College Football makes its return this weekend, and so do our sports editors’ weekly picks. Grayson Weir and Sam Harres have made their calls, now take a look at how they expect this first week to shake out.
Oregon State at Colorado State
Grayson: In the headliner of the weekend, the Beavers travel south to break in Colorado State’s new stadium. JUCO transfer Jake Luton will be at the helm for OSU, and he’s a big fella. Standing at 6 feet 7 inches, his vision over the middle should complement the run game beautifully. That being said, the Beavers’ offensive line features a majority of fresh faces, and their defense will have to step up against a prolific Mountain West offense that can score. Rams quarterback Nick Stevens ranked fifth nationally in quarterback rating (171.3) after completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns. If the Beavers can put him to rest, the game will fall their way. If not (and they won’t), Colorado State should take down the Pac 12 opponents from Corvallis.
Sam: Keep an eye on Colorado State’s Dalyn Dawkins. The Rams’ running back carries over a four-game 100-plus-yard rushing streak from last fall. With plenty of pass options for quarterback Nick Steven to throw at, the Beavers should have their hands full. Oregon State’s Jake Luton presents an interesting threat up the middle, but it won’t be enough. Rams run up the score and win easily.
Hawaii at UMass
Grayson: In what might be the most competitive matchup of the weekend, Hawaii will travel its farthest distance in program history. These two teams met in their final regular season game of 2016, with the Minutemen falling to the Rainbow Warriors 46-40. Just like last year, expect plenty of offense. Both teams can throw the ball, both teams love to score on big plays and neither defense can stop its opponent from throwing the ball or scoring on a big play. However, a Hawaii program with a little bit of positive mojo will do just enough inside to squeak out a win in similar fashion to 2016.
Sam: The Rainbow Warriors are no stranger to travel; they kicked off their 2016 season in Sydney. Hawaii’s defensive unit conceded an average of 37.3 points per game last year. UMass, on the other hand, accumulated an average of 256.7 passing yards per game. While their defense isn’t spectacular either, the Minutemen get the home-field advantage. Expect a high scoring affair and a narrow UMass victory.
No. 19 South Florida at San Jose State
Grayson: South Florida is a team on everyone’s radar. Coming off an 11-win season last fall, the Bulls return Heisman dark horse quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back D’Ernest Johnson, among others. Of course, the big headline is new head coach Charlie Strong making his debut in green. Many believe this might be a team that goes without a loss, and San Jose State certainly will not be the school to change that. USF will start the year off with a definitive dub.
Sam: South Florida’s offense is stacked; there’s a reason they’re ranked No. 19 heading into the season. Running back D’Ernest Johnson may not get the headlines but his presence opens up plenty of space for returning quarterback Quinton Flowers. The Bulls are a true dual-threat offense. San Jose State won’t have answers for Flowers, Johnson, or any number of the Bulls’ options. South Florida wins big.
Portland State at BYU
Grayson: Rarely does an FBS team get the national spotlight against an FCS team. This is the exception because, well, what other game would you choose? While this significantly underwhelming matchup should lean heavily in BYU’s favor, it has some kinks to work out that might keep it close toward the start. BYU lost the school’s all-time leading rusher in Jamaal Williams to the NFL and the Green Bay Packers, so it’ll kick off the year with no definitive front runner to fill the hole, giving the ball off to a committee. The silver lining in this probable yawn is BYU’s quarterback play. Tanner Magnum, who was thrown into the starting job in 2015 after an injury, went through his first offseason as the guy with the nod and should let his cannon fly.
Sam: Short of a miracle, BYU will win this game. Yes, it lost Jamaal Williams to the Packers earlier this year, and sure, it may need to answer some defensive questions, but make no mistake, the Cougars’ pedigree should easily carry them over their FCS opponent. Everyone loves an underdog, but the smart money isn’t on Portland State.
No. 14 Stanford versus Rice in Australia
Grayson: The Cardinals beat Rice by 24 in the home finale last season. This round should end similarly. Stanford is supposed to be the real deal this year. I don’t know if I can buy the sans-Christian-McCaffrey hype, but this game should be a comfortable win to start the year.
Sam: Bryce Love is back and better than ever. The Stanford running back rushed for 783 yards last season, including a 111-yard performance against Rice. Veteran quarterback Keller Chryst should fit nicely into the hole Christian McCaffrey left. Vegas has Stanford as 30.5-point favorites, and I agree – the Cardinals should roll over Rice.