolina (+2.5, 56.5): This game is in Atlanta and one of four Top-25 matchups on this stellar opening weekend of action. The big news here is that Dawgs running back Nick Chubb, a Heisman candidate, has been cleared to play. Chubb, a junior, averaged an SEC-high 8.1 yards per carry last season and had a string of 13 straight 100-yard rushing games before tearing his ACL against Tennessee last October. As recently as a few weeks ago, it wasn't a sure thing Chubb would be ready for the opener. This is the Georgia head coaching debut of former Bulldogs player and ex-Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, and he has decided that senior Greyson Lambert will be his starting QB. Lambert, a Virginia transfer, went 10-2 as a starter for the Bulldogs last season, throwing for 1,959 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. He was in a heated battle with five-star freshman Jacob Eason, the guy most Georgia fans wanted to start. Eason is expected to play some against UNC.
No. 20 USC vs. No. 1 Alabama (-12, 53): This game in Arlington, Texas, opened at 10 and the Tide are taking a sold lean. They are 6-0 in neutral-site season openers under Coach Nick Saban. I'd like to tell you who Alabama's quarterback will be, but Saban hasn't announced whether it will be junior Cooper Bateman, last year's backup to Jake Coker, or freshman Blake Barnett. It's the third straight season that Alabama had a QB battle entering Week 1, with Blake Sims winning the job two years ago and Coker in 2015. If history is any indication, Saban will go with the experienced Bateman. Meanwhile, it's the first time since 2011 that USC is a double-digit dog. This will be the ninth time in the last 20 years that the Trojans have been and USC has gone 6-2 ATS in the previous eight. This will be the first career start for Trojans QB Max Browne. He backed up Cody Kessler for the past two seasons and won the starting job in a close battle over redshirt freshman Sam Darnold.
New Mexico State at UTEP (-9.5, 60): This line has risen two points and UTEP is taking a big lean probably because Aggies star running back Larry Rose III is likely to miss the game -- downgraded to doubtful -- after recently undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia. Rose, who rushed for 1,651 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, was named a third-team Associated Press All-American. He also had 228 receiving yards. Apparently NMSU junior quarterback Tyler Rogers will start on Saturday despite recently being arrested -- the local DA has declined to prosecute the misdemeanor battery. UTEP beat visiting New Mexico State 50-47 in OT last year. Rose carried 20 times for 186 yards and a touchdown, while Rogers threw for 285 yards and three scores.
No. 10 Notre Dame at Texas (+3.5, 60): This game was moved from Saturday to Sunday night to get the national spotlight all to itself. We know that the Irish are going to use both of their very good quarterbacks, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer. Zaire was the unquestioned starter to open last season and was brilliant in the Irish's 38-3 home rout of Texas in Week 1, only to get hurt in the Irish's next game. The big question here is who starts at quarterback for Texas and embattled coach Charlie Strong. He says the public won't know until the Texas offense takes the field for the first time. Strong also said the starter he uses Sunday will be the starter all season unless "something happens." Most believe it will be freshman Shane Buechele over senior Tyrone Swoopes, who is just 6-8 as a starter in his career. He started that rout vs. the Irish last year and was just 7-for-22 for 93 yards. Has a coach ever been fired after Week 1? if the Horns lose by 35 again, Strong might be.
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