College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystAugust 28, 2019

College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

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    Notre Dame QB Ian Book
    Notre Dame QB Ian BookMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Florida's sloppy, beautifully ugly win over Miami (FL) was merely an aperitif for the madness known as Week 1 of the 2019 college football season.

    From the 16 contests on Thursday night through Notre Dame's impending beatdown of Louisville on Labor Day, a total of 83 college football games involving an FBS team will be played. Only one will pit two ranked teams against each another, and almost half (41) involve an FCS school likely to be slaughtered like a sacrificial lamb.

    But we don't discriminate here. We've got predictions for all 83 games to help get you through the long and glorious weekend.

    Games are broken up by time slot, with the early, afternoon and evening windows on Saturday split up into "Top" and "Other" contests. Within each time slot, AP Top 25 teams are listed first.

    Let "Ctrl+F" be your guide if you're looking for specific teams because there are quite a few words.

Thursday Games

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    Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond
    Texas A&M QB Kellen MondSam Craft/Associated Press

    Florida A&M at No. 17 UCF, 7:30 p.m. ET

    UCF hasn't lost a regular-season game in the past 33 months. Florida A&M has lost each of its last nine games against FBS opponents by a margin of at least 34 points. Its average margin of defeat is 52.6 points. Don't overthink this one.

    Prediction: UCF 56, Florida A&M 7

                    

    Georgia Tech at No. 1 Clemson, 8 p.m. ET

    Two of Clemson's stiffest tests of the entire season will take place in the first three weeks. Unfortunately for both Georgia Tech and all college football fans desperate to watch a fun game on Thursday, this isn't one of those challenges. Clemson has won the last four games in this series, each by a margin of at least two touchdowns. This might be the biggest beatdown of the bunch, though.

    Prediction: Clemson 52, Georgia Tech 13

                  

    Texas State at No. 12 Texas A&M, 8:30 p.m. ET

    In last year's season opener, Texas A&M rushed for more than 500 yards in a 59-7 shellacking of Northwestern State. This one probably won't get that out of hand, but the Aggies will be using it as an opportunity to figure out what they have in the backfield sans Trayveon Williams.

    With only one game to prepare for the colossal showdown with Clemson, keeping quarterback Kellen Mond from suffering any bumps or bruises will also be the goal here.

    Prediction: Texas A&M 42, Texas State 10

                   

    No. 14 Utah at BYU, 10:15 p.m. ET

    Three of Thursday's four games involving ranked teams are going to be slaughters, but this one just might produce a big upset. BYU led Utah 27-7 late in the third quarter last November before the Utes scored 28 unanswered for a comeback victory.

    Then again, Utah was without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and starting running back Zack Moss for that tilt and should be better equipped to win with those now-senior leaders back in the mix.

    Prediction: Utah 30, BYU 20

                    

    UCLA at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET

    The Chip Kelly era at UCLA began with quite the whimper, featuring a loss at home to a Cincinnati team that went 4-8 the previous year. The Bearcats ended up being one of the most improved teams in the country, but it was still an early red flag in what would become a 3-9 mess for the Bruins.

    Will quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Co. flip the script, or will the Bearcats run the ball all over UCLA, marking the beginning of the end for Kelly? We're anticipating the latter.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 34, UCLA 26

                 

    Wagner at Connecticut, 7 p.m. ET

    As dreadful as Connecticut has been lately, at least the Huskies have been able to consistently scrape out wins over FCS foes. They have won five straight against that level of competition, but all five games were decided by seven points or fewer. After losing dual-threat quarterback David Pindell, expecting anything more than another nail-biting win might be too optimistic.

    Prediction: Connecticut 23, Wagner 20

              

    Albany at Central Michigan, 7 p.m. ET

    In terms of yards per play, Central Michigan had the worst offense in the nation last season, averaging 3.78 YPPthe lowest mark by any FBS team in the past four years. And it's not like new head coach Jim McElwain was anything close to an offensive mastermind during his two-plus seasons at Florida.

    The Chippewas should be able to beat Albany, but they are still a far cry from reanimating that six-year streak of six or more wins from 2012-17.

    Prediction: Central Michigan 21, Albany 14

                   

    Morgan State at Bowling Green, 7 p.m. ET

    Bowling Green allowed at least 35 points in 10 of 12 games last season, but Morgan State only once scored more than 28 points while facing decidedly less impressive competition. The Falcons defense should win that "battle," but don't expect many more victories this season for the likely Mid-American Conference basement dweller.

    Prediction: Bowling Green 35, Morgan State 17

                     

    Robert Morris at Buffalo, 7 p.m. ET

    Do you remember when the Robert Morris men's basketball team upset Kentucky in the 2013 NIT? An upset here would be even more improbable. The Colonials have had three consecutive 2-9 seasons and have not faced an FBS opponent in at least a decade, if ever. This will get ugly, even though Buffalo is maybe a .500 team this season.

