A time for football—some good, some not so good—and, of course, a time for point spreads. Most teams in the top 25 will not be tested this week, but each game is a test for all parties (if you want it to be) thanks to our fine friends out in lovely Las Vegas.
The smallest point spread featuring teams in the AP Top 25? Two. The largest? 59. Yes, 59.
As for how all the teams in the top 25 will fare against the number this weekend, from the monster spreads to the monster matchups, let’s make some plays.
Don’t let the point spread fool you, Eastern Washington can play a bit.
No, the Big Sky isn’t on the same talent level as the Pac-12—and there’s a significant gap in overall talent between these two teams—but the Eagles can move the ball, and they could very well give Oregon State more than it signed up for. Then again, running back Storm Woods could take that statement and juke it into oblivion, but I’m taking the points until then.
The Pick: Eastern Washington (+27)
Unfortunately, Gary Andersen no longer has Chuckie Keeton at quarterback with his new coaching destination. If he did, we would likely be talking about Wisconsin as a national title contender.
He does, however, have a team still ripe with talent on both sides, and he is going up against a team that is, well, not as talented. The eight-touchdown spread pretty much says it all, and Andersen will hit the ground running. Let's hope the Badgers stay running for point-spread purposes.
The Pick: Wisconsin (-44.5)
Sound your point-spread siren, and I’m assuming you have one of those. If not, you need one.
Why is this point spread only six? Is there something we’re missing here?
Yes, Northwestern enters the season with concerns at offensive line and the Big Ten historically doesn’t travel west all that well, but Cal is a team in transition.
Am I a sucker for laying the six points here? I might be.
The Pick: Northwestern (-6)
If you enjoy touchdowns and points—and you do, clearly—this is the game for you. And if you like watching quarterbacks do spectacular things, then the Cody Fajardo-Brett Hundley battle is right up your alley.
Nevada won’t be able to keep up with UCLA, but it should be able to find success through the air and on the ground. It won’t be close, but close enough.
The Pick: Nevada (+21)
Remember these two? You should. This is a 2012 Las Vegas Bowl rematch, although this time the Huskies will open up their renovated stadium. Yes, the ranked team is the underdog here on the road.
Boise State has plenty of new faces, especially on defense where this group was solid last year. Joe Southwick returns at quarterback, and he improved a great deal throughout 2012.
Although Washington will be without star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Keith Price will find a way to get it done. I’d feel much better if the point spread was three, but this will have to do.
The Pick: Washington (-3.5)
How many points will the Nebraska offense score in this one? 40? 50? 60? 160? 1,160?
Well, even if it’s only 50—or how about 40?—Nebraska’s defense should be able to do enough here to keep this spread within reason. Yes, laying 30 is never optimal, especially with a team that gave up more than 100 points its last two contests from 2012, but Wyoming also isn’t Georgia.
In Taylor Martinez we trust. Yes, that has a strange ring to it.
The Pick: Nebraska (-30)
The Devin Gardner Experience begins, and Las Vegas believes it will begin with plenty of points in one direction.
While Central Michigan’s 7-6 record from a year ago doesn’t jump off the page, the Chippewas did beat Iowa. On second thought, I’m not quite sure what that tells us.
I’ll somewhat reluctantly lay the points.
The Pick: Michigan (-31.5)
Louisiana-Monroe played two quarterbacks at once last year, which remains one of my favorite things ever. I’m not sure how this factors into this game, but Monroe is much better than many realize, and Oklahoma has questions on defense and a new quarterback to groom.
I’ll take the points, thank you (and hopefully more amazing quarterback formations).
The Pick: Louisiana-Monroe (+21.5)
What does a 1-11 team get in its opening game? How does six or seven touchdowns sound? Well, they don't actually get these, but Vegas is willing to provide them to make things interesting.
The Texas offense will be busy, and while this will likely come down to “my backups are better than your backups” or even “my backups are better than your starters,” we’ll lay the absurd amount of points because it just feels right.
The Pick: Texas (-43.5)
What will this Tommy Rees-led offense look like? Although it seems like we’ve asked this question a few hundred times over the past 11 years, Rees should perform well.
But the point spread is robust, especially as Brian Kelly mixes and matches new faces on that offense.
I’ll take the points, only because I’m getting a lot of them, and Notre Dame may not click offensively just yet.
The Pick: Temple (+29.5)
The oddsmakers have a ton of respect for Mike Gundy and this offense, as seen by this point spread
And while multiple Oklahoma State quarterbacks should see the field, it may not matter. What could matter, however, is that Devin Davis—OK State’s projected left tackle—it out for the year.
Still, the magnificent Mississippi State secondary from a year ago is no longer, and this is not the team (or the offense) you want to test out the new unit against.
The Pick: Oklahoma State (-12.5)
If there was ever a time to play LSU—and quite frankly, none of the options are ever all that favorable—this would be it. LSU will look remarkably different on defense thanks to the mass exodus of departures this offseason, although there are plenty of intriguing talents still in place.
TCU will get back quarterback Casey Pachall, and he could be the difference in this game one way or another. The TCU defense—despite the uncertainty of defensive Devonte Fields—will still be game for this one.
It won’t be pretty and it will likely be tight late. For that reason, give me the points.
The Pick: TCU (+4)
Here’s a fascinating quarterback battle that celebrates the great unknown and two very different paths.
In one corner we have Florida State’s Jameis Winston, a potential breakout star capable of throwing a 95 mph fastball. In the other we have Tom Savage, the former Rutgers starter who now calls Pitt home.
Florida State has to replace key members all over the field, but it is a team still stockpiled with talent. Even with a young QB on the road, young talent prevails.
The Pick: Florida State (-10.5)
The football gods have not been kind to the Gators in recent weeks. ACLs, appendectomies and illnesses have surfaced for a team that already has to replace a great deal of talent, especially on defense.
The offense still has plenty of questions of its own, and while the Gators should have no issues coming away with the win, three-plus touchdowns seem a bit on the high side.
The Pick: Toledo (+23.5)
The MAC’s very own is a trendy pick gaining steam against Louisville, although I’m not ready to bite. At least not here.
Louisville is a tough team to assess heading into the season, and perhaps slightly overvalued. But with Teddy Bridgewater under center, and an experienced team with underrated weapons on offense, Louisville should destroy scoreboards, and they should destroy this one.
The Pick: Louisville (-20.5)
This presents one of the strangest point-spread scenarios of the weekend, and quarterback Johnny Manziel will indeed come out of the bullpen for the second half, at least we think. If that's the case...27 might not be enough.
After starting slow, however, Rice closed very strong in 2012 and is a better team than many realize. With that being said, 11 or so minutes of Johnny Manziel may be all A&M needs to meet this spread.
The Pick: Texas A&M (-27)
Clemson actually opened up as a two-point favorite in this game, although the Georgia money has slowly moved this in the other direction.
The environment will be magnificent, the offense will be off the charts—the over/under sits at a cozy 71.5—and the road team will find a way to win. At least that’s the plan, and the Georgia running game will be the blueprint.
I don’t love siding with where the public is leaning, but I will here.
The Pick: Georgia (-2)
That is an actual point spread in an actual football game, which will never stop being hilarious (unless you’re Nicholls State).
Will Marcus Mariota still be in the game at the halfway point in the second quarter? More importantly, will it matter?
The Pick: Oregon (-59) Because why not
Here’s a point spread that will be decided by the reserves, and just how aggressive Urban Meyer wants to be late in the game. Even without starting running back Carlos Hyde and starting corner Bradley Roby, Ohio State will end this one early.
The point spread is a different story—after all, that’s why these things are generated—and I will reluctantly lay the points, putting my faith in the Buckeye reserves.
The Pick: Ohio State (-34.5)
Over the past three seasons, Alabama has averaged out to be nearly a three-touchdown favorite each and every week. The Hokies pretty much hit that number right on the center, and thus one of the weekend’s most-anticipated games has been given a massive number.
It’s not a bet-your-house kind of play—Virginia Tech is solid defensively, and perhaps it could be low scoring early if the Alabama offense feels out its rebuilt offensive line—but it’s also very difficult not to lay the points here.
The Pick: Alabama (-20.5)