2016 Week 1 NCAAF Weekend Preview

September 2, 2016

My marathon of college football previews ends with this, the first Weekend Preview of the season.

To kick the year off, my buddy Keegan will join as the first guest of the season. Keegan was about as excited as I was for the season to begin, so I know that I’ll be getting a lot of GroupMe messages throughout the weekend about our picks. I didn’t take the time to verify it, but if I had to guess I would say that he has been a guest prognosticator every year that I have had them on the blog.

The opening weekend of college football’s 2016-2017 is being marketed by ESPN as the best kickoff weekend ever. As much as I dislike agreeing with the worldwide leader these days, it may have a point. Good games span the entirety of this coming Saturday and very intriguing games take place on Sunday and Monday in the absence of the NFL.

Since the majority of these games were covered in the various conference previews, the commentary from me will be shorter than usual. But in all honesty, all that matters is the record of the guests against K. Becks, right?

Here are the five games you should pay attention to this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#15 Houston vs. #3 Oklahoma [game in Houston] (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Surely Oklahoma remembers how easily the Cougars were able to slice and dice Florida State’s defense last season, so they couldn’t possible take Houston lightly, right?

Probably right, but that doesn’t mean Tom Herman’s offense won’t confuse the Oklahoma defense enough to keep this one very close. Greg Ward Jr. is back behind center for the Cougars and that’s very important – he’s essentially Herman’s J.T. Barrett at Houston. If Ward is given time to work, he will find his experienced receivers and move the football against the Sooners.

Oklahoma is capable of putting up big numbers offensively as well and will get to do it against a weaker defense. As good as Houston proved it can be with Herman’s offense working, the Sooners should be able to win this one.

My Pick: 37-28 Oklahoma

Keegan’s Take: Look what Tom Herman has done with Houston in just a year. When was the last time a noon game opening week was a must watch? I can’t wait for this game. Herman and Houston will throw the kitchen sink at Oklahoma just like FSU and it’ll be interesting to see how Oklahoma responds on the road week one. It’ll also be a good preview of Ohio State’s offense for Oklahoma. This game will definitely be a shootout but I like the experienced QB play from Baker Mayfield and I see Oklahoma pulling away late to win 45-31.

#16 UCLA at Texas A&M (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This is the best game of the weekend that not enough people are talking about. Texas A&M may still be suffering from the negative publicity after losing two former five star recruits at quarterback in the offseason, but the Aggies aren’t dead in the water. Former Oklahoma starter Trevor Knight has arrived in College Station to resurrect his career and is fully capable of directing a high-tempo offense.

If Texas A&M wants to stop Josh Rosen and the UCLA offense, it needs to find a way to take Rosen to the ground. The Bruins allowed the fewest sacks in the Pac-12 last season, but are replacing the entire right side of their line. Myles Garrett & Co. needs to take advantage of the inexperience and get to Rosen before he has time to dissect the secondary.

It’s the first game of the season, so it would be surprising if UCLA came out flat in this one. But even a focused Bruins squad will have more trouble with the Aggies than a lot of people think. Knight has something to prove and I think the Texas A&M offense will come out strong at home. I have the Aggies in a slight upset.

My Pick: 34-31 Texas A&M

Keegan’s Take: Should be a fun shootout. UCLA wins 31-28.

#18 Georgia vs. #22 North Carolina [game in Atlanta] (Saturday, 5:30 PM ET)

The annual Chic-fil-A kickoff game is a huge advantage for the Bulldogs, who will essentially be playing in front of a home crowd in the Georgia Dome. North Carolina will not roll over for Kirby Smart’s team, however, coming off of a spectacular 2015 season and returning many of the pieces that made the Tar Heels one of the nation’s most dangerous offensive teams.

North Carolina no longer have Marquise Williams at quarterback, but new starter Mitch Trubisky may end up being even better than Williams. Trubisky is a Larry Fedora recruit and a very highly rated one at that. In mop up time last season, the junior completed 85 percent of his passes and threw for six touchdowns. Expect that with a trio of talented receivers and Elijah Hood as support at running back, Trubisky will be just fine as a starter.

