What we learned this off season...
We learned that you can ride on a yacht and party with strippers and get a one game suspension, but you trade in an autographed glove and you’re getting five games. Nice consistency, NCAA.
We learned that Texas A&M has self-esteem issues that will only be exacerbated by joining a conference where they have no ally and everyone is just using them for their hot mom (recruiting in Texas).
Meanwhile, we learned that it is a good possibility Texas can replace the Aggies on the schedule with Notre Dame. That is like losing your annoying little brother and getting a prom date with the hot drill team captain all in the same day.
We learned that Auburn was cheating, we learned that Oregon was cheating, we learned that the guy in Section 4A, Row 4, Seat 3 was cheating on his wife; the hot dog guy was cheating on his taxes, the parking lot attendant was cheating people out of money by making a fake sign, Gene Chizik was cheating gravity by carrying a stone block on his shoulders -- basically, if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t playing in the national championship game.
And finally, we learned that Rachel McCoy doesn’t like Twitter after all.
“If we can’t live together…we’re going to die alone.” – Jack Shepherd, LOST
On to the games...
South Florida @ Notre Dame -10.5:
Skip Holtz, who can actually speak English, brings his South Florida Bulls (made up, HBO fake college name) to South Bend for the first ever meeting between these two schools. It is year two for Brian Kelly, who looks to build upon last year’s bowl win over Miami. Dayne Crist is back under center for the Fighting Irish, who return 9 starters on offense for a team that was inconsistent on offense last season.
BJ Daniels is the quarterback for South Florida (UT fan favorite Darrell Scott will get time at tailback for USF), and while talented, he is hobbled and the Bulls will likely need him to be outstanding to go into South Bend and escape with a win. Look for Notre Dame to win…but South Florida keeps it close.
Notre Dame 27 South Florida 20
ATS – South Florida
SU – Notre Dame
Boise State -3.5 vs. Georgia:
Boise State is no stranger to marquee openers, having beat Oregon in 2008 at Autzen and Virginia Tech at Fed Ex Field. This year, however, they are the favorite (at least ranking-wise) and have to feel a bit like the hunted at this point.
Boise is known for its dynamic offense, but their defense finished second in the country last year and they return seven starters from that squad, including five in the front seven. Georgia, decimated by attrition and injury at running back position, won’t be able to beat the Broncos on the ground.
Georgia? Who knows? They went 6-7 last year, finishing the regular season winning five out of seven with their only losses coming to Florida in overtime and at Auburn. But those wins were against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Idaho State and Georgia Tech. They fell completely on their face against Central Florida, losing 10-6 in the Liberty Bowl, making Mark Richt's perennial hot seat an offseason meme for the fifth year running.
If Georgia pulls off the upset here they might have recovered from a couple of down years, but people keep counting out Boise and they keep rising to the occasion. Kellen Moore is for real, as for Andy Murray …the jury is still out.
Boise State 28 Georgia 17
ATS – Boise State
SU – Boise State
LSU -4 vs. Oregon:
This was to be the Jordan Jefferson vs. Cliff Harris show until Jordan Jefferson auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys’ open placekicker job in a Baton Rouge establishment and Cliff Harris went out with Cheech and Chong then decided to audition for NASCAR on a quiet Oregon highway. Okay, it was never a battle involving Jefferson, but I couldn’t shoehorn that joke in there without that premise. Feel free to pepper the word allegedly throughout that paragraph.
All the talk is about Oregon’s backfield, but they lost three starters on an offensive line that requires smarts and repetition. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some growing pains while that line gels. Also troublesome for Oregon is the fact that they don’t have the best record away from Autzen Stadium, having lost to Boise State and Stanford on the road in 2009, Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl and last year’s BCS Championship Game to Auburn. Their next big win away from Oregon will be their first, and do you really trust that win to come against a big SEC opponent?