    Prediction: Buffalo 56, Robert Morris 3

                     

    Central Arkansas at Western Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last year was not pretty for Western Kentucky, as the Hilltoppers even lost to an FCS opponent (Maine) during their 3-9 campaign. But that was an exceptionally young rosterespecially on offenseand the back-to-back wins to close out the regular season might have been a sign of things to come. They should be able to win this directional battle with Central Arkansas.

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 38, Central Arkansas 24

                

    Gardner-Webb at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Remember the name Benny LeMay. Charlotte's senior running back had five games last season with at least 120 yards rushing and has averaged at least five yards per carry in each of his three years with the 49ers. And in Gardner-Webb's lone FBS game last year, it allowed Appalachian State to rush for 432 yards and six scores. LeMay just might enter Week 2 as the nation's leading rusher.

    Prediction: Charlotte 45, Gardner-Webb 10

                             

    Florida International at Tulane, 8 p.m. ET

    It's hardly the first game that jumps off the page, but this ought to be the best contest of the night.

    FIU brings back key veterans from a nine-win team in senior quarterback James Morgan and linebacker Sage Lewis, who's the potential C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. But Tulanefresh off its first bowl victory since 2002—also has some serious Group of Five stars in running back Darius Bradwell, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and defensive end Patrick Johnson.

    There aren't many Week 1 matchups in which both teams are projected for bowl eligibility, but this is one of them. The slight edge goes to Tulane just because of the home-field factor.

    Prediction: Tulane 27, FIU 24

                     

    Alabama State at UAB, 8 p.m. ET

    A lot of folks are excited about UAB's redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Johnston III, but who is he going to be throwing to after the Blazers lost all four of their top receivers from last season? Against Alabama State, it shouldn't matter. Johnston and running back Spencer Brown will be enough to blow this one wide open.

    Prediction: UAB 49, Alabama State 9

                    

    South Dakota State at Minnesota, 9 p.m. ET

    South Dakota State made it to last year's FCS national semifinal and has generally been one of the best teams playing at that level. The Jackrabbits are nowhere near the pushover some of these buy-game opponents are.

    But head coach P.J. Fleck might have something special brewing with these Golden Gophers if sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan can build on what was a decent 2018 season. If he's adequate, Minnesota could secure this one by halftime and go on to win 10 games.

    Prediction: Minnesota 42, South Dakota State 17

                       

    Kent State at Arizona State, 10 p.m. ET

    True freshman Jayden Daniels is getting the start at quarterback for Arizona State, and he couldn't ask for a more favorable introduction to college football than consecutive home games against Kent State, which has lost at least nine games in five straight seasons, and FCS opponent Sacramento State. Factor in last year's 1,642-yard rusher Eno Benjamin and the Sun Devils should cruise to victory.

    Prediction: Arizona State 38, Kent State 13

                          

    Northern Colorado at San Jose State, 10 p.m. ET

    It has been a long few years for San Jose State, including a season-opening home loss to FCS school UC Davis in 2018. But at least UC Davis went on to win 10 games behind a great offense, making that result a little more understandable. Northern Colorado hasn't been anywhere close to that good lately and should be the one opponent the Spartans can actually defeat this season.

    Prediction: San Jose State 31, Northern Colorado 19

Friday Games

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    Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
    Wisconsin RB Jonathan TaylorMorry Gash/Associated Press

    Tulsa at No. 18 Michigan State, 7 p.m. ET

    Which Brian Lewerke shows up for Michigan State this year? The dual-threat who somewhat efficiently led the Spartans to a 10-win campaign in 2017, or the one who threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (eight) and wasn't much of a danger as either a passer or a rusher last year? As long as MSU's defensive line holds up like it should, that won't much matter in this game. But we're eager to see how he looks all the same.

    Prediction: Michigan State 31, Tulsa 14

            

    No. 19 Wisconsin at South Florida, 7 p.m. ET

    South Florida had one of the worst rushing defenses last season, allowing more than five yards per carry and nearly 250 yards per game. Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor led the nation in rushing in 2018, and by a wide margin with 2,194 yards. This seems like a good place to point out that Taylor's single-game career highs are 321 yards and three touchdowns. For now.

    Prediction: Wisconsin 42, South Florida 27

            

    Rice at Army, 6 p.m. ET

    Good luck finding a Week 1 matchup between teams trending further in opposite directions. Army is 21-5 over the past two seasons compared to Rice's mark of 3-22. That includes Army smoking Rice by a score of 49-12 in October 2017. Don't expect this one to be much different, as Kelvin Hopkins Jr. and Co. will run all over the Owls.

    Prediction: Army 45, Rice 14

            

    Massachusetts at Rutgers, 7:15 p.m. ET

    Massachusetts lost two of three quarterbacks, the top running back and the nation's leading wide receiver (Andy Isabella) from a team that was already quite bad. But the Minutemen are facing a Rutgers team that had the worst offense in 2018, scoring 17 or fewer points in each of its final 11 games. You're going to want some antacids for this one.

