No more speculation. No more anticipation. College football is back. Which teams will live up to the hype? Which teams will crumble under the pressure? It’s time to sit back, relax and watch it all unfold in what is sure to be another exciting college football season.
The slate of games for week two couldn’t be any better, including the two highest-ranked teams to ever face off in the opening weekend of a season, as well as several other marquee matchups between some of the most storied college football programs in history. In the second installment of this season’s college football pick ’em, sports writers Alex Lerned and Josh Gollihar give us a preview of this weekend’s games.
Let’s get to it.
No. 1 Alabama versus No. 3 Florida State
Alex: Nick Saban is 10-0 against former assistants, and Jimbo Fisher is 7-0 in season openers. All things considered, betting against Alabama is usually an unwise decision. Under coach Nick Saban, the tide has a record of 101-18 with four SEC championships and four national championships. With NFL talent at the skill positions on both teams, this game is going to come down to the trenches. I expect Alabama, brushing off a harsh loss in last year’s national championship game, to come out strong and get the W.
Josh: Both the Seminoles and the Tide are loaded. Each team has elite talent at all three levels of the defense. Both have depth at running back. Jalen Hurts will have to be able to sustain drives against the best defense he will have ever seen. Even though Nick Saban has never lost to a former assistant, Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles are an underrated third-ranked team in the country. Deondre Francois is a quarterback who can take a hit and still tear apart defenses, as Rebel fans will remember. Derwin James causes a turnover late, and the Florida State Seminoles win a thriller.
No. 11 Michigan versus No. 17 Florida
Alex: Had 10 players from Florida not been suspended for this game, we’d be having a different conversation. However, they were suspended, and here we are. Eight of the players were expected to start or contribute in a game that requires the best both teams have to offer. Perhaps if the gators star wide receiver, Antonio Callaway, had not been one of the 10 players suspended, Florida might have stood a chance. I like Michigan to capitalize on the crippled Gators roster and come out on top.
Josh: In a game that will have a slow pace, two stout defenses look to tee off on each other. Expect Jim Harbaugh to turn Rashan Gary and the rest of the Wolverine front seven loose on freshman Gator quarterback Feleipe Franks. Florida will be missing its top running back, Jordan Scarlett, and top offensive player, Antonio Callaway, along with eight other players. On the flip side, either Wilton Speight or John O’Korn will lead a Michigan team that has to replace many departed players from a year ago. Neither quarterback is a great option, but 20 points should be enough to beat a lackluster Florida offense.
Texas A&M versus UCLA
Alex: UCLA hasn’t forgotten the 31-24 overtime loss that happened in College Station last year and has almost certainly used it as motivation before its season opener. With one of the top quarterbacks in all of football, preseason Heisman hopeful Josh Rosen won’t back down in a game that’s sure to be a shootout. Rosen now has the experience and another shot at A&M on his own turf. He and his fellow Bruins should be able to beat Texas A&M in the Rose Bowl.
Josh: With Myles Garrett gone, Kevin Sumlin needs to lean on someone to save his job. He cannot afford to have fewer than eight wins this year. With a quarterback battle still going on, the Aggie defense needs to step up. Safety Armani Watts will need to make plays in the back end, and the defensive line must get after the quarterback to have a chance. Bruin quarterback Josh Rosen is about the closest thing to a perfect quarterback that there is in college. With fewer questions clouding the Bruin roster and the game being played in Pasadena, it will be tough for the Aggies to pull one out. UCLA gets the win.
No. 21 Virginia Tech versus No. 22 West Virginia
Alex: This game will be a battle between two QBs who have yet to take the reins for their respective squads. Will Grier, the former Florida Gator, will look to bounce back with the Mountaineers after a bizarre and disappointing exit from Gainesville two seasons ago. Starting for Virginia Tech is redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson, who will make his collegiate debut. Although the game is being played at a neutral site at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, I give the slight advantage to West Virginia because of the experience of Will Grier. He will come out with something to prove, and I see him doing just that and leading the Mountaineers to a victory over the Hokies.
Josh: The Dana Holgorsen-led Mountaineers’ high-powered, Big 12 offense is taking on Bud Foster’s physical, dominating defense in a top-25 matchup. This game will get national spotlight Sunday night. Will Grier will look to put his unheralded departure from Florida behind him as he looks to bring West Virginia back to national prominence. Bud Foster will need his defense to cause turnovers to give Tech’s young quarterback Josh Jackson a chance to score. In a late run away, West Virginia wins easily.