However, LSU has their own troubles, making a late run for the Fulmer Cup this summer with both Jordan Jefferson and Russell Shepard suspended. Jarrett Lee gets the start at quarterback, and if it seems like he has been there forever, it's because he has ... dude started for LSU before the Louisiana Purchase went through.
LSU’s defense returns seven starters to a unit that held Auburn to 24 points and kept the Aggies to seven second-half points in the Cotton Bowl. They have an NFL sized back 7, so if the Oregon line does open holes for the backfield they should have the personnel to keep them at the second level.
Lee manages the game and LSU comes up with the win due to a key Les Miles time out as the clock ticks away...
LSU 20 Oregon 17
ATS – Oregon
SU – LSU
TCU -5.5 @ Baylor:
Casey Pachall replaces Andy Dalton under center, and while some questions about his maturity linger, he has taken command of the huddle this summer and has shown the ability to step right in for Dalton with minimal drop-off. The question is an offensive line that features a converted tight end starting at left tackle and has the potential to be a landmine.
Baylor is set-up to have their best season in school history if their defense, led by new coordinator Phil Bennet, doesn’t get in the way. They set offensive records last year for total offense (6,179 yards), passing yards (3,649) and total points (405). The Bears return Robert Griffin III and four starters on the offensive line that have 77 starts between them. They did lose Josh Gordon to stupidity and Jay Finley to graduation, but Kendall Wright can be a top receiver in the league and a running back by committee can work when you have RGIII keeping defensive ends and LBs on their heels.
TCU isn’t the dominant team that they were last year, but they still have the talent to make a decent run. Baylor has to win a game against a top opponent until people start to take them seriously. They lost this game in Fort Worth last year, 45-10.
TCU 34 Baylor 21
ATS – TCU
SU – TCU
SMU @ Texas A&M -15.5:
In one of the more interesting games of the weekend, we get to see how Texas A&M likes being the hunted, how they handle the raised expectations and more importantly, how they handle the distractions of crabwalking sideways to the SEC ? A&M could have snuck up on some people last year, especially when Ryan Tannehill was handed the job at mid-season with little fanfare, but this year teams have had a full off-season to study tape and prepare.
This is June Jones’s fourth year at SMU, and while the Mustangs have been to back-to-back bowl games, there is a feeling there's still something missing. The Mustangs lost five of their last eight games last year, including a 16-14 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl in their own stadium. If the Mustangs are to make the next step, which they hope is a shot at Big 12 membership, they’ll need to have a breakthrough season. That could get an excellent start with a win at Kyle Field.
The trouble is that SMU hasn’t won a non-conference road game since 1998, hasn’t beaten Texas A&M since 1984 and is only 3-9 in non-conference games under Jones.
If there was a problem with the Aggies last season, it was their pass defense. They ranked 89th in the country, allowing 234 yards per game. And that was with Von Miller pressuring the quarterback.
Look for A&M to put up some points, but SMU can too. If SMU keeps a handle on the football, this one could still be somewhat of a contest in the fourth quarter.
Texas A&M 34 SMU 20
ATS – SMU
SU – Texas A&M
Rice @ Texas -24:
Rice has some weapons that should be able to give them a good enough season to feel good about themselves and possibly get into bowl eligibility. But the gridiron isn't where Rice student athletes get their kicks -- it's the engineering lab. Saturdays are mere sideshow to the real weekday goal of creating a rechargable Ni-Cad aluminum car.
Texas has a lot of questions, but they should still be able to steamroll a team like Rice, especially when everyone on this roster has been looking forward to this game since Thanksgiving night of 2010, and every coach has had it circled since January. This is no warm-up game, it is a confidence builder to set the stage for a tougher than usual September slate against BYU and UCLA.
What should we want to see here? Obviously we’d like to see Gilbert have a great game -- not a solid game --a great game. We also need to see that a viable rushing attack can impose its will as needed against lesser squads. We would like to see our defense be aggressive yet disciplined, getting to the quarterback without the secondary looking completely lost with the air-raid Cougars coming to town next week.
Texas 38 Rice 7
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas
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