2019 NCAAF Week 1 Weekend Preview

August 30, 2019

The country has been waiting – not all of us that patiently – but the time is finally upon us. On Saturday, a full slate of college football games will be played for our viewing pleasure for the first time since the beginning of the year. Feels good, doesn’t it?

The newness of it all is exciting, and nearly every team in the country (sorry, Miami Hurricanes and Arizona Wildcats) still dreams of running the table and booking a place in the College Football Playoff. While in reality we all know that not everyone has a fair shot, watching some of the smaller schools suit up to take on the bluebloods in the first few weeks of the season, hoping to pull off a major upset, is as fun as the marquee matchups later in the season.

Or maybe, just any scratch to satisfy the itch is good enough.

Week 1 to begin the 2019 season isn’t quite as stocked with high-profile matchups as the opening week in 2018 was, but there are still plenty of games worth keeping an eye on this weekend.

Along with my buddy Colin (a.k.a. The Cheek Clapper), who will kick off the head-to-head prediction game this season, ATC is sweetening the deal to provide a bonus sixth game to watch this weekend in celebration of football being back in full force.

Okay, actually, I just screwed up when sending the games to pick to The Cheek Clapper. No need to thank me.

6! Games to Watch This Weekend

Mississippi at Memphis (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Mid-South rivalry returns to college football after a two year hiatus, and a lot has changed for these two teams since that time. Gone is former head coach Hugh Freeze for the Rebels, and while the SEC program has been fairly dominant in the series since the turn of the century (8-2 since 2002), since 2013 the Tigers have become a more consistent winner in a more competitive conference.

This game should serve as proof of that to anyone who was not convinced by a 37-24 victory for Memphis in 2015. Brady White leads a confident Memphis offense which with Damonte Coxie and Pop Williams at wide receiver catching balls thrown by White, has the ability to really stretch an Ole Miss secondary that was not good last season. The same can be said of the Memphis pass defense, but the skill position players for the Rebels aren’t as experienced as what the Tigers have. Assuming rust may have to be shaken off by both sides, expect the older guys to come through in a high scoring affair.

My Pick: 42-38 Memphis

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: So I just watched The Blind Side the other day. First off, Sandra Bullock is an underrated hot woman. Why isn’t she talked about more? But more importantly, I was inspired by the even more attractive Kathy Bates and her character “Miss Sue”. So when making this pick, I asked myself “what would Miss Sue do (WWMSD)?” And she’d pick the damn REBS! Hey Kathy, call me. Ole Miss 28, Memphis 20

Northwestern at #25 Stanford (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

Fans of hard-nosed defense and strong fundamental football will be intrigued by this one considering the coaches on both sidelines. However, keep in mind that David Shaw’s defense has taken a step back in the Pac-12 in the previous two seasons and may do so once again in 2019. The Cardinal won’t win a ton of football games this season unless quarterback K.J. Costello builds upon a productive 2018 and his receivers develop to somewhere around the level of what Costello had at his expense last year. Make no doubt about it, Northwestern and its strong stable of running backs will be able to move the football on the ground against Stanford in this game.

What Pat Fitzgerald’s team will need to do to pull off a mild upset is find a way to slow down Costello in the passing game. Northwestern, while it battled with injuries in the secondary last season, was 1-4 last season in games in which it allowed multiple passing touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Stanford doesn’t appear to have a ton of options to be able to move the football, so Costello will be heavily relied upon and should come through in the clutch. It’ll be close, but the home team will do enough through the air to win.

My Pick: 28-24 Stanford

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: Battle of the NERDS! This game really doesn’t mean anything. All of the players in this game have a very important Chemistry exam on Tuesday, so they have some studying to do. They haven’t been watching film, they’ve been studying the damn periodic table. However, we all know that Stanford alum Andrew Luck recently shocked the sports world and retired this past weekend. Meanwhile, Northwestern alum Michael Wilbon was working HARD this entire week calling people clowns on PTI. Chalk up a W for Northwestern. Hey Stanford Tree, Smokey the Bear can’t save you now. Northwestern 34, Stanford 21

Boise State at Florida State (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Thanks to incoming Hurricane Dorian, this game was moved from its original location in Jacksonville two and a half hours west to Tallahassee, meaning that it will now be a true home game for the Seminoles. It wasn’t going to be easy for the Broncos before that move, but it certainly complicates things further. Boise State will breaking in a new quarterback after relying on Brett Rypien for the past four seasons, which is great news for a Florida State defense that will need to improve dramatically in 2019 upon last season (No. 120 nationally against the pass).

The Seminoles had a hard time adjusting to head coach Willie Taggart’s philosophies, and that showed on the field last season. But the talent within the program is still Florida State caliber, and new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles should immediately have an impact on the offense’s efficiency. The Broncos are well-coached and there is as much talent on that squad as any from a Group of Five program, but coming into Doak Campbell Stadium on a Saturday night and leaving with a victory is tough.

My Pick: 34-31 Florida State

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: The hurricane could cancel this game and I wouldn’t give a shit. Florida State 33, Boise State 17

#11 Oregon vs. #16 Auburn [game in Arlington, TX] (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

The marquee matchup of the weekend, not difficult considering it is the only matchup between two ranked teams, takes place in Jerry’s World on Saturday evening. Not only is this a chance for both programs to make an early, positive statement to the CFP Committee, but there is the feeling that Oregon’s performance will also move the needle one way or the other in terms of the entire Pac-12 conference’s reputation nationally. The Ducks are being touted as one of a few teams from the Conference of Champions that might be able to break the Playoff drought for the league, but judgment is for the most part being held until something is proven on the field.

Oregon struggled in the Redbox Bowl against Michigan State’s aggressive defensive front, a unit in which Auburn boasts one of the best in 2019. If the Tigers can put pressure on Justin Herbert, this should be a very fun game. Auburn freshman Bo Nix is an unknown as a true freshman quarterback, but he’s receiving a lot of hype and Gus Malzahn will be calling the plays on offense again this season. While most people expect to see a lot out of Herbert as a future high NFL Draft pick, in tandem the country may be introduced to a budding star in the SEC.

My Pick: 30-24 Auburn

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: Both of these programs were dominant a couple years ago but have been cheeks as of late. Oregon has Herbert the pervert running the show, and he’s gonna take Auburn to the woodshed. Auburn’s only hope is Chris Hansen showing up before the game and chasing Herbert away. Justin Herbert probably isn’t even a pervert but rhyming is fun and I’m always gonna drop a Chris Hansen reference. Oregon 38, Auburn 35

Fresno State at Southern Cal (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET)

Clay Helton is squarely on the hot seat for the Trojans heading into the 2019 campaign, and it would not be a good start to lose to an in-state opponent in the opener. Unfortunately for Helton, the Bulldogs have nothing to lose and have made major strides in two seasons under Jeff Tedford, quickly becoming a perennial contender once again in the Mountain West. Fresno State’s defense may not be quite as dominant this season as it was in 2018, but there are still enough pieces remaining from that squad to be a good test for Southern Cal’s retooled offense. New offensive coordinator Graham Harrell did impressive things at previous stop North Texas and has a quarterback in JT Daniels that is capable of being very productive in an up-tempo attack. Daniels just needs to be more consistent and not as turnover prone as a sophomore.

With so many pieces to replace on offense, there is a chance that the Bulldogs could be a bit sloppy on that side of the ball in this game. That’s great news for Harrell, who should help the Trojans immediately. As long as the offense can move the football, there is a bit too much talent on Southern Cal’s side to realistically envision an upset in this one.

My Pick: 34-23 Southern Cal

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: (just call them USC, asshole) – Kicking yields looming effects. Cali always nests some underrated Caucasian kickers. Myself yearns decisive, intense, constant kicking. USC 18, Fresno State 3

Houston at #4 Oklahoma (Sunday, 7:30 PM ET)

There is plenty of familiarity between the two head coaches in this game, as new Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen previously went head-to-head against Lincoln Riley and the Sooners at West Virginia. And while Holgorsen arguably has more weapons to work with on offense with the Cougs than he would have in Morgantown this season, this game will still be a tough one to win. Oklahoma is on its third quarterback in as many years, usually not a great statistic for teams to boast. But the script is turned on its head when those quarterbacks are Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. The Sooners are primed to once again be one of top offenses in the country, with playmakers all over the field for Hurts to distribute the ball.

On the other side, D’Eriq King is as dynamic a player as the AAC has to offer. King’s skills as both a rusher and passer are difficult for any defense to stop, but Oklahoma didn’t have that last season, especially against the pass. The Houston senior should have at least a few highlight reel worthy plays in this one, but it probably won’t be enough to keep up with the Sooners. Oklahoma will give up some points but simply score more.

My Pick: 48-38 Oklahoma

The Cheek Clapper’s Take: All these big shots will probably be thinking they’re special playing on a Sunday, but all the players on these teams are bums and will never make it to the League. In fact, my main prediction for this game is that three ACLs will be torn by the third quarter. Bonus points for an MCL, too. I think Houston will hang around for 37 seconds, but Oklahoma will eventually pull away. Oklahoma 30, Houston 10

5 Games to Flip To

South Carolina vs. North Carolina [game in Charlotte] (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Mack Brown is back at North Carolina after more than two decades away, but he says it feels like home. Will love for a program be enough to turn it around?

Virginia Tech at Boston College (Saturday, 4 PM ET)

The ACC’s decision to open the season with a weekend of conference play on the heels of its ESPN-backed network debut is marketing genius. The league features several of the better games on Saturday.

#3 Georgia at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

Georgia’s title quest opens in Nashville, which while not a marquee matchup will not be a cakewalk, either.

Virginia at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)

For as frustrating as the past several seasons have had to be for Pitt fans, these are the type of games that give the administration confidence in head coaches at that school. Virginia should be a contender in the Coastal Division in 2019 but may struggle in its opener.

#9 Notre Dame at Louisville (Monday, 8 PM ET)

The Cardinals are in full rebuild mode and the Fighting Irish are a Playoff contender, but be honest – do you really have anything better to do on a holiday Monday night?

In the past, I’ve asked readers to let me know if they’d like to be guests on Around The Corn to make weekly college football picks. And while that invite still stands (email kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter if interested), the truth is that I’m basically asking friends and family on a weekly basis. Writing is a passion of mine, as is commenting on sports. But sharing those two passions with others are what has always made this worthwhile. So tell me what you think of the site and let me know what could be done better, or what would make you come back without prompting. I’d really appreciate it.

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