    Prediction: Rutgers 24, Massachusetts 13

            

    Utah State at Wake Forest, 8 p.m. ET

    Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was one of the biggest breakout sensations of last year, tossing 32 touchdowns while guiding the Aggies to an 11-2 season. But with a new head coach and most of last year's top contributors on offense out of the picture, the Aggies will open this season the same way they did last year: a hard-fought road loss to a Power Five foe.

    Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Utah State 27

            

    Purdue at Nevada, 9:30 p.m. ET

    Let the Rondale Moore experience recommence! Purdue's star had 2,215 all-purpose yards as a true freshman, and he got that party started with a mammoth Week 1 performance against Northwestern. Granted, Purdue still lost that game, but the Boilermakers should have better luck against a Nevada squad that is breaking in a new starting quarterbackredshirt freshman Carson Strong.

    Prediction: Purdue 28, Nevada 20

            

    Colorado State vs. Colorado (in Denver), 10 p.m. ET

    Speaking of stars from yesteryear, everyone should be excited to see how Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. looks after impressing during an injury-truncated 2018 season. Well, everyone except for Colorado State fans, as Shenault exploded to the tune of 11 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown in last year's opener against the Rams. And with Colorado State losing both of its star receivers (Preston Williams and Olabisi Johnson), this could get even uglier than last year's 45-13 beatdown.

    Prediction: Colorado 40, Colorado State 17

            

    Oklahoma State at Oregon State, 10:30 p.m. ET

    Oklahoma State has averaged at least 38 points per game in eight of the last nine seasons, and Oregon State has allowed at least 43 points per game in back-to-back years. Moreover, each of Oregon State's nine losses to Power Five opponents last season came by at least a 17-point margin. Barring a healthy dose of #Pac12AfterDark weirdness, the road team should cruise to victory.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 54, Oregon State 27

Top Saturday Early Games

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    Memphis RB Patrick Taylor Jr.
    Memphis RB Patrick Taylor Jr.John Raoux/Associated Press

    Florida Atlantic at No. 5 Ohio State, noon ET

    The Owls and Buckeyes have never faced each other before, but don't expect FAU to fondly remember this inaugural encounter. Ohio State's last loss to a non-major conference opponent came against Air Force in the 1990 Liberty Bowl, and its five victories over the past three seasons each came by 31 or more points. Plus, after losing both Devin Singletary and Kerrith Whyte Jr., Florida Atlantic's offense might be a mess. The Justin Fields and Ryan Day era at Ohio State will begin with a blowout win.

    Prediction: Ohio State 52, Florida Atlantic 7

            

    Northern Iowa at No. 21 Iowa State, noon ET

    A lot has changed since Northern Iowa upset Iowa State to begin the 2016 season. Despite losing stars David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler, the Cyclones earned a spot in the preseason AP poll for just the second time in program historythe last was in 1978. Defense will fuel their success this season, and they'll provide an early reminder of that.

    Prediction: Iowa State 28, Northern Iowa, 0

              

    South Alabama at No. 24 Nebraska, noon ET

    It seems safe to say Nebraska won't be starting out 0-6 this year. Since joining the FBS in 2012, South Alabama is 1-10 against Power Five opponents with nine of those losses coming by a margin of at least 20 points. And the Jaguars had one of the worst defenses in the nation in 2018, allowing at least 28 points against all 11 FBS opponents. If Adrian Martinez is going to legitimately vie for the Heisman, it starts with a stat-stuffing performance here.

    Prediction: Nebraska 59, South Alabama 10

            

    Ole Miss at Memphis, noon ET

    Memphis lost a stud in Darrell Henderson, but the Tigers should still have an excellent offense fueled by quarterback Brady White, running back Patrick Taylor Jr. and wide receiver Damonte Coxie. Meanwhile, Ole Miss may struggle to move the ball following the departure of pretty much its entire 2018 passing attack. With a home win, Memphis' quest to become this year's Group of Five team in the New Year's Six will officially be underway.

    Prediction: Memphis 38, Ole Miss 27

             

    Toledo at Kentucky, noon ET

    Toledo lost its top three wide receivers, but it does have a running back eager to prove to his former school what he can do. A serious leg injury forced Bryant Koback to sit out the entire 2017 season at Kentucky before he transferred to Toledo and rushed for 917 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. He won't be enough to lead the Rockets to a road victory, but Wildcats fans might leave the game wishing they still had Koback in their quest to replace Benny Snell Jr.

    Prediction: Kentucky 31, Toledo 14

Other Saturday Early Games

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    Maryland RB Anthony McFarland
    Maryland RB Anthony McFarlandScott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Akron at Illinois, noon ET

    What's the opposite of a chess match? Whatever it is, that's what we should get here when one of last year's worst offenses (Akron) is trying to move the ball against one of last year's worst defenses (Illinois). Though the Fighting Illini are clearly going to be one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, don't expect a repeat of Akron's 2018 road win over Northwestern. This is one of the few games that Lovie Smith's guys should be able to win.

