College Football Picks Week 1: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVAugust 25, 2014

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) interviews defensive back Ronald Darby (3) during their NCAA college football media day on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Phil Sears/Associated Press

The 2014 college football season opens this weekend, and it will start with a bang as a number of Top 25 schools will face off against elite competition.

For many powerhouse programs, Week 1 is a time to beat the snot out of a FCS team or simply schedule an overmatched opponent to ease into the season. But with strength of schedule playing a bigger role in the wake of the first College Football Playoff, some schools have opted to open up with bowl-season-like matchups.

While some of the nation's best teams will open up with an easy one, matchups like Wisconsin-LSU and Florida State-Oklahoma State mean that Week 1 will have serious championship implications. 

Here's a look at all of the Top 25 matchups, with an emphasis on the games you simply cannot afford to miss.

 

Week 1 Schedule, Odds and Predictions

Top 25 Schedule: Week 1
DateMatchupTime (ET)OddsPrediction
Aug. 28No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 South Carolina6 p.m.SC -13SC 27-20
Aug. 28Boise State vs. No. 18 Ole Miss8 p.m.UM -9.5UM 35-18
Aug. 28Weber State vs. No. 19 Arizona State10:30 p.m.n/aASU 41-7
Aug. 29Jacksonville State vs. No. 8 Michigan State7:30 p.m.n/aMSU 41-0
Aug. 30No. 5 Ohio State vs. Navy12 p.m.OSU -19.5OSU 45-10
Aug. 30No. 7 UCLA vs. Virginia12 p.m.UCLA -24UCLA 27-10
Aug. 30West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama3:30 p.m.UA -25UA 34-7
Aug. 30Rice vs. No. 17 Notre Dame3:30 p.m.ND -24.5ND 37-13
Aug. 30Florida Atlantic vs. Nebraska3:30 p.m.NEB -24NEB 55-14
Aug. 30South Dakota State vs. No. 24 Missouri3:30 p.m.n/aMIZ 45-0
Aug. 30Arkansas vs. No. 6 Auburn4 p.m.AUB -21AUB 45-27
Aug. 30UC Davis vs. No. 11 Stanford4 p.m.n/aSTAN 45-7
Aug. 30No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia5:30 p.m.UGA -9.5UGA 27-24 (OT)
Aug. 30Liberty vs. No. 23 North Carolina6 p.m.n/aUNC 45-13
Aug. 30Louisiana Tech vs. No. 4 Oklahoma7 p.m.OU -37.5OU 63-10
Aug. 30Stephen F. Austin vs. No. 20 Kansas State7:10 p.m.n/aKSU 38-3
Aug. 30Fresno State vs. No. 15 USC7:30 p.m.USC -21.5USC 41-17
Aug. 30No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State8 p.m.FSU -17.5FSU 45-13
Aug. 30No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 LSU9 p.m.LSU -6.5LSU 16-13
Aug. 30South Dakota vs. No. 3 Oregon10:30 p.m.n/aORE 48-14
Aug. 30No. 25 Washington vs. Hawaii10:30 p.m.WAS -21.5WAS 40-20
Aug. 31SMU vs. No. 10 Baylor7:30 p.m.BU -30BU 56-10
Odds via OddsShark.com; Steven Cook's predictions

Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark. Multiple game lines are still to be determined.

 

Notable Matchups

No. 21 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 South Carolina

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Steve Spurrier of the South Carolina Gamecocks chats with his quarterback Connor Shaw #14 in the first half of their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

If any singular game this season will make your subscription to SEC Network worth it, chances are it's the first live contest the network will ever show.

The 21st-ranked Texas A&M Aggies will open up the post-Johnny Manziel era with a doozie on the road, traveling to face Steve Spurrier's No. 9 South Carolina squad. Williams-Brice Stadium is sure to be rocking for a Thursday night affair that seemingly kicks off the college football season.

The Gamecocks have a seasoned quarterback with big-game experience in Dylan Thompson, and three straight 11-win seasons have helped the media to select South Carolina as the favorite to make its second ever SEC title game appearance. 

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 23:  Dylan Thompson #17 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates after throwing a touchdown during their game against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Kenny Hill takes over the offense for the Aggies, and a deep cupboard of talent around him along with stockpiled recruiting classes have gotten Texas A&M into the Top 25 entering the season. But Manziel had to be magnificent just to keep the Aggies afloat last season, as defensive woes became a big problem in 2013.

South Carolina might be without star rusher Mike Davis as he's questionable with a rib injury, according to The State (Columbia, South Carolina). But even if Davis can't go, Thompson's command of the offense and the ability of backup Brandon Wilds will be enough to grind out a win at home—though closer than the line suggests.

Prediction: South Carolina wins, 27-20

 

No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 12 Georgia

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 1: Hutson Mason #14 of the Georgia Bulldogs passes the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl at Everbank Field on January 1, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida. Nebraska won the game 24-19. (Photo
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It doesn't pack quite the punch that last year's epic encounter did, but Georgia and Clemson enter 2014 with similar expectations that will alter dramatically based on Saturday night's outcome.

After last year's 38-35 victory at home, Dabo Swinney's No. 16 Tigers will head south to Sanford Stadium to try to repeat history in a hostile environment against one of the SEC's elite.

Although Mark Richt's squad enters on the cusp of the Top 10, the Bulldogs are coming off a season to forget. An unprecedented amount of injuries helped Georgia to stall to an 8-5 record, losing to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl after lofty preseason expectations.

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Should Georgia's offense stay healthy, it should have no problem getting back to 10 or 11 wins. Hutson Mason is a future star if his play late last year and offseason growth are any indication. Todd Gurley is among the best running backs in the nation, and a number of other speedsters who missed time last year are healthy and ready to go. 

Clemson's strong defense will make up for the loss of Tajh Boyd much of the season, but the Tigers won't be able to contain Georgia's offense at the end of this one.

Prediction: Georgia wins in OT, 27-24

 

No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The 2014 Florida State Seminoles have boasted a "Dallas to Dallas" motto entering this season, meant to signify their aspirations of playing in the CFP championship game in Dallas and defending their national title. It will start in Dallas on Saturday, when they take on Oklahoma State in a neutral-site clash. 

Jameis Winston returns to Florida State coming off his Heisman Trophy campaign a year ago, and Jimbo Fisher has plenty of offensive weapons to negate the losses of Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene and Devonta Freeman. 

The top-ranked Seminoles only played three ranked foes in the regular season last year, and only two are on the slate entering 2014—Clemson and Notre Dame. Although it's not a ranked Cowboys team they will face, it could prove to be one of Florida State's toughest tests on the road to its title.

But even one of its toughest tests won't truly be that much of a test. Mike Gundy returns just 12 starters, two of which are kickers, and even Gundy's best repair job in 2014 won't make his Cowboys serious contenders against the champs in Week 1.

Prediction: Florida State wins, 45-13