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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.

College football is back and it's better than ever! At least that's what we are told. With a playoff system in place, this season is supposed to be unlike any other. While that is certainly true, being unlike any other, it is still up for debate whether this season will be better because of it.

I was never a proponent of a major playoff system, but a small one, such as the one in place should work fine because the impact on the regular season should be minimal. Those high-intensity games at the end of the season should have just as much significance as in past seasons, but where we might see the biggest difference is the importance of the early season games, and that's a good thing.

With any luck, an early loss to a top-ranked team won't kill a team's title shot three months down the road, but that, like everything else about this system, is yet to be determined.

As for the process itself, I'm OK with the committee approach, but then again, I was fine with the polls as well. What lost me in the past were the computers. As you can tell, I put a lot of emphasis on what I see with my eyes, not necessarily what I see on a piece of paper. It's how I make the majority of my picks each week, which leads me into my next thought ...

Week 1 of the college football season is a complete crapshoot. Unlike the NFL, we have no preseason game film to watch. All we have are reports from camp and, wouldn't you know it, those reports are generally positive, so the only way to work through the minutia is to see what the product looks like on the field.

With that in mind and with a sterling record to defend this year, I'm putting all Week 1 games in the Passing Thoughts category this week. Proceed with caution.

As always, I'll tweet any insights I come up with post-article each week. You can follow me at @gregvara

Before we get started, a quick look back at the regular season numbers from last year:

Cream of the Crop: 26-16-0

Best of the Rest: 35-26-0

PASSing Thoughts: 28-28-3

TOTAL: 89-70-3


PASSing Thoughts
(Week: 0-0; Season: 0-0)

Ohio State at Navy:
The line opened at -17 and has since moved to -16, which leads me to believe public thinks OSU will struggle out of the gate with the absence of Braxton Miller. I, however, like the movement under that ever-important number of 17. Will OSU be as sharp as it would have been under Miller? No way, at least not right away, but there are 10 other players out there on offense and 11 on defense that should be superior to Navy in almost every way.

Side: OSU -16

UCLA at Virginia:
A lot of hype entering the season for UCLA, but this could be a tough spot to open up. The Bruins are laying a huge number here, which might be a problem considering the cross-country travel, coupled with the early start. It's also early in the season, so there's no way to tell if the Bruins are hitting on all cylinders.

Side: Virginia +21

Rice at Notre Dame:
Everett Golson is back in the mix, and the folks in South Bend are going to be amped for this season. There's no reason to think that the Fighting Irish will have any trouble in this spot.

Side: Notre Dame -21

Alabama vs. West Virginia:
Alabama will be as strong as ever at some point in the season, but this early, with a new signal-caller, the Tide might struggle to dominate like they have over the past five years. Don't get me wrong, the defense will be strong as well as the rest of the offense, but without a proven QB, it might be difficult to cover this number.

Side: West Virginia +26

Arkansas at Auburn:
The Tigers thrived at a late-season underdog last year, but now the spotlight is back on them and they may find it's hard to live up to such lofty expectations. This number is still pretty big, but it started a couple points higher and it's fallen hard the last couple days.

Side: Arkansas +18.5

Florida State vs. Oklahoma State:
Same situation for FSU in this game. The Noles are now the hunted instead of the hunters. Sure, they became the hunted late last year, but they've had an entire off season to celebrate their national championship, and I want to see where the hunger level is before backing them.

Side: OSU +17.5