    Prediction: Illinois 27, Akron 17

                

    Indiana vs. Ball State (in Indianapolis), noon ET

    Ball State's starting quarterback transferred to Vanderbilt. Its starting running back transferred to Kansas State. That doesn't bode well for a program that has suffered at least eight losses in four consecutive seasons, including the 38-10 loss to Indiana last year. Mark us down for a repeat.

    Prediction: Indiana 38, Ball State 10

                  

    Howard at Maryland, noon ET

    Howard pulled off the stunning upset of UNLV two seasons ago, and it still has dual-threat star—and younger brother of Cam—Caylin Newton on the roster. But Maryland has had impressive Week 1 victories of its own lately, knocking off Texas in back-to-back years. With running back Anthony McFarland Jr. (7.9 YPC) back in the fold, the Terrapins shouldn't have much trouble winning this opener.

    Prediction: Maryland 38, Howard 21

              

    Indiana State at Kansas, noon ET

    Rome wasn't built in a day, and Les Miles isn't going to win many games in his first season with a program that has gone 18-90 over the past nine years. This should be one of the wins, though, as Indiana State went winless in 2017 and barely put up a fight against 2-10 Louisville last September.

    Prediction: Kansas 34, Indiana State 13

            

    Mississippi State vs. Louisiana (in New Orleans), noon ET

    One of many teams with some quarterback drama as fall camps wrap up and depth charts are published, Mississippi State is rolling with Penn State graduate transfer Tommy Stevens instead of the incumbent dual-threat Keytaon Thompson—propelling the latter to enter the NCAA transfer portal. That roster change won't matter for this game, but let's see how well the injury-prone Stevens holds up through the SEC grind.

    Prediction: Mississippi State 38, Louisiana 16

            

    East Carolina at NC State, noon ET

    NC State lost most of its offensive firepower, but the season-ending 58-3 annihilation of East Carolina was a poignant demonstration of how much separation there is between these programs. The Wolfpack should have one of the best defenses in the ACC, while East Carolina has a long way to go to even become an average defense in the AAC.

    Prediction: NC State 35, East Carolina 7

Top Saturday Afternoon Games

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    South Carolina QB Jake Bentley
    South Carolina QB Jake BentleyStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Eastern Washington at No. 13 Washington, 3 p.m. ET

    When these teams last met in 2014, the Huskies barely won a 59-52 shootout. EWU also defeated Washington State to open the 2016 season and made it all the way to last year's FCS Championship Game. In other words, this isn't your average throwaway game against an FCS opponent. But the new QB-RB combo of Jacob Eason and Salvon Ahmed should be able to take care of business.

    Prediction: Washington 42, Eastern Washington 23

            

    Duke vs. No. 2 Alabama (in Atlanta), 3:30 p.m. ET

    In last year's neutral-site season opener against an ACC team playing for the first time without a quarterback who was a first-round draft pick, Alabama cruised to a 51-14 victory over Louisville. This one could be even uglier; the Crimson Tide now have well-established weapons on offense and should be better on defense. This will be a rough start to a long season for the Blue Devils.

    Prediction: Alabama 58, Duke 10

            

    Idaho at No. 15 Penn State, 3:30 p.m. ET

    In its two games against FBS opponents last year, Idaho lost 79-13 to Fresno State and 63-10 to Florida. This will be a nice warm-up affair for a new-look offense led by Sean Clifford and Ricky Slade. And this vaunted Penn State defense might open the season with a shutout victory. 

    Prediction: Penn State 49, Idaho 0

            

    Northwestern at No. 25 Stanford, 4 p.m. ET

    It's time to finally find out what Hunter Johnson can do. After playing sparingly as a freshman at Clemson before transferring to Northwestern and sitting out the 2018 season, the former 5-star recruit will presumably be the guy for the Wildcats. Unfortunately, his debut as a starter will come on the road against a Stanford squad that has arguably the best defensive back in the entire country in Paulson Adebo. Northwestern's next game, against UNLV, should be more enjoyable for Johnson.

    Prediction: Stanford 31, Northwestern 20

            

    James Madison at West Virginia, 2 p.m. ET

    West Virginia lost its starting quarterback and its top three receivers from last year, and it has to open the season against what has been one of the best FCS programs in recent seasons. If Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall picked up any tricks of the trade from Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, the Mountaineers should be able to get this W. But if his debut as a starter is a rocky one, the Dukes may pull off the biggest upset of the week.

    Prediction: West Virginia 35, James Madison 24

            

    South Carolina vs. North Carolina (in Charlotte), 3:30 p.m. ET

    The Gamecocks will eventually draw Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Clemson, so they cannot afford to drop this opener if they plan on qualifying for a bowl game. But Jake Bentley and Co. should handle a Tar Heels team in rebuilding mode.

    That said, you're going to want to tune in to see how true freshman quarterback Sam Howell fares against an SEC defense. It will serve as an early indicator of whether North Carolina will compete in the ACC at any point in the next few years.

