As the weather remains warm (at least in Maryland), the first real college football slate is upon us. Thursday features four ranked teams in action including a national title contender (Ohio St). Below is a brief preview of all four ranked games plus a couple others that are intriguing.
#4 Ohio State (-14) @ Minnesota: Starting off with a Big 10 road game instead of a MAC opponent may be a shock to the system for the Buckeyes. Looming large is also a date next week with Oregon in Columbus. Lookahead spot? Perhaps. However, Ryan Day has proven to be an elite coach, stepping out of the shadow of Urban Meyer with a 23-2 career record, and despite losing 11 starters from last year, Ohio State is yet again expected to compete for a coveted spot in the college football playoffs.
Like most people, I am looking forward to seeing how Ohio State QB CJ Stroud plays as a replacement for last year’s starter (and Chicago Bears 1st rd pick) Justin Fields. Stroud, a former five star recruit, is an elite prospect and has a tremendous receiving corps to throw to including Chris Olave, who turned down being a likely top 50 NFL draft choice to come back for his RS Jr year.
Minnesota has a ton of experience (20 starters) coming back, a solid coach in PJ Fleck, and a great atmosphere as a home team. Normally, those factors plus a potential lookahead spot for OSU and first game jitters, would lead me to choose the home team and two touchdowns. But something just doesn’t feel right about doing that for this game. I am going with OSU -14, Final Score: 38-20
#22 Coastal Carolina (-33) vs. Citadel: This game won’t be competitive and I have no real play. CCU is a non Power-5 contender so I am eager to see if they can look dominant in a game they shouldn’t have any trouble with.
#24 Utah (-28.5) vs. Weber State: Utah is a Pac 12 South Contender and get a fairly weak Weber State team in their home opener. Utah has 19 starters back and have former Baylor QB Charlie Brewer as their starter. Utah has two road games coming up against (The Holy War against BYU and then San Diego State), so I expect them to come out guns blazing. I don’t feel great about it, but intuitively it makes sense that Coach Kyle Whittingham would want to come out of this game feeling great about his team. Projection: Utah 45, Weber State 10
#25Arizona State (-45) vs. Southern Utah: Arizona State comes into this game as a very interesting team. They have 20 returning starters including their entire defense, sophomore stud QB Jayden Daniels, and a lot of momentum. On the other hand, they also could face NCAA sanctions for “possible recruiting violations” (SI story here), so who knows where their heads are. But, a first game against an overmatched team that just lost to San Jose State by 31 leads me to believe that this one will be over by the first quarter.
Projection: Arizona State 52, Southern Utah 7
Other Interesting Games:
Boise State +6 @ UCF: Leaning Boise and the points. 17 returning starts including QB Bachmeier. Should be an entertaining, high scoring game.
Bowling Green +37 @ Tennessee: New coach Josh Heupel won’t have too many opportunities to showcase his team this year. Bowling Green’s defense is horrible and Tennessee will have their way. Take Tennessee minus the points.
I’ll be back soon with weekend CFB picks.