By Brad Carroll
What's that popular saying ... the more things change, the more they stay the same? Well, that could describe our college football preview and picks column this year. For the 11th straight season, I will not only give my analysis on the biggest games of the week, but pick each of them against the spread, giving you, hopefully, everything you need to make your weekend of college football as enjoyable as possible, with a little bit of extra knowledge along the way.
That would be the "same" part of that phrase.
The "more things change" is the name of the game in sports, as college football has gone from a BCS system that everyone hated to a four-team playoff last year that was met with great pleasure, but still didn't fill the entire void for those who feel they were left out of the tournament (as Baylor and TCU would attest).
We've also had some change in this column as well, as it started as a solo venture, before Craig Carroll joined the fray, and then Glenn Carroll came aboard to make it a battle for brother supremacy. Last year, columnist Matt Straub joined the fight and now we have four opinions for you to base whatever you'd like off our picks.
So, sit back and enjoy what is sure to be another great, exciting, controversial season of college football, and make sure to bookmark gamedayishere.com and check us out every week for the best and quickest breakdown you'll find on the sport.
As for our champion, Glenn has actually won two straight titles now, and will be making a claim for a third this year. Good luck to him, but more so, of course, to me.
We start this season with Thursday's threesome of big matchups. Check back for our Friday picks and then for the full slate of the opening Saturday of college football right here. Welcome back, college football.
North Carolina vs. South Carolina at Charlotte, 6 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: North Carolina +3; South Carolina -3
Brad's Analysis: On the surface, this would be considered a heated rivalry game. After all, it's a battle for the Carolina's, right? Well, not exactly. Although I'm sure the two schools don't like each other all that much, the two programs just haven't played much to build up a serious hatred for the other. In the last 25 years, the two teams have played each other just five times. Five. But alas, one early scrum in the game and the two sides will have built up that missing hatred in about a tenth of a second, so there's potential for a tremendous game. South Carolina was a trendy pick last year to make a run at the College Football Playoff, but fell on its face quickly, as in opening game quick, getting trounced at home by Texas A&M. North Carolina, which I'm actually typing this story from, in Raleigh to be exact, doesn't care much for its football team, waiting patiently for basketball season to approach instead. Last year North Carolina finished 6-7 and was blown out in a bowl game by Rutgers. The Tar Heels hired former Auburn coach Gene Chizik as defensive coordinator, so that could make a difference. But really, this is all about South Carolina bouncing back, and coach Steve Spurrier should have his charges ready to make the statement they could and should have made last year.
Brad's Score: South Carolina 31, North Carolina 21
Craig's Score: South Carolina 24, North Carolina 17
Glenn's Score: South Carolina 31, North Carolina 24
Matt's Score: South Carolina 42, North Carolina 35
Michigan at Utah, 8:30 p.m., FS1
The Spread: Michigan +5; Utah -5
Brad's Analysis: The Jim Harbaugh era in Michigan begins on the road against an up-and-coming Utah program, which could be a rough way to open for a Wolverines squad expected to get back to national prominence quickly under the former 49ers head coach. We all know about Michigan, the once-proud program which has fallen on hard times, first under coach Rich Rodriguez and then the recently-fired Brady Hoke, opening the door for a triumphant return of former Wolverines great Harbaugh, who will be tasked with doing what he did at Stanford and San Francisco in the NFL, turn struggling programs into consistent winners. It won't be easy at Michigan, especially considering the coach hasn't named a starting quarterback yet, although that has more to do with keeping a secret than a still-unmade decision. Jake Rudock seems to be the choice to start, by the way. Utah, which went 9-4 last season and is expected to be as good or better this year, had a quarterback battle as well this offseason, with Travis Wilson winning that job. The Utes have a star running back in Devontae Booker, who had over 1,500 rushing yards last season, and an impressive defense, which had 55 sacks a year ago. On paper, this is a Utah pick all the way. But Harbaugh is going to make a big difference this season with Michigan, and it starts immediately.
Brad's Score: Michigan 27, Utah 24 (upset pick)
Craig's Score: Utah 27, Michigan 20
Glenn's Score: Michigan 35, Utah 31 (upset pick)
Matt's Score: Utah 28, Michigan 20
No. 2 TCU at Minnesota, 9 p.m., ESPN
The Spread: TCU -15.5; Minnesota +15.5
Brad's Analysis: TCU was the team everyone outside of Alabama and Baylor wanted to play in the College Football Playoff last year, as the Horned Frogs had a near-perfect season, losing only to Baylor by three points in a wild game. But TCU was left out of the final four. The Frogs made their statement in the Peach Bowl, however, beating then-No. 9 Ole Miss 42-3. This year, TCU is one Ohio State upset away from being the No. 1 team in the nation. The Horned Frogs are led by returning QB Trevone Boykin, who is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Last year, TCU averaged 533 yards of total offense and 46.5 points per game. The Frogs could trump those lofty numbers this season, with 10 offensive starters returning. Simply said, TCU is the real deal. Playing on the road at Minnesota actually works in the Horned Frogs favor, despite being big favorites, as they should be pumped up to play, and beat, a Big Ten school. They did so last year, winning 30-7 in a September game. Other than that game, Minnesota had another solid season, winning eight games for the second year in a row. The Golden Gophers lost to Ohio State by seven points, proving they can play with the best. But they could be playing this year's best team in college football, and the Horned Frogs will let everyone know it Thursday night.
Brad's Score: TCU 42, Minnesota 21
Craig's Score: TCU 34, Minnesota 21
Glenn's Score: TCU 58, Minnesota 21
Matt's Score: TCU 45, Minnesota 17