    Prediction: South Carolina 41, North Carolina 17

            

    Virginia Tech at Boston College, 4 p.m. ET

    Boston College won last year's battle 31-21, even though the game was in Blacksburg and AJ Dillon had a mediocre performance (24 carries for 96 yards). If he's back to his usual self and Virginia Tech's rushing defense hasn't improved by leaps and bounds, the Eagles may get a much-needed victory. This should be one of the best games of the day.

    Prediction: Boston College 28, Virginia Tech 24

Other Saturday Afternoon Games

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    Ohio QB Nathan Rourke
    Ohio QB Nathan RourkeJustin Casterline/Getty Images

    Rhode Island at Ohio, 2 p.m. ET

    If Rhode Island couldn't even beat Connecticut last year, why should we believe the Rams have any hope of beating the projected Mid-American Conference champions? Ohio lost a pair of star performers in A.J. Ouellette and Papi White, but dual-threat quarterback Nathan Rourke will be more than enough to win one for the home team.

    Prediction: Ohio 38, Rhode Island 18

            

    Bucknell at Temple, 3 p.m. ET

    Temple lost its head coach to a Power Five program for the second time in three years, and former Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey is eager to begin his tenure with a win over what was one of the worst FCS teams in 2018. Bucknell went 1-10 and was held below 20 points in all but one of those games. The Owls should feast on the Bison.

    Prediction: Temple 35, Bucknell 10

            

    Colgate at Air Force, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Colgate went 10-1 last year while allowing a preposterous seven points per game during the regular season. But the Raiders were already soundly beaten 34-14 by Villanova this past weekend and probably don't have the defensive prowess to shut down Air Force's triple-option offense. Still, this should be one of the closer FBS vs. FCS games.

    Prediction: Air Force 27, Colgate 17

            

    Holy Cross at Navy, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Fresh off its worst season since the early 2000s, Navy is desperate for a statement win to open this campaign. Fortunately, it draws a Holy Cross team that allowed nearly 400 rushing yards in a 62-14 loss to Boston College last September. Malcolm Perry and the Midshipmen should run all over the Crusaders.

    Prediction: Navy 42, Holy Cross 20

            

    Eastern Michigan at Coastal Carolina, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Eastern Michigan's first six games against FBS opponents last year were decided by a one-possession marginfive of them by 1-3 points. Its bowl game against Georgia Southern also came down to a last-second field goal. Get ready for another white-knuckle affair.

    Prediction: Eastern Michigan 23, Coastal Carolina 20

            

    Georgia State at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Tennessee has little to no hope of beating Georgia, but Georgia State is another story. The Panthers are 0-8 against Power Five opponents since becoming an FBS program in 2013, and only one of those games was even remotely close. The Volunteers should bounce back from consecutive losing seasons, sneaking into a bowl game with help from this blowout.

    Prediction: Tennessee 48, Georgia State 14

            

    East Tennessee State at Appalachian State, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Former Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield is at Louisville now, but he left plenty behind for the Mountaineers to work with. Starting quarterback Zac Thomas, leading rusher Darrynton Evans, top receiver Corey Sutton and a handful of returning defensive starters will more than pace ASU to a win over ETSU.

    Prediction: Appalachian State 49, East Tennessee State 17

            

    Portland State at Arkansas, 4 p.m. ET

    Portland State is 7-26 over the past three seasons and was destroyed by both Nevada and Oregon last year. Arkansas might go 0-8 in the SEC for the second straight year, but SMU transfer quarterback Ben Hicks will at least lead the Hogs to victory here.

    Prediction: Arkansas 41, Portland State 13

            

    Montana State at Texas Tech, 4 p.m. ET

    Montana State failed to score a point in its last FBS game, losing 31-0 to Washington State to open the 2017 season. And Texas Tech has destroyed its last three FCS opponents by a combined score of 202-27. The Red Raiders will probably struggle in the Big 12 without Kliff Kingsbury's offensive genius, but they'll easily win this one.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 54, Montana State 7

Top Saturday Evening Games

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    Oregon QB Justin Herbert
    Oregon QB Justin HerbertThomas Boyd/Associated Press

    No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 16 Auburn (in Dallas), 7:30 p.m. ET

    We're going out of the usual chronological order here, but only because this is hands down the biggest game of the week and one that is sure to have some implications for the way-too-early CFP conversation. It wouldn't be right to bury it in the middle of a bunch of expected blowouts.

    Auburn might be the better team by the end of the season, but it is starting a true freshman quarterback in Bo Nix while Oregon will have senior Justin Herbert throwing behind the most experienced offensive line in the country. That's bound to be a major factor, right?

    Prediction: Oregon 24, Auburn 21

    Bonus Prediction: If Oregon loses, you can just about already eliminate the Pac-12 from the playoff hunt.

