You can pick your friends and you can pick your weekly college football bets, but don’t complain when you realize you’ve surrounded yourself with a social circle full of degenerate gamblers.
Every week here @The_BarnBurner we will preview the five biggest college football games on tap for the weekend (with one Just For the Hell of It game thrown in), complete with betting lines and staff picks. Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter to tell us how much you hate us after our picks influenced you into making horrible decisions or maybe even send a heartfelt thanks when we win you money. As the season progresses, make sure to check how each of us fares. This should let you know who you can trust and who you should make fun of on Twitter.
Let’s all loudly exhale and rejoice: The dog days of summer filled with sporting events like the Little League World Series and the WNBA playoffs are gone, replaced with sports viewing people actually care about – College Football! Week one offers up an intriguing slate of games, headlined by the lone top-ten showdown between Washington and Auburn. Class is in session and Lee Corso (and his ever-annoying “Not so fast, my friend”) is thankfully nowhere to be found, so let’s get on with it already!
(1) Washington at Auburn (-2.5*)
With both teams having playoff aspirations and tough, late-season conference games, a loss in week one for either Washington or Auburn could prove costly. The “neutral site” game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium bills two of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Huskies QB Jake Browning and Tiger QB Jarret Stidham. Browning, who is in what feels like his tenth his fourth year as starter, lost No.1 target Dante Pettis, but returns backfield mate and electrifying running back Myles Gaskin. Washington also boasts one of the premier secondary units in the nation, returning every starter from a position group that only surrendered 10 passing touchdowns all of last season. The Tigers, on the other hand, feature a defense loaded with NFL prospects and a second-year quarterback who looks to have one of the deeper receiving groups in the country to tinker with in Gus Malzahn’s offensive-friendly system.
@farmerbarn: With a loaded defensive line anchored by studs Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson and the propensity for offenses to struggle in opening games, I’ve got Auburn covering in a close one.
@barburnerziggy: With Kerryon Johnson gone and Stidham returning, this Auburn offense will sling the ball around much more than we’re used to. The problem there is that Washington returns everyone from what was already the best secondary in the country. The Pac-12 makes a statement as Washington goes into SEC country and comes out with a win.
@barnburnerbaker: I’ve got Auburn in a tight one. I think Stidham and his receiving corps will do just enough against Washington’s defense. Playing close to home should give Auburn a friendly environment to go along with their strong defense.
@barnburnerslim: Auburn hasn’t won an early season game against a ranked team in what seems like forever. I’m rolling with Chris Peterson, Jake Browning, and the UW o-line as they have the ability to keep the Tigers’ defense at bay and pull away late.
(2) Michigan (-1.5) at Notre Dame
Fans of both schools would argue that both Jim Harbaugh and Brian Kelly have underperformed the last few years. Harbaugh, in particular, starts off a season where he must finally start winning the marquee games against a Notre Dame squad coming off a 10-win season. For Michigan, the biggest news of the offseason was the NCAA’s eligibility ruling on Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. The noted signal-caller bolted Oxford after the Hugh Freeze fiasco, and finally looks to have given Harbaugh the talented quarterback he’s so desperately needed but never had since his arrival in Ann Arbor. The Fighting Irish defense returns 10 of 11 starters. Even after the loss of last year’s defensive coordinator Mike Elko to Texas A&M, the Irish D will rely heavily upon many of the same principles as new DC Clark Lea’s predecessor. Both teams will likely miss the presence of notable playmakers – Michigan wideout Tarik Black just broke his foot and Notre Dame running back Dexter Williams’ suspension status remains a persistent rumor.
@farmerbarn: I believe Shea Patterson is going to be a difference-maker for the Wolverines, both in this game and the overall season. I’m going Michigan cover in back-and-forth nail-biter.
@barnburnerziggy: Notre Dame does return 10 defensive starters, but last year’s defense wasn’t even all that impressive. Shea Patterson will likely be shaky in his much-heralded debut, but Michigan has too much talent everywhere else for it to matter. Michigan covers and probably wins by double digits.
@barnburnerbaker: I’m a firm believer that the addition of Shea Patterson is going to once again make Michigan a contender. I’m just not sure how long that process is going to take. I think Notre Dame’s tenured defense will make this a tough debut for him though. I like the Irish to make an early splash, but I’m still buying Patterson’s stock longterm.
@barnburnerslim: Shea Patterson is going to be a huge addition for the Wolverines, but he ain’t perfect. Notre Dame’s defense should prove to be too much for the new-look Michigan offense, Irish by a TD at least.
(3) Miami (-3) at LSU
In case you blacked out for the entire 2017 college football season, Miami used a blinged-out, swaggy “Turnover Chain” to the tune of the third most forced turnovers in the nation. Meanwhile, Ed Orgeron finished an up-and-down first season as LSU head coach with a 9-4 record. One of those first two statistics about each team is likely to stay the same or maybe even improve, while the will almost inevitably decrease. Miami returns starting quarterback Malik Rosier and a finally healthy Ahmmon Richards at receiver. With Richards in and out of the lineup last season, Rosier’s numbers were as follows: 18 TDs and 8 INTs with him, 8 TDs and 6 INTs without him. The LSU offense lost workhorse and record-setting running back Derrius Guice to the NFL, but got a much-needed boost with Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow at quarterback. Just as it does year in and year out, the LSU secondary will once again boast a plethora of talent — none bigger than preseason All-America cornerback Greedy Williams. A Sunday night game under the lights of LSU’s Death Valley stadium should be a real treat.
