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2015 College Football Picks: Week One

3 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. 20 Wisconsin Badgers 7:00 pm (CT) on ABC
Corey Clement and FB Derek Watt
It has been too long college football. Although the first week of college football is full of cupcake games and overreactions (Texas A&M and USC were in my Playoff four after the first week in 2014), it always has a major game that should shake up the Playoff picture. This is the game; Wisconsin hopes to build a strong resume away from an unspectacular Big Ten West. Meanwhile, Alabama hopes to get vengeance against the Big Ten Conference after losing in the Sugar Bowl to Ohio State. The Crimson Tide are still not completely sure who their quarterback is; there is a legit chance more than just one QB will play among a group that includes Jake Coker, Alec Morris, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Cooper Bateman. Though, they really shouldn't have too much. Derrick Henry is already a monster at tailback, and he could become a household name with a dazzling performance in this one. Wisconsin's rush defense was strong a year ago, but there are some pieces missing from the front seven entering the year, something Henry will hope to capitalize on. There isn't much of a mystery how Wisconsin will move the ball; junior back Corey Clement is ready to become the next superstar ball carrier in Madison. Though, he will be challenged by what should be a stout 'Bama rush defense, headed by physical defensive linemen A'Shawn Robinson and linebacker Reggie Ragland. That should force Joel Stave to throw more and more at quarterback, with the Tide and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart stacking the box. Stave isn't terrible but he is far from a great quarterback, and the Tide should look to capitalize on the weakness. If Stave wasn't step up, that should put even more pressure on the Wisconsin defense. One thing will be clear in this matchup; it won't be pretty. Both teams like power football and to run the ball every opportunity they get. Whoever can make some big plays through the air and not make mistakes should end up as the victor. Wisconsin gave LSU quite a fright in their season opener a year ago, and they should once more give an SEC squad serious problems. But, Alabama is the better team in a matchup between two teams whose styles are incredibly similar. It should be a great opening primetime battle, but the Tide should start off the year with a win.
Alabama, 21 Wisconsin, 13

2 TCU Horned Frogs vs. Minnesota Gophers 8:00 pm (CT) on ESPN
The Horned Frogs are hoping to leave no doubt to the CFB Playoff committee this year, and a win against a solid Minnesota squad on the road should be huge. Quarterback Trevone Boykin may enter the year as the Heisman favorite (he is my winner) but he won't exactly have an easy time. Minnesota's defense has improved dramatically in the past few years, and the secondary is it's strength led by cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Though, Boykin, Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson just may be too much speed and explosiveness for the Gophers to completely counter. The Gophers will also have to deal with lightning quick Aaron Green at running back, for a defense that has been infamously bad against the run for a long time. For the Minnesota offense, they will lean heavily on an offensive scheme completely different than TCU's style. While the Frogs win games with speed and finesse, the Gophers love to run the ball down opponent's throats. Rodrick Williams should take right over where David Cobb left off at running back, while sophomore Berkley Edwards is ready to step up in a big way. The fact that Minnesota loves to run the ball is worrying to TCU, a team that loses their top two tacklers, linebackers Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet, who were great in run support. Though, Gary Patterson is a great defensive mind and he will find different ways to stop the Gophers' run attack. That will leave an important job to junior QB Mitch Leidner, moving the ball through the air. Even with a great running game, power football teams need at least something in the year, usually through play action. Leidner has been good in his time with the Gophers but is still lacking a signature win in Minneapolis. What would be bigger than beating the second-ranked team in the land in front of the home folks? Though, he might need some adjustment time without his top receiving threat, tight end Maxx Williams, who is now in the NFL.  He will also have to make smart decisions against a ball hawking TCU secondary that is always ready to strike. The Gophers are no joke and the Frogs should be on upset alert in this one. But, unless the TCU defense completely falls apart against the run, the Horned Frogs should just put up too much offensively to fall victim in this one.
TCU, 31 Minnesota, 20

Michigan Wolverines vs. Utah Utes 7:30 pm (CT) on Fox Sports 1
Even though this is a matchup of unranked teams who would probably need some magic to win their division, this late night Thursday battle should be very intriguing. It is Jim Harbaugh's return to his alma mater, Michigan, where he hopes to lead the Wolverines back from a brutal 5-7 mark last season. He will face off against a solid Utah team, who outplayed Michigan start to finish in their win over them last season. For the Wolverines, their quarterback competition has been kept under wraps. Either junior Shane Morris or Iowa transfer Jake Rudock is going to start. Rudock has more experience and could lead a smart, methodical Michigan offense. Whoever does start will hand the ball off early and often to junior Derrick Green. Green is ready for a big year, and Harbaugh loves to run the ball. Another player to watch offensively for Michigan: Jabrill Peppers. The former five-star recruit earned a redshirt his first year in Ann Arbor but can play both ways if needed. The Utah defense has long been productive under Kyle Whittingham but it loses stud defensive end Nate Orchard and more, so there could be some growing pains. It isn't much of a secret who Utah will lean on; running back Devontae Booker. Despite not being a huge name, Booker proved just how dangerous he could be last year, and was instrumental in the Utes' huge upset of UCLA. Quarterback Travis Wilson returns, after an up-and-down 2014-2015. Wilson is a proven runner and played pretty well against Michigan a year ago, so the Wolverines will also be running a ton of QB contains, while also getting after Booker. Yet another game could come down to who throws the ball better; both running backs are great, but both rush defenses are solid. If Rudock/Morris can learn quickly, the Wolverines have a great chance. But, Utah has more proven playmakers offensively at the moment and a better offensive line. Plus, they are at home and the Wolverines have been brutal on the road over the past few years. I think Harbaugh can turn around Michigan and the Wolverines will make things interesting; but there are just too many questions for me to feel confident picking them over a very good Utah team. 
Utah, 27 Michigan, 23

Other Picks
6 Auburn, 35 Louisville, 24
11 Notre Dame, 27 Texas, 12
1 Ohio State, 37 Virginia Tech, 20
BYU, 42 Nebraska, 30
UNC, 33 South Carolina, 31
Current Picks Record: 0-0

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