            

    No. 22 Syracuse at Liberty, 6 p.m. ET

    Liberty scored at least 41 points in 50 percent of its games last season, and the Flames bring back their starting quarterback, top rusher and top two receivers. But those offensive explosions came against teams with terrible defenses, which doesn't even remotely describe this Syracuse team. Liberty was shut out by Auburn and blown out by Army, Virginia and North Texas. Expect something along those lines.

    Prediction: Syracuse 45, Liberty 17

            

    No. 3 Georgia at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Georgia is one of just two ranked teams playing a road game against a Power Five opponentthe other is Notre Dame at Louisville on Monday nightbut don't go talking yourself into the possibility of a trap game. The Bulldogs' next two contests are at home against Murray State and Arkansas State, so they won't get caught looking ahead to anything. And it's all but unanimous that Vanderbilt is going to be the worst team in the SEC East. Look for Georgia to use this as an opportunity to release some pent-up rage from months of hearing about the inevitability of Alabama vs. Clemson for the national championship.

    Prediction: Georgia 49, Vanderbilt 13

            

    Georgia Southern at No. 6 LSU, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Now this one could, maybe, possibly, sort of be a trap game for the highly touted SEC team. The Tigers have a road game against Texas in Week 2, which is bound to be somewhere in the backs of their minds. And it has been a hot minute since they've had to deal with a triple-option offensesomething that caused a major problem for Alabama in the first half of last year's game against The Citadel. It might be interesting early, but LSU's talent will eventually prevail.

    Prediction: LSU 38, Georgia Southern 17

            

    Middle Tennessee at No. 7 Michigan, 7:30 p.m. ET

    After more than 12,000 passing yards and 100 touchdowns, the Brent Stockstill era at Middle Tennessee is over. But even if the lefty was back for a sixth season, Michigan would be expected to destroy the Blue Raiders in the Big House. Group of Five opponents have been no problem for Jim Harbaugh, and this might be his best team yet.

    Prediction: Michigan 52, Middle Tennessee 10

            

    Miami (OH) at No. 20 Iowa, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Miami doesn't have a player on its roster who has attempted a pass at the collegiate level, so opening the season against an Iowa defense that held opponents below 300 yards per game last season should be...interesting. The Hawkeyes offense has some big unknowns after losing tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson and top wide receiver Nick Easley, but it should be able to put up points in this one.

    Prediction: Iowa 45, Miami (OH) 12

            

    Boise State vs. Florida State (in Jacksonville), 7 p.m. ET

    A few years ago, this would have been one of the biggest games of the opening month of the season. Now? Ehhh.

    Not only did Boise State lose its starting quarterback of the past four years (Brett Rypien), its only noteworthy running back from last season (Alexander Mattison) and its two best wide receivers (Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson), but it is starting a true freshman at quarterback and its starting running back has averaged 3.3 yards per carry in his career. Early growing pains seem almost inevitable.

    But if Florida State hasn't improved drastically along the offensive line and on defense, the Broncos might get a huge win anyway.

    Prediction: Florida State 28, Boise State 23

            

    SMU at Arkansas State, 7 p.m. ET

    This will be a tough debut for SMU's graduate transfer from Texas, Shane Buechele. The former Longhorns quarterback will need to lead his new offense on the road against what might be the best defense in the Sun Belt. Arkansas State held each of its final five opponents to 17 points or fewer and gets back most of its starters. It's SMU's dreadful defense that will be the story here, though.

    Prediction: Arkansas State 38, SMU 35

            

    Missouri at Wyoming, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Speaking of graduate transfers playing on the road, Kelly Bryant and Co. will need to deal with more than 7,000 feet of elevation in Laramie, Wyoming. Could be a predicament for a group of guys used to playing barely 700 feet above sea level. Unless that's a major factor, though, the Tigers should cruise to victory over a Cowboys team they smashed 40-13 last September.

    Prediction: Missouri 41, Wyoming 16

            

    Virginia at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Darrin Hall ripped Virginia a new one last November, rushing for 229 yards and three touchdowns in Pittsburgh's 23-13 victory. But now that he and Qadree Ollison are out of the picture, the Panthers will need to throw the ball more often. That could be a disaster against this Virginia defense. And if the Cavaliers are able to get this early road win, they become the slight favorites to win the ACC Coastal Division.

    Prediction: Virginia 27, Pittsburgh 21

Other Saturday Evening Games

8 of 10

    North Texas QB Mason Fine
    North Texas QB Mason FineRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Sam Houston State at New Mexico, 6 p.m. ET

    This seems to be the most likely candidate for an FCS-over-FBS upset. Sam Houston State went 24-3 between the 2016 and 2017 seasons, while New Mexico might be one of the five worst FBS teams this year. But we'll play the odds and ride with the Lobos.

    Prediction: New Mexico 31, Sam Houston State 27

            

    Incarnate Word at UTSA, 6 p.m. ET

    Incarnate Word is another prime candidate to secure FCS bragging rights, as UTSA had an absolutely horrid offense last season and lost the one player (wide receiver Greg Campbell Jr.) who put up respectable stats. The Roadrunners should be respectable on defense, though, so they'll squeak out the ugliest win of the week.

    Prediction: UTSA 14, Incarnate Word 10

            

    Campbell at Troy, 6 p.m. ET

    And now we return to the regularly scheduled blowouts. Troy has won at least 10 games in three consecutive seasons and should remain one of the top teams in the Sun Belt in spite of losing head coach Neal Brown to West Virginia. Quarterback Kaleb Barker and running back B.J. Smith should have a field day against Campbell.

    Prediction: Troy 48, Campbell 17

            

    UC Davis at California, 6:30 p.m. ET

    UC Davis won 10 games last season, including the season opener against San Jose State. But even though California will probably finish in fifth place in the Pac-12's North Division, the Golden Bears are leaps and bounds better than SJSU and should win comfortably. UC Davis is ranked fifth in the FCS coaches poll, but it will be lucky to score a point against what should be one of the best defenses in the nation.

    Prediction: California 35, UC Davis 3

            

    VMI at Marshall, 6:30 p.m. ET

    VMI went 1-10 last year and gave up more than twice as many points as it scored. In two games against FBS opponents, the Keydets lost 66-3 to Toledo and 77-14 to Old Dominion. And Marshall is probably going to be better than either of those two teams were in 2018. Get your "Stop! Stop! He's already dead!" memes ready.

    Prediction: Marshall 63, VMI 7

            

    Norfolk State at Old Dominion, 7 p.m. ET

    Old Dominion lost a 3,000-yard passer and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers. It also lost a pass-rusher (Oshane Ximines) who had more sacks (11.5) then the rest of the team combined (10.5). And we're talking about a squad that already went 4-8 because it couldn't run the ball nor stop anything on defense. The Monarchs might only win two games all season, but this should be one of them.

    Prediction: Old Dominion 35, Norfolk State 21

            

    Alcorn State at Southern Mississippi, 7 p.m. ET

    These teams met early in the 2014 season, which ended with Alcorn State winning 10 games and Southern Miss wrapping up a three-year stretch with a 4-32 record. Even then, the Golden Eagles were able to eke out a win over the Braves. Southern Miss has since consistently played above-.500 football and won four straight games against FCS opponents by a combined score of 208 to 13.

    Prediction: Southern Miss 49, Alcorn State 10

            

    Illinois State at Northern Illinois, 7 p.m. ET

    Northern Illinois better not take this FCS opponent for granted. Illinois State has won two straight against FBS teams, knocking off Colorado State last year and handing Northwestern a hideous 9-7 loss early in the 2016 season. Despite losing star pass-rusher Sutton Smith, NIU should have the defensive prowess to get this done, though.

    Prediction: Northern Illinois 24, Illinois State 14

            

    Monmouth at Western Michigan, 7 p.m. ET

    Western Michigan is a far cry from the peak it reached under P.J. Fleck three years ago, but the Broncos should be in the mix for the MAC title with senior leaders Jon Wassink (QB), LeVante Bellamy (RB) and D'Wayne Eskridge (WR). How much they're able to improve on defense will determine their ceiling, but that will be much more of a factor in upcoming road games against Michigan State and Syracuse. This one is just a warmup.

    Prediction: Western Michigan 41, Monmouth 20

            

    Nicholls at Kansas State, 7 p.m. ET

    Nicholls upset Kansas last year and gave both Georgia and Texas A&M a run for their money in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Meanwhile, Kansas State almost lost to South Dakota last year and could be on the verge of its worst season since the 1980s. Ball State transfer running back James Gilbert will carry the Wildcats to victory, but it won't be easy.

    Prediction: Kansas State 28, Nicholls 21

            

    Stephen F. Austin at Baylor, 7 p.m. ET

    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the easiest nonconference schedule ever assembled. Baylor hosts a Stephen F. Austin team that has had four consecutive losing seasons and then plays a pair of games against teams that will battle for last place in Conference USA (UTSA and Rice). It is a foregone conclusion that Charlie Brewer and Co. will enter Big 12 play with a 3-0 record.

    Prediction: Baylor 59, Stephen F. Austin 6

            

    Abilene Christian at North Texas, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Abilene Christian is going nowhere fast, and North Texas should have one of the best scoring offenses in the country with Mason Fine (QB), Deandre Torrey (RB) and Rico Bussey Jr. (WR) all returning. The Mean Green could be awful on defense, though, so get ready for a lot of high-scoring games after this one.

    Prediction: North Texas 60, Abilene Christian 21

Saturday Night Games

9 of 10

    USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
    USC WR Amon-Ra St. BrownMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Louisiana Tech at No. 10 Texas, 8 p.m. ET

    Following back-to-back season-opening losses to Maryland, this home game against Louisiana Tech should be a most welcome walk in the park for Texas. Emphasis on "should" because the Bulldogs have been solid under Skip Holtz and have been known to give Power Five teams a serious scare. They almost came back from a 24-0 deficit to stun LSU last September, and they ought to have won the game at South Carolina the previous year.

