College Football Picks Week 1: Predicting Winner of Top Primetime Showdowns

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 07:  AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after throwing a touchdown in the first quarter to Michael Williams #89 against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on January 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's here, it's here, it's finally here. The first Saturday of college football is upon us and in action!

After months spent guessing about the first week's marquee games—and there are plenty to speak of—some of the nation's best teams will finally deliver answers.

How will they replace departed players? Which quarterbacks are ready to make a Heisman run? Who will step up and drag their team to victory on a national stage?

Perhaps by coincidence (and probably not), three of Week 1's biggest games all involve SEC teams playing tough non-conference foes in prime time.

And though the hours are ticking away, there's still time for one or two last-second predictions. 

All lines via


No. 1 Alabama (-21.0) vs. Virginia Tech – 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Were this, say, Week 2, there might be some look-ahead potential for the Crimson. Texas A&M and the "Game of the Year" loom next on Alabama's schedule, so there's a chance it would have been pre-occupied.

But as a neutral-field season-opener, it's hard to imagine the Tide being anything but 100 percent focused. That is very bad news for Virginia Tech.

The Hokies are a proud program and Frank Beamer is a proud coach. But the same, perhaps to an even bigger extent, could have been said about Notre Dame in last year's BCS National Championship.

And that wasn't enough to keep it from getting annihilated.

Virginia Tech has a big, scrappy defense, but Alabama has too many weapons for them to slow down. And on the other side of the ball, unless QB Logan Thomas makes a drastic and unforeseen leap forward, it's hard to imagine how they will score any points.

Don't be scared to lay the points.

Pick: Alabama to Win; Alabama -21.0


No. 5 Georgia (+2.5) at No. 8 Clemson – 8:00 p.m., ABC

The marquee game of Week 1 and, if you like points, perhaps the entire season.  

Georgia is a less-than-three point underdog, meaning Vegas thinks the teams are more-or-less even. Home field accounts for roughly three or four points, so the bookmakers ostensibly think Georgia is a bit better.

But that difference is minimal and both teams are mirror images of one another. How can you honestly pick between Clemson's offensive weapons—Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martivis Bryant—and Georgia's Aaron Murray, Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Gurshall?

There's no way to go wrong.

The real question might lie on defense, where Georgia's already young unit will miss suspended safety Josh Harvey-Clemons on the back end. Having to break in so many new starters in a hostile, borderline crazy environment, will the Bulldogs be able to compensate?

Hard to pick against a true home team in Week 1. Memorial Stadium carries Clemson to the winner's circle.

Pick: Clemson to Win; Clemson -2.5


No. 12 LSU (-4.0) vs. No. 20 TCU – 9:00 p.m., ESPN

This one feels like more of a diagnostic test than a good game to wager on. No matter what fans of each side think they know, the questions surrounding each squad—until seen in live action—have to be classified as unknowns.

For TCU, it's the offense—specifically the quarterback. Who plays: Casey Pachall or Trevone Boykin? If it's the former, as most believe, what type of rust will he show after leaving the team mid-season last year? Where is he at mentally? Is he still the same intrepid downfield passer?

On the other side of the ball, LSU needs to replace six starters in the defensive front seven. But Les Miles' tenure has been a bastion of "next man up" football. Guys like defensive tackle Anthony Johnson are set to become the next stars and first-round picks on his defense.

With so much flux, it's hard not to take the points. But it's also hard to bet against LSU against a non-SEC team. Hedge your bets and take the Tigers to win but the Frogs to cover.

Maybe you'll even win both.

Pick: LSU to Win; TCU +4.0