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College Football Picks 2017: Week One

College Football Picks 2017: Week One
Current Record: 0-0
2016 Record: 88-25

(0-0) 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. (0-0) 3 Florida State Seminoles
@Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta), 7 PM Saturday on ABC

Deondre Francois, Florida State
Rarely do we see a game with major Playoff implications in the first week of the season, but that's what we have here in Alabama-Florida State. The Tide and Seminoles will not only have a matchup featuring some of college football's most impressive talent, the opener could be a possible National Championship preview. Alabama will be going into an opener knowing their QB for the first time 2013, as sophomore Jalen Hurts will lead the Tide into battle. There may be an adjustment period as he works with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and Hurts will stare down a FSU secondary headed by stars Derwin James and Tavarus McFadden, but the signal-caller has played in some big moments before so he won't be intimidated by this big a stage. It should also help that he has powerful backs Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris to pass to, along with top-flight receiver Calvin Ridley on the outside. Alabama's offensive line should also be a strength, even as they battle against a fearless FSU pass rush led by ends Josh Sweat and Brian Burns. The bigger question for the Crimson Tide should be their defense, which is awfully talented, but is breaking in plenty of new faces. The defensive line and linebackers corps was hit hard by NFL losses this off-season, but names like Da'Ron Payne, Da'Shawn Hand, Rashaan Evans and Mack Wilson are expected to step up. That should be an important piece of the game. If 'Bama can take advantage of Florida State's issues on the offensive line, it is going to be very difficult for the Seminoles to move the football. FSU quarterback Deondre Francois took an absolute beating as a redshirt frosh last year, and I'm not sure how his play isn't going to suffer if he continues to take some of the hits he took last year. Alabama has some of the hardest-hitting defenders in the country, which should be worrying for Francois and company. Florida State also has yet to identify a featured back, although newcomer Cam Akers is expected to take over for the departed Dalvin Cook. Will the young running back be able to have success in his first collegiate game against a rush defense known for being incredibly stout? If Akers struggles, I'm not sure FSU has a strong enough passing game (at least at this point in the season) to really have success. That passing attack will already have a tall enough order going up against an Alabama secondary that includes interception machine Minkah Fitzpatrick and rock-solid defenders Ronnie Harrison and Anthony Averett. Another interesting point to watch in this one: how special teams could impact it. Neither of these teams have great kicking games. Florida State's Ricky Aguayo has plenty of potential but he had an uneven 2016, and 'Bama still has no idea who they'll trot out at the position. Whoever performs better in that aspect of the game is going to have a significant advantage. Alabama may have to replace some new faces, but I'm still more confident in the Tide going into this one than FSU. With questions on the offensive line and unproven faces on offense, it will take a magical showing from Francois and the defense for the Seminoles to upset the Tide. I just don't see that happening here.

The Pick: Alabama, 28 Florida State, 20

(0-0) 11 Michigan Wolverines vs. (0-0) 17 Florida Gators
@AT&T Stadium (Arlington), 2:30 PM Saturday on ABC

Year 3 begins for both of the coaches on the sideline in this one, as Jim Harbaugh enters 2017 reloading at Michigan, while Jim McElwain hopes for a third straight SEC East title with the Gators. Harbaugh will most likely trot out veteran QB Wilton Speight as the starter, even through off-season rumors of redshirt freshman Brandon Peters replacing him. Speight will see a much different offense in '17 than the one he commanded last season. The Wolverines will have a new feature back, as sophomore Chris Evans should replace the departed De'Veon Smith, plenty of new faces at wide out with Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt all gone, and some new pieces on the O-Line. Even so, Harbaugh teams do a good job of playing smart, methodical football and I expect the offense to still produce. Florida has long been a great defensive team, but they are breaking in a new coordinator, and also breaking in eight starters, so this is certainly the week when you want to face them. Meanwhile, the Gators are missing some key pieces on their own offense, namely top receiver Antonio Callaway and No. 1 back Jordan Scarlett, two of the 10 Gators suspended for the season opener. That will leave Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire, the projected starter at quarterback, having to work with some really unproven players, especially at receiver. Zaire is quite the asset to have, as his dual threat abilities could give this offense some more explosiveness and creativity. It will be interesting how he fares playing against a Wolverines' defense also breaking in a ton of new pieces, and how well Zaire picks up the playbook, considering he was such a late addition. The Wolverines are especially thin in the secondary, where they'll miss All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis and sturdy veteran Delano Hill. We will how much a poor Gators' passing attack will try to attack that weakness in this one. Expect the secondary issues to put more pressure on a Michigan D-Line oozing with potential, with sophomore Rashan Gary and junior Chase Winovich ready to break out. I think both these teams may be rusty out of the gate in this one as they continue to work in new starters, and I don't expect the play on the field to be very good. If both were at full strength I think it would be a coin-flip, as they are very evenly-matched. But, it's hard for me to pick UF in this one with two of their best offensive weapons out. If Michigan's offense is able to make enough plays they should be able to come out in this one, pretty comfortably.

The Pick: Michigan, 27 Florida, 17

(0-0) 2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (0-0) Indiana Hoosiers
@Memorial Stadium (Bloomington), 7 PM Thursday on ESPN

For the first time in it's history, the Big Ten will be adding week-night games on their schedule, and it kicks off with meeting between second-ranked Ohio State and Indiana. The Hoosiers have played OSU very tight over the past few years, and they are hoping playing in front of the home folks will give them the energy needed to get over the top. Former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson is moving across the sideline in this one, as he is Ohio State's new offensive coordinator. He was well-known at Indiana for orchestrating some big-play offenses, and he hopes veteran quarterback J.T. Barrett can give the Hoosiers some issues. Barrett had an up-and-down 2016 but many are hopeful he can regain his Heisman-finalist 2014 form under the leadership of Wilson. With back Mike Weber by his side and a strong O-Line to operate behind, Ohio State should be able to put up plenty of points, even as they work in a number of new receivers. However, don't overlook Indiana's defense, as the Hoosiers have some serious playmakers on that side of the ball. Senior linebacker Tegray Scales is one of the Big Ten's best, senior corner Rashard Fant can match up with any receiver in the Big Ten, and converted linebacker Chris Covington (formerly a quarterback) is a possible breakout star. New head man Tom Allen, who was Indiana's defensive coordinator under Wilson, should still have a very big-play offense, albeit one that is turnover-prone. Senior quarterback Richard Lagow has a huge arm but he tossed 17 interceptions last season and seemed to lack confidence down the stretch. The Buckeyes no longer have turnover-hungry Malik Hooker at safety, but they could still force Lagow into some mistakes and capitalize. The Hoosiers are breaking in a new running back, likely junior Mike Majette, but receivers Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook will keep the offense dangerous. But, the offensive line could be in store for it's toughest test of the season in their first real action of it. Ohio State has one of the nation's top defensive lines, and pass rushers Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard will look to wreak havoc against an O-Line that does return three starters, but is still pretty inexperienced. I'm not confident enough in Indiana at this point to pick them in the huge upset here, but I think this team will give Ohio State a good game. If Barrett does go for a big day it will be tough to keep up, but this Hoosiers team always plays hard and tough. It should be interesting for the first three quarters, before the talent up and down the depth chart really starts to show.

The Pick: Ohio State, 41 Indiana, 28

Other Picks
(#8) Washington, 52 Rutgers, 17
(#23) Texas, 24 Maryland, 21
(#13) LSU, 27 BYU, 21
(#22) West Virginia, 34 (#21) Virginia Tech, 23
Georgia Tech, 30 (#25) Tennessee, 24

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