    But mobile quarterbacks have been a major problem for Louisiana Tech, as demonstrated by blowout losses to Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State in each of the past two seasons. Sam Ehlinger will have a fun evening against this defense.

    Prediction: Texas 45, Louisiana Tech 20

            

    New Mexico State at No. 23 Washington State, 10 p.m. ET

    New Mexico State had an abysmal defense last season, which is a good place to start for a Washington State offense breaking in a new quarterback. For much of the offseason, we expected it to be Eastern Washington graduate transfer Gage Gubrud, but it turns out it'll be redshirt senior Anthony Gordon getting the start. Given the passing stats that Mike Leach's no-name guys have put up throughout his career at Washington State and Texas Tech, it wouldn't shock anyone if Gordon throws for 500 yards here. 

    Prediction: Washington State 49, New Mexico State 14

            

    Houston Baptist at UTEP, 8 p.m. ET

    UTEP is bad. It has a grand total of one win over the past two years and lost by 20 to Northern Arizona to open last season. But Houston Baptist is worse. The Huskies have gone 2-20 over the past two seasons, and one of those victories came at the expense of Southern Baptista team from the Great Lakes Valley Conference that went 0-10 last year. Unless you're a current student or an alumni of one of these schools, please consider other viewing options.

    Prediction: UTEP 34, Houston Baptist 16

            

    Arkansas-Pine Bluff at TCU, 8 p.m. ET

    Arkansas-Pine Bluff lost 90-6 to San Diego State last season. The Golden Lions are 7-37 over the past four years, including two losses to D-II schools. TCU might not even finish in the top half of the Big 12 standings, but it is going to win this game by as many points as it darn well pleases.

    Prediction: TCU 73, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 3

            

    Grambling at Louisiana-Monroe, 8 p.m. ET

    Even during Grambling's good seasons, it has barely been competitive against FBS opponents. In 2017, the Tigers went 11-0 against FCS foes and lost by 29 to Tulane. And they aren't expected to be anything special this year, making this the one game in a tough nonconference schedule that Louisiana-Monroe will actually win. (The Warhawks also face Florida State, Iowa State and Memphis.) Get ready for a big day from dual-threat QB Caleb Evans.

    Prediction: Louisiana-Monroe 56, Grambling 10

            

    Weber State at San Diego State, 9 p.m. ET

    Weber State has won 21 games over the last two seasons and is ranked in the FCS Top 10, but it has not defeated an FBS team in the past decade, if ever. And it's unlikely that San Diego State will help the Wildcats end that drought. The Aztecs have an excellent rushing attack led by Juwan Washington, a veteran quarterback in Ryan Agnew and a defense that won't allow many big plays. It's hard to upset a team like that.

    Prediction: San Diego State 41, Weber State 7

            

    Southern Utah at UNLV, 10 p.m. ET

    UNLV dual-threat quarterback Armani Rogers only completed 44.4 percent of his pass attempts last season, but the Rebels have way more potential when he's healthy. Three of their four wins in 2018 came during his six games, and there were two others with Rogers behind center that UNLV only lost by a touchdown. Assuming he gets through this one without injury, the Rebels should easily take care of a Southern Utah team that went 1-10 last season.

    Prediction: UNLV 51, Southern Utah 14

            

    Fresno State at USC, 10:30 p.m. ET

    At the end of a long day of blowouts, this game should be entertaining. Fresno State will look a lot different after losing 14 starters, but Jeff Tedford has been a magician as the head coach of the Bulldogs. They remain one of the favorites to win the Mountain West Conference. But this is a game that Clay Helton and USC desperately need to win, as the Trojans could unravel in a New York minute with an opening loss. Against this defense, they'll need JT Daniels to be much more efficient than he was last season.

    Prediction: USC 31, Fresno State 21

Sunday and Monday Games

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    Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Lincoln Riley
    Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Lincoln RileySue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Houston at No. 4 Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday

    Oklahoma led the nation in scoring last season, and Houston scored at least 41 points in 10 of 11 games started by quarterback D'Eriq King. This is the type of game for which Vegas cannot possibly set the over/under high enough.

    At some point, though, Oklahoma's defense is going to get a few stops, and there's no good reason to believe that Houston's defense will be able to follow suit. The Cougars gave up at least 45 points in each of their five losses last season, and holding Lincoln Riley's offense below 45 is a pipe dream.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 59, Houston 35

            

    No. 9 Notre Dame at Louisville, 8 p.m. ET Monday

    Over the final seven games of last season, Louisville allowed 57 points per contest, losing each game by at least an 18-point margin. Some of that was just a matter of giving up on a lost year, but the Cardinals were never built to compete in 2018. And a coaching change isn't going to fix that problem overnight.

    Notre Dame might be a little overrated at No. 9 in the preseason AP poll, but the Fighting Irish will certainly look the part of a title contender in their prime-time destruction of the Cardinals.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 49, Louisville 13

                     

    Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames. Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.