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

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2017

Alabama's Jalen Hurts throws during the first half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Clemson Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

With a long offseason in the books, the march toward the College Football Playoff is officially set to start in conjunction with Week 1 of the 2017 college football season.

Every top team will be in action, and although many of them are easing into the season against cupcake opponents, there are also some marquee matchups that could have a major impact on the playoff picture immediately.

Top-ranked Alabama and No. 3 Florida State will clash in Week 1's biggest game, while No. 11 Michigan and No. 17 Florida will lock horns in a hugely important contest as well.

Now college football is set to kick into full gear, here is a rundown of odds and predictions for every Top 25 game Week 1 has to offer.

       

Top 25 Schedule and Predictions

(10) Oklahoma State (-18) vs. Tulsa: 56-31, Oklahoma State

Indiana vs. (2) Ohio State (-21): 44-20, Ohio State

Rutgers vs. (8) Washington (-30.5): 48-21, Washington

(9) Wisconsin (-28) vs. Utah State: 34-10, Wisconsin

(5) Clemson (-40) vs. Kent State: 52-7, Clemson

(6) Penn State (-31) vs. Akron: 58-10, Penn State

(25) Texas (-17) vs. Maryland: 31-21, Texas

(18) Miami (Fla.) (no line) vs. Bethune-Cookman: 62-7, Miami (Fla.)

(7) Oklahoma (-43) vs. UTEP: 70-24, Oklahoma

(17) Florida vs. (11) Michigan (-4): 23-17, Michigan

(19) South Florida (no line) vs. Stony Brook: 45-3, South Florida

(4) USC (-27.5) vs. Western Michigan: 38-10, USC

(15) Georgia (-14) vs. Appalachian State: 31-13, Georgia

(20) Kansas State (no line) vs. Central Arkansas: 56-14, Kansas State

(12) Auburn (-35) vs. Georgia Southern: 44-10, Auburn

Purdue vs. (16) Louisville (-26): 48-31, Louisville

(1) Alabama (-7) vs. (3) Florida State: 34-24, Alabama

(13) LSU (-13.5) vs. BYU: 27-14, LSU

(24) Washington State (no line) vs. Montana State: 52-13, Washington State

(21) Virginia Tech (-5) vs. (22) West Virginia: 38-35, West Virginia

Georgia Tech vs. (25) Tennessee (-4): 31-27, Tennessee

Odds according to OddsShark.

       

Key Games to Watch

(1) Alabama (-7) vs. (3) Florida State

It isn't often that a team expected to be in the CFP mix is guaranteed a loss in Week 1, but that will be the case when Alabama and Florida State meet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday.

Teams have shown an early-season loss can be overcome en route to the College Football Playoff, but the team that comes out on the losing end will likely need to run the table the rest of the way.

The Crimson Tide are favored by seven on the heels of a campaign that saw them lose to Clemson in the CFP National Championship Game in dramatic fashion.

They have experienced a great deal of turnover defensively but return the bulk of their key offensive players, including the reigning SEC Offensive Freshman and SEC Offensive Player of the Year in Jalen Hurts.

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Despite that, FSU President John Thrasher is supremely confident that the Seminoles will come out on top, according to Tim Linafelt of Seminoles.com: "I shouldn't talk too much trash, but I think we're gonna beat Alabama pretty bad next week. I really do."

If FSU does win, it will likely have plenty to do with the play of sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois, who is coming off a solid freshman campaign that offers plenty to build upon.

Perhaps the biggest X-factor in the game is bruising Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough, who appears poised for a breakout season.

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban used Scarbrough somewhat sparingly early in 2016, but he rushed for 90 or more yards in each of his final four games and two or more touchdowns in each of his final three.

Scarbrough is an under-the-radar Heisman Trophy candidate if his workload increases, so expect Saban to lean on him heavily to control the ball and wear down Florida State's defense.

        

(17) Florida vs. (11) Michigan (-4)

Both Florida and Michigan will begin the season outside the top 10, but they are among college football's biggest programs, and either could be in the CFP mix later in the campaign.

Last season, the Gators and Wolverines boasted two of the best defenses in the nation, which suggests their Week 1 game could be a tightly contested struggle.

That is compounded by the fact both teams have major question marks at quarterback.

Michigan has yet to decide between Wilton Speight and John O'Korn, while Florida has a three-way battle raging.

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According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), Florida head coach Jim McElwain recently suggested Luke Del Rio, Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire could all see time under center against Michigan:

"You're going to see a bunch of them in there playing. The three guys have done a really good job. I think there's some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now the key to us is putting them in those positions, you know, that play to their strengths. 

"Will all play? I don't know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don't know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position."

Saturday's game is a difficult one to predict because both teams lost several key players on both sides of the ball since last season.

One thing that sets the Wolverines apart, however, is head coach Jim Harbaugh's success against highly ranked teams in comparison to McElwain's, per Drew Hallett of Maize n Brew:

The game is taking place at a neutral site in the form of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which puts both teams on equal footing.

The idea Florida could play three different quarterbacks doesn't bode well for its offensive rhythm, and that should be enough to spur Michigan to a massive, season-opening win.

      

Purdue vs. (16) Louisville (-26)

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and he will begin his defense with a tricky road game against Purdue on Saturday.

Last season, Jackson put up eye-popping statistics, boasting 3,543 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions, along with 1,571 rushing yards and 21 scores on the ground.

Despite that, few seem to be picking Jackson to repeat, which is surprising to ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, per Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal"I don't know if I've ever seen a guy have a year like he enjoyed and almost be forgotten by the masses."

Louisville faded as a team down the stretch last season and finished 9-4, losing its final three games.

Jackson's production also dropped off a bit during that losing streak, which may have something to do with the lack of hype surrounding him.

Purdue is a struggling program that has won a maximum of three games in four consecutive seasons, but it is under new leadership with head coach Jeff Brohm, who played quarterback collegiately at Louisville.

That figures to give Brohm added motivation, and the fact Purdue is playing in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium could keep things closer than most pundits predict.

The Cardinals have enough defensive deficiencies to allow the Boilermakers to cover the spread, but Purdue's defense won't have an answer for Jackson.

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