The more I think about this Georgia team under Kirby Smart, the more I think that the Bulldogs are going to resemble Alabama on the defensive side of the ball. Since Smart was lucky enough to have a great duo of running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the offense should be just fine as well. Michel is a game time decision, but even with Chubb alone the Bulldogs have enough offense to win this game.

My Pick: 33-28 Georgia

Keegan’s Take: Kirby Smart gets his first win as Georgia head coach, 27-21.

#20 Southern Cal vs. #1 Alabama [game in Arlington, TX] (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

This game is being hyped as one of the best of the weekend, but I have a suspicion that has far more to do with the rankings in front of each team than the chance this game will be close. Southern Cal will need to put together a nearly flawless performance to beat the Crimson Tide in Jerry’s World on Saturday evening, and even that may not be enough if Alabama plays to its potential.

Nick Saban has dangled the two quarterback system in front of the media, but he’s probably just playing head games because it rarely ever works and it would be an unusual decision for someone like Saban. In this game, the quarterback will only be a side story. Alabama’s offense will score enough points to win, but it’s the defense that will prove to everyone why the Crimson Tide are coming into the season No. 1 after winning the national title in January.

There is plenty of talent on Southern Cal’s offense, but the defense is a wild card. I think that Alabama will do what it does best and shut down the Trojan playmakers en route to a victory that renders the hype for this game unnecessary.

My Pick: 33-17 Alabama

Keegan’s Take: This game will be interesting for the first quarter when a new QB starts for the Tide, but then Bama’s offensive and defensive lines will dominate as the game goes on and Bama wins favorably 27-13.

#11 Mississippi vs. #4 Florida State [game in Orlando] (Monday, 8 PM ET)

Arguably the best game of the first weekend takes place in what is technically Week 2. Labor Day will end the right way with a battle between two top 15 squads.

Whereas Florida State could win a defensive battle or a shootout, expect Ole Miss to push the pace if Chad Kelly can get into a rhythm and find holes in the Seminoles defense, which may be possible in the secondary. But if Florida State has its way, an athletic defensive front will harass Kelly before he has time to make good throws. Perhaps the best way for the Seminoles to slow down the Rebels in this one is to force turnovers, which was an issue for Ole Miss in 2015.

It’s hard not to think of the Rebels as the team that is just a step away from making the leap to College Football Playoff Ready. As good as they can be on offense, it won’t be enough unless they can stop Dalvin Cook on the ground. I think that Florida State will control the clock, keep the Ole Miss offense off the field and leave Orlando with a well-earned victory.

My Pick: 27-23 Florida State

Keegan’s Take: What an offseason it has been for Ole Miss. Can they leave behind the distractions and get off to a good start? I don’t think so. Dalvin Cook starts his Heisman campaign Monday night and leads FSU to a 31-23 victory.

5 Games to Flip To

Western Michigan at Northwestern (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Future NFL wideout Corey Davis and a talented Western Michigan offense will give Northwestern all it can handle in Evanston.

#5 LSU vs. Wisconsin [game in Green Bay, WI] (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

A college football game being played at Lambeau Field will be cool to watch, but LSU appears to be a bit much offensively for Wisconsin.

#2 Clemson at Auburn (Saturday, 9 PM ET)

The road back to the national title game begins against Alabama’s rival. A Tigers vs. Tigers showdown – I’ll take the Tigers in this one.

BYU vs. Arizona [game in Glendale, AZ] (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

Things could get wild out West if Taysom Hill starts for the Cougars. Hill is back for a sixth season and the matchup against Anu Solomon would be interesting.

#10 Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday, 7:30 PM ET)

If Charlie Strong is in hot water already, Notre Dame is not the team that Texas wants to play opening weekend. Hard to say what kind of team will show up wearing the burnt orange.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Jack did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

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