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College Football Picks 2019: Week One

Current Picks Record: 0-0
(#11) Oregon Ducks vs. (#16) Auburn Tigers
Justin Herbert, Oregon
For the second straight year, Auburn will open up their season with the Pac-12 favorite. After beating Washington in a close one in 2018, the Tigers are hopeful they can get a huge resume booster early against the Ducks. Auburn just recently announced who will be running their offense, as true freshman Bo Nix beat out redshirt frosh Joey Gatewood for the starting job. Nix has loads of talent, but is staring down an Oregon defense that could be difficult. Not only do they have one of the nation's premier linebackers in Troy Dye, they also have a ball-hawking secondary that loves to create turnovers. I expect the Tigers to lean on the ground attack often, particularly early on in this duel. JaTarvious "Boobie" Whitlow is going to get the bulk of the carries, and will have to open up some lanes for this offense to work with. Gus Malzahn is also going to want to get Nix out and running, considering his dual threat potential. Expect a heavy dosage of read options and RPO looks to open up this offense, but some receiver is going to have to emerge for this passing game to really hit its stride. Auburn will be a tough team to move the ball on, as they feature one of the game's best front sevens. Derrick Brown, Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson are all future NFL Draft selections, and their goal in this opener is to make Oregon QB Justin Herbert uncomfortable. Herbert is already drawing Heisman attention, but starting the season against an SEC team is a whole different animal. There can be no sloppiness or early-season jitters that can usually accompany an offense built like the Ducks. Not only will Herbert have to be on the top of his game, he'll need his two-headed rushing attack to find weaknesses, as well as this inconsistent wide out group to play well. The good news is that this offense will be operating behind one of the best O-Lines in college football, who should be able to neutralize Auburn's D-Line trio. This is a tough game to pick, as Top 25 matchups early on in the season generally are. While I like Auburn's defense more than Oregon's, I like what the Ducks have offensively. Oregon is so talented this season, there is no excuse for them not to be a Pac-12 Title favorite. Now, they have to go out and prove it, which begins with a win in AT&T Stadium.
The Pick: Oregon, 28 Auburn, 21

(#2) Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Duke Blue Devils
Could Duke, a team losing Top 10 NFL Draft pick Daniel Jones, really have a chance at toppling the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide in the opener? This game got a lot more interesting when the Tide recently announced four starters were suspended for the first half in this neutral site opener. That list includes backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson, as well as receiver DeVonta Smith and linebacker Terrell Lewis. Things got even more interesting when another star Tide 'backer, Dylan Moses, went down with a knee injury and may be out for the year. That is a very significant group of players, and it gives Duke at least a fighting chance in a game where the Tide are still favored by five touchdowns. Yet, Alabama still does have one of the premier players in college football in Tua Tagovailoa leading the show, along with a bunch of other offensive weapons. Even with a decent secondary, does Duke have the answers to stop Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs III? At running back, the Tide are likely to turn to Keilan Robinson or redshirt freshman Jerome Ford, who has seven career carries. With two important linebackers missing all or a significant portion of this game, the Blue Devils job on offense becomes significantly easier. Without Daniel Jones, new quarterback Quentin Harris will be the feature guy running the show, but facing this 'Bama defense isn't a great introduction. He'll have to deal with a physical Tide pass rush that includes studs like Raekwon Davis and LaBryan Ray, as well as an improving secondary. Only making things more difficult for Harris is the absence of wide out Jake Bobo, who was expected to be his top guy but is now out for a long time due to a fractured clavicle. With that in mind, along with the absence of two key Alabama linebackers, the Blue Devils are going to have to find a way to get things going on the ground. Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown are rock-solid, but they won't get anything easy against Saban and this defense. The absence of a number of key Tide contributors should add some much-needed intrigue to this game, but don't expect it to change the result. Unless something crazy happens, the Tide begin their 2019 campaign with a cruising victory.
The Pick: Alabama, 49 Duke, 14

Houston Cougars @ (#4) Oklahoma
One of the best parts of the first college football is the fact the games don't end on Saturday, but extend further into Labor Day weekend. That is the case once more in 2019, and the Sunday night battle between Houston and Oklahoma is sure to have some fireworks. Between the two of them, it isn't unreasonable to think they could eclipse 100 points in this one, as these are a pair of Top 10 units. Oklahoma will unveil their new signal-caller in Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, who will guide an offense still stocked with skill position talent. The Sooners will also trot out a 1-2 punch at running back with Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon, who can run through defenders and also run around. Then, on the outside, OU still has star wide out CeeDee Lamb and a number of young freshmen in Jadon Hasselwood and Trejan Bridges. That will give the Cougars defense a ton of playmakers they'll have to contain, with a unit that is already losing one of its leaders, defensive linemen Ed Oliver. All eyes will also be on the Sooners' other side of the ball, where they have to rebuild one of the nation's worst defenses. Fresh new coordinator Alex Grinch has been working with this group all summer, but they face a daunting challenge in Houston. Not only are the Cougars led by one of the nation's most underrated quarterbacks in D'Eriq King (50 TD's in 2018 despite missing two games to injury) but they have a new coach on the sidelines in Dana Holgorsen. For all the criticism Holgorsen took at times during his West Virginia tenure, there is no denying his offensive expertise. He is excellent at finding weaknesses and exploiting them, and while Grinch continues to do his best, there is still ample holes on this Sooners' D. All in all, this Sunday night battle should keep the scoreboard operators busy, and it should be competitive. Yet, the smart money here should still be on Oklahoma, even if they did lose their last meeting between these two. They have more experience and firepower on offense, while Lincoln Riley has had Holgorsen's number since taking over in Norman. The preseason Big 12 favorite survives a difficult test at home to begin the fall.
The Pick: Oklahoma, 56 Houston, 42

Other Picks
Florida Atlantic @ (#5) Ohio State: Ohio State, 49 Florida Atlantic, 21
Georgia Tech @ (#1) Clemson: Clemson, 48 Georgia Tech, 17
(#14) Utah @ BYU: Utah, 35 BYU, 24
(#3) Georgia @ Vanderbilt: Georgia, 41 Vanderbilt, 21
Upset: Northwestern, 24 Stanford, 20

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