By Brad Carroll
The Thursday and Friday slate of college football season-opening games is a nice appetizer, but Saturday is the day fans can truly celebrate the beginning of a new year and begin to analyze the College Football Playoff contenders. Hey, it’s never too early.
Our four college football experts are ready for the new season as well, and they break down the 11 biggest games on Saturday, including picking them against the point spread. Click here for our Thursday and Friday game picks.
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Kent State at No. 5 Clemson, 12, ESPN
The Spread: Clemson -40
Brad’s Breakdown: Like most games featuring a national championship contender and a cupcake on the non-conference schedule, this game is all about the gigantic point spread. Clemson is the defending national champion and a legit contender to repeat, while Kent State can’t score points consistently, averaging just over 17 points per game in its final five games of last season. Alabama beat Kent State 48-0 last season and this game should go the same way.
Brad’s Pick: Clemson 56, Kent State 10 (Clemson)
Craig’s Pick: Clemson 38, Kent State 6 (Kent State)
Glenn’s Pick: Clemson 67, Kent State 10 (Clemson)
Matt’s Pick: Clemson 70, Kent State 13 (Clemson)
Akron at No. 6 Penn State, 12, ABC
The Spread: Penn State -30.5
Glenn’s Breakdown: We get the first look at what may be the most explosive offense in CFB. Penn State explosive? Sounds weird but they were by far the most exciting team in the NCAA last year. Unfortunately for Akron they get front row seats. Penn State returns home run swinging Trace McSorley at quarterback and undoubtedly the top running back in Saquan Barkley. Barkley is sure to be a top 5 draft pick if he stays healthy. He grew up a Jets fan and the Jets would love to have him if they weren't dying for a franchise QB. Anticipate close to 200 yards rushing from Barkley and two touchdown passes of over 25 yards from this exciting offense.
Brad’s Pick: Penn State 42, Akron 10 (Penn State)
Craig’s Pick: Penn State 49, Akron 14 (Penn State)
Glenn’s Pick: Penn State 56, Akron 13 (Penn State)
Matt’s Pick: Penn State 42, Akron 10 (Penn State)
Maryland at No. 23 Texas, 12, FS1
The Spread: Texas -17
Brad’s Breakdown: Tom Herman takes over at Texas but won’t get the benefit of an early layup of playing a cupcake on the schedule, as Maryland could pose a challenge to the Longhorns in the season opener. Texas has a strong offensive line that will give quarterback Shane Buechele plenty of time to throw the ball, while opening holes in the running game for Chris Warren as well. Maryland could surprise a lot of people this season. While the Terps won’t start with a win, they should keep this game close against a Texas team still needing to prove itself against good opponents.
Brad’s Pick: Texas 31, Maryland 24 (Maryland)
Craig’s Pick: Texas 27, Maryland 9 (Texas)
Glenn’s Pick: Texas 35, Maryland 20 (Maryland)
Matt’s Pick: Texas 45, Maryland 21 (Texas)
NC State vs. South Carolina, at Charlotte, 3, ESPN
The Spread: NC State -5.5
Brad’s Breakdown: South Carolina, under coach Will Muschamp, returns 10 starters on offense from a year ago, including quarterback Jake Bentley. That may or may not be a good thing, as South Carolina had trouble scoring consistently last season. The Gamecocks didn’t score more than 14 points in any of their first six games last year and were held to just seven in two of their last four. But South Carolina is hoping familiarity with the system will bring better results. The bad news for that hope is the North Carolina State defense is tremendous, led by Bradley Chubb, and should cause fits all day long for South Carolina. The Wolfpack return eight starters on that side of the ball from last season. Remember, too, NC State took eventual national champion Clemson to overtime before losing 24-17 last year.
Brad’s Pick: NC State 28, South Carolina 21 (NC State)
Craig’s Pick: NC State 30, South Carolina 24 (NC State)
Glenn’s Pick: South Carolina 24, NC State 17 (South Carolina)
Matt’s Pick: South Carolina 23, NC State 17 (South Carolina)
UTEP at No. 7 Oklahoma, 3:30, FOX
The Spread: Oklahoma -43.5
Brad’s Breakdown: Bob Stoops will no longer be roaming the sidelines at Oklahoma, as Lincoln Riley took over as head coach after Stoops’ surprising resignation. He should get off to a rousing start against a UTEP team that is several levels below the Sooners in terms of talent. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield should get an early boost in his Heisman candidacy, although he might only play the first half if this game is out of hand early. That’s the biggest thing to follow here considering the gigantic point spread. If the starters are gone early, the scoring could be held down in the second half. And 43.5 is a heck of a number to cover.
Brad’s Pick: Oklahoma 50, UTEP 10 (UTEP)
Craig’s Pick: Oklahoma 49, UTEP 0 (Oklahoma)
Glenn’s Pick: Oklahoma 65, UTEP 20 (Oklahoma)
Matt’s Pick: Oklahoma 56, UTEP 10 (Oklahoma)
No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 17 Florida, at Arlington, Texas, 3:30, ABC
The Spread: Michigan -4
Brad’s Breakdown: Michigan won’t release its season roster, while Florida has suspended a bunch of players off its roster, including star receiver Antonio Callaway. Welcome to college football. This game should be an exciting one if you love low-scoring, defensive matchups, especially when it involves two of the most storied programs in history. This game is all about which offense has the ability to make the big play, and that’s Michigan. But either way, this game should be fun to watch.
Brad’s Pick: Michigan 23, Florida 17 (Michigan)
Craig’s Pick: Michigan 24, Florida 17 (Michigan)
Glenn’s Pick: Michigan 31, Florida 14 (Michigan)
Matt’s Pick: Florida 28, Michigan 27 (Florida)
Temple at Notre Dame, 3:30, NBC
The Spread: Notre Dame -17.5
Brad’s Breakdown: Brian Kelly is on the hot seat, as another 4-8 season or similar will likely have him looking for a job elsewhere at the end of the year. He loses quarterback DeShone Kizer, who is now the starter with the Cleveland Browns, but fans are pumped about his replacement, Brandon Wimbush. Temple won its last seven games last season before losing a bowl game against Wake Forest. The Owls defense should be a difference-maker this season, and while it’s going to be incredibly difficult to pull the upset on the road, the "D" should be good enough to keep this game within 17 points.
Brad’s Pick: Notre Dame 31, Temple 17 (Temple)
Craig’s Pick: Notre Dame 21, Temple 20 (Temple)
Glenn’s Pick: Notre Dame 35, Temple 20 (Temple)
Matt’s Pick: Notre Dame 48, Temple 13 (Notre Dame)
Appalachian State at No. 15 Georgia, 6:15, ESPN
The Spread: Georgia -14
Matt's Breakdown: Appalachian State is the author of one of the biggest upsets in college football history and seems on the verge of a breakout in Division I, but there won't be another upset here. If Georgia is going to have the season its fans believe it is capable of, a fast start will be crucial, so the Bulldogs will be ready. And the best way to stop an underdog is to keep the ball away from it, so Georgia's dynamic running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be the difference.
Brad’s Pick: Georgia 34, Appalachian State 17 (Georgia)
Craig’s Pick: Georgia 34, Appalachian State 14 (Georgia)
Glenn’s Pick: Georgia 28, Appalachian State 20 (Appalachian State)
Matt’s Pick: Georgia 49, Appalachian State 20 (Georgia)
No. 16 Louisville vs. Purdue, at Indianapolis, 7:30, FOX
The Spread: Louisville -25.5
Matt's Breakdown: Quarterback Lamar Jackson folded late last season, as did the Cardinals, so it will be interesting to see if he can turn things around early this year. Louisville's youth provides a number of questions heading into the year, especially up front, but none of that will matter in this game. Purdue has been at the bottom of its division for years, and is particularly young this year, providing little reason to believe they'll beat anyone, much less a ranked opponent.
Brad’s Pick: Louisville 56, Purdue 14 (Louisville)
Craig’s Pick: Louisville 39, Purdue 12 (Louisville)
Glenn’s Pick: Louisville 65, Purdue 28 (Louisville)
Matt’s Pick: Louisville 56, Purdue 13 (Louisville)
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 1 Alabama, at Atlanta, 8, ABC
The Spread: Alabama -7
Matt's Breakdown: If you watched the last two national championship games you wouldn't know it, but Alabama typically wins its games with defense. Florida State, however, was dominant on defense a year ago and returns eight starters, including Derwin James, who missed most of last season. Anytime two good defenses meet I like the underdog, since I can't see too many points separating the teams. The Seminoles are a decent pick to win the game, and an even better choice to stay close.
Brad’s Pick: Alabama 27, Florida State 24 (Florida State)
Craig’s Pick: Alabama 27, Florida State 17 (Alabama)
Glenn’s Pick: Alabama 28, Florida State 17 (Alabama)
Matt’s Pick: Florida State 17, Alabama 16 (Florida State)
BYU vs. No. 13 LSU, at Houston, 9:30, ESPN
The Spread: LSU -14
Matt's Breakdown: LSU will be hungry to show what it can do in this one, as it looks to impress in the official opening of the Ed Orgeron era. Making up for the loss of Leonard Fournette will be the story of the season for the Tigers, but the defense should be ready to be elite right away. LSU is banged up, especially on offense, and BYU has a strong offensive line which might allow it to hold the ball long enough to keep LSU off the field. The Tigers will win, but BYU might be able to keep things close.
Brad’s Pick: LSU 23, BYU 20 (BYU)
Craig’s Pick: LSU 28, BYU 3 (LSU)
Glenn’s Pick: LSU 28, BYU 21 (BYU)
Matt’s Pick: LSU 31, BYU 13 (LSU)