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College Capper: Picking Games Week 1

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

The 2013 debut of Johnny Football is almost here and as a bonus, there's also a rumor that some other teams are playing as well, so it should be an interesting weekend.

I can't remember an offseason like the one we just had, because - there has never been an offseason like this one. Whether it's Manti Te'o and his imaginary girlfriend or Johnny Manziel and his side jobs, it's been a crazy six months. It's just about time to put all that garbage behind us and play some football.

The lasting effects of the Manziel scandal might not be known for years, but as for now, he's getting off with a two-quarter suspension. You know, something a guy might get for missing curfew. Seems about right?

When it comes to college athletes getting paid, I don't have a strong opinion either way, but I do think Manziel is not the player to make a good case for college athletes getting paid. Sure, everyone is making money off this kid, but let's get real, he didn't exactly come from a tough upbringing, he didn't need the money he allegedly earned for signing thousands of items, he simply wanted the money and the lifestyle. Yet another case of a guy who couldn't show any patience and ended putting his school and team under the microscope for his own selfish gain.

There, got that out of my system. Now, onto why we are here. The games are set, the lines are in flux and it's time to predict!

We'll keep the same format as last year. I'll break certain games down into three self-explanatory categories.

As always, comments and questions are encouraged.


Cream of the Crop


USC at Hawaii:
The Trojans under coach Lane Kiffin haven't exactly been world-beaters, and they've struggled often in situations like this - big favorites, on the road, early in the season. I expect that trend to continue into the 2013 season as there are a lot of questions on offense with the losses of Robert Woods and Matt Barkley. I have a sneaking suspicion that they'll end up improving on their 7-6 record from last year, but it might take a few weeks to hit their stride. As for the Rainbows, 2012 was a disaster, but they did finish on a high note and have plenty of returning starters. Hawaii should have enough to keep this one close for a while and hang on for the cover.

Side: Hawaii +24


Massachusetts at Wisconsin:
Do you remember how bad UMass was last year? In case you don't, the Minutemen were thoroughly trounced by just about everyone they played. It outlook doesn't look much better this season as they return less than half of their starters from last season. Wisconsin starts the post-Bielema this week, and the Badgers could not have asked for a better opponent to ease into the season. The nice thing about laying a large number with the Badgers is that they run the ball so effectively that they can continue to score even when the score is out of hand, like it will be early in this one.

Side: Wisconsin -44.5

Best of the Rest


UNLV at Minnesota:
The age old question in college athletics: if you are returning a lot of players from a bad team, will you improve? Well, considering just how bad UNLV was last season, I find it hard to believe the Rebels will be much better than their 2-11 record last season. As for the Gophers, it looks like another season in which they can beat up on non-conference foes and try to sneak out a couple conference victories and make a bowl game. That said, a lot on the line for Minnesota in its home opener.

Side: Minnesota -13.5


Western Michigan at Michigan State:
Western Michigan returns only two starters from a mediocre offense last season, and the Broncos run into a strong defense here in Michigan State. The Spartans had their own troubles on offense last year, but with an offseason to work things out and a cupcake to start the season, the Spartans offense should find some rhythm. MSU might only need to score 31 in this one to cover the rather large number.

Side: MSU -28


Northern Illinois at Iowa:
The Hawkeyes are coming off a rough 2012 season, and the outlook for 2013 doesn't look much better. The Hawkeyes are returning a little more than half of their offensive starters, but that group doesn't include the starting QB from last year. Northern Illinois, however, comes into this season in much better shape. In case you forgot, the Huskies earned a somewhat controversial Orange Bowl berth last season, and though that game didn't go as planned, they still had a great season. MAC teams are always ready for their Big Ten rivals, and the Huskies are actually the better team here, so getting some points is a bonus.

Side: Northern Illinois +3

Mississippi State at Oklahoma State:
I'm always a bit weary of going over such a big number during the first week of the season, but this game looks like a shootout to me. Mississippi State lost a gaggle of starters off its defense from last year, but many of its key playmakers on offense, including the starting QB, return. Oklahoma State returns eight of its starters on offense this season, and the Cowboys should continue to put up numbers, just like they do every season.

Total: Over 60.5

Georgia at Clemson:
Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Aaron Murray. It's no wonder the total on this game opened near 70. Oh, and the Bulldogs lost eight starters of their 2012 defense. This game should be a track meet, but you know how it goes when everyone expects a lot of points. Still, there seems to be way too many offensive weapons here for either defense to stop.

Total: Over 71

PASSing Thoughts


North Carolina at South Carolina:
With the strength of South Carolina's defense up front, I expect a slow start out of the Tar Heel offense on Thursday Night. As for the Gamecocks, I'm not sure how potent that offense will be this year, and with so many questions up front, a slow start from that unit wouldn't surprise me either. Expect a sluggish start from both offenses in this one.

Total: Under 56.5


Buffalo at Ohio State:
After an undefeated season in 2012 a lot is expected of the Buckeyes this year. Can they live up to expectations? With Urban Meyer at the helm, the odds are pretty good that they'll be in the mix. First up for the Buckeyes is the lowly Buffalo something-or-others. Buffalo was on its way up a few years ago until its coach departed after its only winning season this century. Since that season, it's been back to the same-old, same-old and the losing ways continue. There's really no reason this game should be close, but you know how these early season games go, sometimes the favored team is just a little rusty. Hopefully that doesn't happen here and the Buckeyes cruise.

Side: OSU -35

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech:
I'll start by saying this, this Virginia Tech squad is not what we are used to. The Hokies are coming off a terrible season (by their standards) last year, and there's really only one way to go from there. Alabama is a juggernaut - I'm sure the Tide will be in the national title picture all season - but this is a large number against a team that can play defense. Yes, the Hokies can still play defense. Alabama should have no problem winning this game, but the hook on the third TD is a bit too much in my eyes.

Side: Virginia Tech +21.5

Boise State at Washington:
I learned my lesson years ago to never underestimate the Broncos, and though I think they'll probably win this game, I can't recommend taking the points. I suggest the under as a good play, though. The Broncos always field a strong defense, and the Huskies return a bunch of players from what was a fairly strong defense last year.

Total: Under 52.5

Ohio at Louisville:
There's certainly a lot of Teddy Bridgewater steam entering this season, and it looks like he's the real deal, but I wonder if the hype for the QB is carrying over to the team, which was good last year, but not great. Yes, the Cardinals shocked the world when they trounced Florida, but let's be real here, the 2012 Gators were no juggernaut. That said, Louisville has a chance to go undefeated this season, but going undefeated and covering big numbers are two different things. The number in this one is set a bit too high for my liking considering Ohio has a veteran QB who can be very pesky when he's on. Look for Bridgewater to perform well and the defense to let in a late score to blow the cover.

Side: Ohio +21.5