College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

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    The appetizer of the 2017 college football season is finished, and fans everywhere are ready for the main course.

    No. 3 Florida State and No. 1 Alabama will square off Saturday in the featured matchup of Week 1, which includes a few other exciting neutral-site clashes. Two of them—Michigan vs. Florida on Saturday and West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech on Sunday—are also battles between ranked teams.

    But after eight months of waiting for this week to arrive, you might even have the schedule memorized. Now, you want picks.

    We’ve made predictions for all 88 games on the slate. The list is organized chronologically, and games involving AP Top 25 teams are prioritized at a given kickoff window.

    Note: Houston at UTSA has been postponed.

Thursday Night Games

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Florida International at Central Florida, 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: UCF beat FIU 53-14 last September.

    Butch Davis, the architect of Miami’s NFL-filled rosters in the early 2000s, is back on the sideline. His debut at FIU may not be enjoyable on the scoreboard, though. UCF’s defense will control the game and open Scott Frost’s second year with a win.

    Prediction: UCF 38, FIU 13


    Presbyterian at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Wake Forest beat Presbyterian 31-7 in August 2013.

    John Wolford is set for his fourth year as the starting quarterback, but the coaching staff will likely find early work for Kendall Hinton. While the outcome will never be in doubt, the Deacs will slowly create a gap on their Football Championship Subdivision foe.

    Prediction: Wake Forest 33, Presbyterian 3


    Austin Peay at Cincinnati, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Cincinnati beat Austin Peay 72-10 in September 2011.

    Austin Peay went 0-11 last season. So, yeah, it’s probably going to get ugly. Cincinnati fans will enjoy celebrating a blowout victory in the first game of the Luke Fickell era.

    Prediction: Cincinnati 45, Austin Peay 0


    Buffalo at Minnesota, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Minnesota beat Buffalo 41-17 in September 2002.

    Debuts everywhere. P.J. Fleck will row his Minnesota-licensed boat into the season opener against Buffalo. Fleck is planning to use both Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda in the game, per Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press. The shuffle at quarterback won’t let the Gophers run away from Buffalo until late in the contest, but 1-0 is 1-0.

    Prediction: Minnesota 30, Buffalo 10


    Tennessee State at Georgia State, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Georgia State is unveiling its new stadium and new coach, Shawn Elliott. More importantly, the roster is mostly intact from 2016. Tennessee State isn’t a pushover, but the Panthers will begin 2017 on a high note.

    Prediction: Georgia State 33, Tennessee State 17


    Elon at Toledo, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Toledo will score early and often against Elon, an FCS program that managed more than 14 points just twice last season. Expect a great showing from Rockets quarterback Logan Woodside.

    Prediction: Toledo 51, Elon 7


    Rhode Island at Central Michigan, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Michigan transfer Shane Morris has a fight on his hands. Both he and redshirt freshman Tony Poljan will run the Central Michigan offense in the opener, according to George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. The competition will continue through a painless CMU triumph.

    Prediction: Central Michigan 37, Rhode Island 6


    Tulsa at No. 10 Oklahoma State, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oklahoma State beat Tulsa 59-33 in September 2011.

    Mason Rudolph is going to dominate a helpless secondary. Oklahoma State already had a diverse set of pass-catching weapons in 2016, and Marcell Ateman has returned from injury and Tyron Johnson is now eligible after transferring from LSU. Tulsa should have some success on the ground, but the Pokes will cruise to a win.

    Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Tulsa 23


    Holy Cross at Connecticut, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: UConn beat Holy Cross 22-2 in October 1985.

    It’s been 32 years since the programs met on the gridiron, but the result won’t be any different. Connecticut’s defense will stifle the Crusaders in Randy Edsall’s first game with the program after leaving for Maryland in 2011.

    Prediction: UConn 37, Holy Cross 10


    North Dakota at Utah, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Tyler Huntley beat out returning starter Troy Williams in Utah’s quarterback battle, so there will be growing pains. Combine that with a formidable FCS opponent in North Dakota and the result will be a closer-than-desired finish, yet still a victory for the Utes.

    Prediction: Utah 27, North Dakota 16


    No. 2 Ohio State at Indiana, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Ohio State beat Indiana 38-17 last October.

    There are more exciting matchups, but Ohio State’s road trip to Indiana is the only conference game in Week 1. While we’re not expecting a shocker, it’s critical for J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes to take care of business in Bloomington.

    Prediction: Ohio State 38, Indiana 14


    Florida A&M vs. Arkansas, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    The good news? Bret Bielema‘s team shouldn’t encounter much resistance against Florida A&M. The not-as-good news? Arkansas has a schedule that is brutal enough to put bowl eligibility in preseason peril. Every win is an important one for the Razorbacks.

    Prediction: Arkansas 42, Florida A&M 0


    Louisiana-Monroe at Memphis, 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Memphis beat ULM 28-0 in September 2000.

    Riley Ferguson, Anthony Miller and the high-powered Memphis offense will be on display in this contest. Louisiana-Monroe allowed 22 passing touchdowns to just six interceptions last season, so this is an immense test for the JUCO-fortified secondary.

    Prediction: Memphis 44, Louisiana-Monroe 13


    Sacramento State at Idaho, 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Idaho beat Sacramento State 45-3 in September 1989.

    Idaho will begin its final year as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision on a high note. Sacramento State, which finished 2-9 last season, hasn’t won a road game since 2014.

    Prediction: Idaho 34, Sacramento State 6


    New Mexico State at Arizona State, 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: New Mexico State beat Arizona State 35-7 in September 1999.

    Defense could be optional in the nightcap between New Mexico State and Arizona State. But we’ll give the Sun Devils a little benefit of the doubt because of an encouraging front seven. Manny Wilkins will safely guide ASU to a victory and delay the quarterback conundrum for at least one more week.

    Prediction: Arizona State 42, New Mexico State 24

Friday Night Games

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Fordham at Army, 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Fordham beat Army 37-35 in September 2015.

    One year after a 2-10 record that included a loss to Fordham, Army put together a breakout season in 2016 and won eight games. Much of the starting unit returns, so the Black Knights won’t experience a repeat of 2015’s head-shaking start.

    Prediction: Army 31, Fordham 10


    Charlotte at Eastern Michigan, 6:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Eastern Michigan beat Charlotte 37-19 last September.

    Brogan Roback missed the 2016 matchup between these schools but started to emerge as Eastern Michigan’s best quarterback soon after. The upgrade will be evident in this contest, which the Eagles should win handily as Charlotte retools its offense.

    Prediction: Eastern Michigan 35, Charlotte 16


    Central Connecticut at Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Syracuse has a bowl-caliber team in Dino Babers’ second season as long as Eric Dungey stays healthy. Babers should have an early hook on the junior quarterback once the Orange have distanced themselves from Central Connecticut.

    Prediction: Syracuse 41, Central Connecticut 13


    No. 8 Washington at Rutgers, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Washington beat Rutgers 48-13 last September.

    Rutgers is truly headed in the right direction under Chris Ash’s leadership. That is an acknowledgment of a positive sign while not all attempting to suggest the Scarlet Knights will keep up with Washington. The cross-country flight won’t faze Chris Petersen‘s team.

    Prediction: Washington 47, Rutgers 10


    Navy at Florida Atlantic, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Navy beat FAU 24-17 in November 2012.

    Welcome to the Lane Kiffin show, where the offense is promising and the defense is, well, figuring it out. FAU should be competitive in his first season, but Navy is a model of consistency. Ken Niumatalolo will direct the revamped Mids past Kiffin and Co.

    Prediction: Navy 33, Florida Atlantic 24


    Colorado State (1-0) vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Colorado beat Colorado State 44-7 last September.

    Colorado lost many of its key defenders from 2016, and Nick Stevens will lead the Colorado State offense. Those two changes won’t be enough to push the Rams past their in-state rivals, but it’ll be a much tighter margin compared to last season.

    Prediction: Colorado 31, Colorado State 24


    Utah State at No. 9 Wisconsin, 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Wisconsin beat Utah State 16-14 in September 2012.

    Utah State defended the run poorly on several occasions last year, and the front seven has since undergone a considerable facelift. That isn’t great news against a Wisconsin offense that will pound the ball with Bradrick Shaw and Chris James.

    Prediction: Wisconsin 37, Utah State 13


    Boston College at Northern Illinois, 9:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Boston College beat Northern Illinois 17-14 in September 2015.

    Harold Landry deserves your attention. Boston College’s star edge-rusher led the nation with 16.5 sacks last season and should be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Landry and the Eagles’ aggressive defense will be the difference in a low-scoring affair.

    Prediction: Boston College 20, Northern Illinois 17

Top Saturday Early Games

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Kent State at No. 5 Clemson, noon ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    While Clemson is looking forward to rolling out a rebuilt offense, Kent State will be without head coach Paul Haynes. The fifth-year leader of the program has taken a medical leave of absence. Clemson’s defense will overwhelm the Golden Flashes.

    Prediction: Clemson 47, Kent State 7


    Akron at No. 6 Penn State, noon ET

    Last meeting: Penn State beat Akron 21-3 in September 2014.

    Defending Big Ten champion Penn State opens the campaign with a tune-up against Akron. Tommy Woodson is a quality MAC quarterback, but Akron doesn’t have the defense to keep up with Saquon Barkley for 60 minutes.

    Prediction: Penn State 41, Akron 17


    Maryland at No. 23 Texas, noon ET

    Last meeting: Texas beat Maryland 42-0 in December 1978.

    The offensive genius of Tom Herman will square off with the defensive brilliance of D.J. Durkin. If you prefer the finer details of the sport, this is a game worth watching for the schemes. But looking at the result alone, Texas shouldn’t have much trouble putting Maryland away by the third quarter.

    Prediction: Texas 38, Maryland 16


    Wyoming at Iowa, noon ET

    Last meeting: Iowa beat Wyoming 20-19 in December 1987.

    Josh Allen has garnered attention as a possible first-round draft pick, but the Wyoming quarterback will be watched closely in a tough spot. He must adjust to an overhauled set of skill-position starters. Iowa will capitalize on the roster transition and hold off the Pokes.

    Prediction: Iowa 27, Wyoming 20


    Bethune-Cookman at No. 18 Miami, Florida, 12:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Miami beat Bethune-Cookman 45-0 in September 2015.

    “We’re tired of going against each other every day and pounding each other,” tight end Chris Herndon said after Miami’s final fall scrimmage, per Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Bethune-Cookman, an FCS school, gets the privilege of going up against a motivated Hurricanes squad. Probably won’t be fun.

    Prediction: Miami 48, Bethune-Cookman 0


    North Carolina State vs. South Carolina, 3 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: South Carolina beat NC State 7-3 in September 2009.

    The neutral-site showdown features two teams with experienced-yet-average offenses trying to match promising defenses. North Carolina State holds a small edge because of a disruptive D-line, and that strength will show itself late in the fourth quarter.

    Prediction: NC State 24, South Carolina 17

Other Saturday Early Games

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    Ball State at Illinois, noon ET

    Last meeting: Illinois beat Ball State 28-17 in October 2007.

    Illinois, which had the nation’s 105th-ranked run defense last year, must be prepared to contain running back James Gilbert. He piled up 1,332 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2016. However, the return of receiver Mike Dudek from an injury that sidelined him for all of 2016 will fuel the Illini in a season-opening win.

    Prediction: Illinois 30, Ball State 20


    Bowling Green at Michigan State, noon ET

    Last meeting: Michigan State beat Bowling Green 28-17 in September 2007.

    Mark Dantonio has earned the benefit of the doubt at Michigan State, but that doesn’t mean the program will go from 3-9 to a Big Ten contender. Although the Spartans will handle Bowling Green, it’ll never be especially comfortable for them.

    Prediction: Michigan State 31, