To get you ready for the college football season, Aaron Torres has been breaking down all of college football's top teams, coaches and players. To see his entire top 25, as well as the remainder of this preview, click here, or visit him at www.aarontorres-sports.com)
It's time for Year 2 of my weekly college football previews. This time though, it's with a twist.
Instead of picking games straight up, I'm picking them for or against the spread. While I don't condone gambling (cough), it is a more entertaining, and more challenging way of doing a weekly preview.
Week 1 is always the toughest to pick games. Sure we know who the really really good teams bring back. But there is also plenty we don't know.
How are the new starters going to handle things? What kind of new schemes will the new offensive coordinator bring to our team? Which players spent more time playing video games and making midnight runs to the Wing Shack over the summer than working out?
Despite some lopsided matchups, picking Week 1 is harder than you think.
Regardless, it's time to get to the picks. As will always be the case, the home team is in CAPS:
NC STATE (-5) over South Carolina: Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Although this game is the first being previewed, it is also the one which made my head hurt the most.
At first I was all ready to jump all over NC State. After all, I did have them No. 23 in my college football preview, and they were one of my big sleepers coming into 2009.
Since then a funny thing happened: About 85,000 people started backing the Wolfpack, in the process making me sweatier than Gary Williams at Cameron Indoor. I???ll be honest; I liked being alone on the Russell Wilson bandwagon. It was comfy, I could stretch my legs and it was quiet enough to read a newspaper. Now there are so many people aboard, I'm afraid the axles might break.
Even so, can I really back South Carolina? One of my first rules of gambling goes as follows. Whenever one of the teams offseason highlights is, "Hey great news, our starting quarterback didn't get arrested this summer!" I tend to run the other way. Sorry, company policy.
But five points? Especially when Steve Spurrier has never lost a season opener?
(Although that fact should be stricken from the records, considering last year's 34-0 season opening win against NC State was so bad, that South Carolina's quarterbacks threw four interceptions and still won by close to five touchdowns. I need a cold shower just thinking about it.)
In the end my logic in picking this game is as follows: A quarterback at home who threw one interception on 222 passes last season? Or a quarterback on the road who threw eight interceptions in almost half as many pass attempts?
Minnesota (-7) over SYRACUSE: Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
I probably should stay away from this one. It's never a good idea to bet against a team that has dramatically improved its head coach and scheme, especially when factoring in the liveliness of a fan-base that's been waiting for said change for two calendar years.
Unfortunately, I'm also immature and couldn't resist throwing in the, "Greg Paulus' final stat line will be 11-20 with a touchdown, two INT???s, four assists and six rebounds," joke.
What did I tell you? I'm immature.
Georgia (+ 5 1/2) over OKLAHOMA STATE: Saturday, 3:30 p.m
I think I went back and forth on this game more than any other in Week 1.
Ultimately I took the Dawgs for two reasons: 1.Georgia has nothing to lose and 2.Oklahoma State has everything to lose.
Forget the fact that Mark Richt is 30-4 in true road games and 28-1 in regular season non-conference games. But has anyone else noticed that Mike Gundy is treating his team like a parent protecting their kid from an overzealous Little League coach?
I mean come on, the guy cut off his team and staff from the media for 10 days before this one, because it was a "distraction." Why isn't Richt stopping his players from talking to the media if it's such a distraction? Or Urban Meyer for that matter? Or Pete Carroll? Are the media not a distraction at every other school too?
Think Gundy is feeling the heat? Anyone a little worried that everybody around him might be too?
(To see all of Aaron's picks, including Alabama-Virginia, please visit him at www.aarontorres-sports.com)
Oklahoma (-22) over BYU: Saturday, 7:00 p.m
So I thought I remembered BYU being an offensive juggernaut last year, and to a degree I was right. They were 16th in the country in total offense and averaged 34 points a game (26th in scoring offense).
But then I actually looked at their game results and noticed this: Even though they averaged 34 points a game, the Cougars only averaged 22.5 against the four teams they played which went to bowl games in 2008 (TCU, Air Force, Utah, Arizona). If you were to take out the 38 they put up against Air Force, the average is now down to 17 points per game against the other three.
So assuming that based on maturity and maturation, BYU gets closer to 22 points on Saturday. That would mean Oklahoma would have to score 44. You think they can't do that against the Cougars? You think they might get pretty close in the first half alone?
And before you play the "You're not giving the small school's any love," card on me, know this: BYU and Oklahoma had two common opponents in 2008. The first was TCU. Oklahoma was +28 (35-7) against the Horned Frogs, BYU -25 (32-7). The second was Washington, which the two schools played in back-to-back weeks. Oklahoma was +41 (55-14) against the Huskies. The Cougars? They needed a blocked field goal to hold onto a one point victory. I'm just saying.
Miami (+6 ??) over FLORIDA STATE: Monday, 8:00 p.m
Well on the one hand, you've got a team with a quarterback who threw six touchdowns against I-A opponents last year, a rebuilding defense and a wide receiving corps with a longer combined rap sheet than the cast of Oz.
On the other hand you've got a Miami team with no more talent, but that is desperate for a good showing in their opener, considering their first month plays out like this: at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma at home. Think Randy Shannon isn't going to pull out every Wildcat, halfback pass and flea flicker in their playbook to get this win?