@farmerbarn *MORTGAGE THE HOUSE*: I will go on record as saying I do not think Coach O is even remotely a good head coach and therefore have zero confidence that LSU will upset a top 10 Hurricanes team to start the season. Liquidate your kid’s college fund for Miami.
@barnburnerziggy: Death Valley at night might be one of the most intimidating environments in college football. That said, LSU simply won’t be very good this year. Miami watched their magical season turn to disaster in the course of two weeks last year and will be chomping at the bit to bury those memories with a big win. Miami covers, but probably not too comfortably.
@barnburnerbaker: I love Coach O and I want nothing more than for him to have LSU in contention. He certainly thinks his team is being underrated and it will be interesting to see what Joe Burrow can do in the starting role. I think Miami has a lot less unknowns right now though and for that I’m going Hurricanes to cover in a tighter game than would be expected.
@barnburnslim: I think Miami is going to come into Death Valley and beat the shit out of LSU. Turnover Chains Galore. The U.
(4) Virginia Tech at Florida State (-7.5)
Fewer teams had a more tumultuous season/off-season than the Florida State Seminoles. After a gut-wrenching season-opening loss saw starting quarterback Deondre Francois lost for the season, a massively underwhelming 7-6 campaign ended with Jimbo Fisher skipping town to College Station. Enter Willie Taggart as the Seminoles new coach. On the other side, Justin Fuente enters year 3 in Blacksburg with a still-young squad and decimated defense. In the span of a few months, the Hokies defense lost 11 players expected to significantly contribute and co-defensive coordinator Galen Scott to an embarrassing resignation. Both teams have significant question marks on both sides of the ball, which makes predictions on this conference game anyone’s guess.
@farmerbarn: Even though I’m not sure Virginia Tech could have had a worse offseason defensively, I think Fuente will have his team ready to play. Florida State will win, but the Hokies cover.
@barnburnerziggy: It’s tough to say whether FSU’s 2017 struggles were simply the result of losing Francois or if they actually weren’t a good football team. I lean towards the former and think Taggert will have a solid campaign with what he brings back. Va Tech’s roster is decimated and they probably weren’t going to win even if it wasn’t. Virginia Tech might keep it respectable, but FSU covers and is never in danger of losing.
@barnburnerbaker: I think Deondre Francois’ return will be just what the doctor ordered for the Seminoles after a lackluster 2017. He’s been waiting a year to make his return and I think his teammates will be juiced around him. Florida State covers in a double digit win.
@barnburnerslim: I cannot bet against a man who completely changed the Memphis Football Program and I think FSU is going to be too overcome with emotion early on. Plus, Fuente has never lost to Will Taggart dating back to their playing careers. Hokies pull off the upset.
(5) FAU at Oklahoma (-24)
You may be wondering why the hell a team favored by 24 points is one of the top five games to watch in week one. Simple: A Mr. Lane Monte Kiffin. Kiffin took over a program that had won 9 games over the course of the previous three seasons and boosted the Florida Atlantic Owls record to 11-3 and a bowl game for the first time since 2008. Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley, on the other hand, only managed to lead Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff in his first year on the job. Not to mention, he orchestrated one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football led by Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield’s gone, but high MLB draft pick and explosive athlete Kyler Murray has many thinking the drop-off at QB won’t be too big.
@farmerbarn : Oklahoma is the far superior team, but FAU has the LANE TRAIN. The game is close for a half before Oklahoma wins by double digits. That said, FAU covers and Lane’s agent starts backroom conversations with LSU.
@barnburnerziggy: My heart was broken last winter when my Tennessee Vols missed the opportunity to bring back Lane Kiffin. For all of his flaws, the guy knows how to run an offense. That’s not enough to overcome Oklahoma’s vastly superior talent and get the win, but it’s enough for FAU to cover in a game that Oklahoma never feels completely safe in.
@barnburnerbaker: I don’t see this being too tight, but FAU is one of the most fascinating teams in college football right now because of Lane Kiffin. I’m particularly interested in seeing Charlie Weis Jr. make his OC debut. FAU will be can’t miss tv for most of this season, but I think Oklahoma will handle their business this weekend.
@barnburnerslim: FAU may be fun to watch, but I don’t see them showing that in this game. OU by a lot and the cover.
Just for the Hell of It game: Tennessee versus West Virginia (-7)
@farmerbarn: Forever a Vol, my heart says Tennessee while my head (and 10 years’ worth of disappointing losses) says WV. WV and the Fighting Mullets it is.
@barnburnerziggy: In Jeremy Pruitt’s first game at the helm for the Vols, a topic of which I wrote about here, he’ll get to put his impressive reputation as a defensive mind to the test. West Virginia boasts one of the nation’s top passing attacks led by former Florida Gator and PED junkie Will Grier and will look to attack the Vols questionable secondary (two true freshmen will probably get minutes at CB) early and often. If Tennessee can establish a ground game and keep the ball out of Grier’s hands, they have a chance. I think that happens. The Vols pound WVU’s trash D-line to the tune of 200 yards rushing and pull off the upset.
@barnburnerbaker: I want to take a wild card bad and I despise Big 12 football outside of OU. It’s Jeremy Pruitt time in Tennessee.
@barnburnerslim: Tennessee may bounce back under Pruitt, but I don’t see it happening this year and damn sure not in this game. Will Grier gets his Heisman candidacy started off right in a blowout over the Vols.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark