Football season is back this weekend with a slate of college football games that includes a gigantic headliner (Alabama vs. Florida State), some nice mid-card fodder (Florida vs. Michigan, LSU vs. BYU) and a slew of games that are your standard Week 1 fare.
That is a NICE slate of games, but keep in mind my definition of "nice slate of games" is any slate of games that has spreads. Gambling season is indeed here and I am going to try to build on my 2016 season, in which I won 55 percent of my picks but spent a majority of the season over the 60 percent mark before a playoff swoon, including 0-3 in the AFC/NFC title games and the Super Bowl, derailed me.
We will dig into the NFL next week, but for now, here are my first six picks of the college football season...
Florida +4 over Michigan (at Arlington, Texas)
Florida-Michigan UNDER 44.5
Big seasons for the two head coaches in this game — Jim McElwain of Florida and Jim Harbaugh of Michigan — as each enters his all-important third season as head coach, which means these are, by and large, THEIR guys dotting the depth chart. Michigan is a very public team, which explains the spread, because they are also one of the most inexperienced teams in the country. We will take the Gators and the points, along with the UNDER, in a low-scoring, tight game whose biggest story line is the slew of suspended players for the game.
PENN STATE -30.5 over Akron
Penn State appears to be all the way back as the effects of the sanctions following the horrific Jerry Sandusky scandal continue to dissipate. They have, quite possibly, the best player in the country in running back Saquon Barkley, and a returning quarterback in Trace McSorley. Terry Bowden is heading into his sixth year at Akron, so it's one of the more stable Group of Five programs, but it's still Akron. James Franklin is going to run this one up.
UTEP-OKLAHOMA OVER 62.5
At age 33, Lincoln Riley enters his first game as a head coach at any level as a gigantic favorite with a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. He is going to want to hang a gigantic number on UTEP to make sure Sooner Nation remains calm as they head into a Week 2 game in Columbus against the Buckeyes. The OVER is the safer play than the spread, because the one thing we can count on is the Sooners scoring points.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
West Virginia +5 over Virginia Tech (at Landover, Maryland)
West Virginia begins the season as a sneaky sleeper in an underrated Big XII, with former Florida Gator Will Grier at quarterback. One of the big misconceptions in college football is that Dana Holgorsen is a chuck-it-all-over-the-yard, air-raid guy. Those are his roots, but over the past few seasons, the Mountaineers have forged an identity involving a smash mouth running game and an aggressive defense. I like the Mountaineers to win this one outright, so maybe a little taste on the money line, too.
Alabama -7 over Florida State (at Atlanta, Georgia)
Nick Saban with an entire offseason to prepare against former assistant in a nationally televised prime time game. Perfect storm. Tide pounds the Seminoles.
2016-2017 Season Record: 66-53-2 (55 percent)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.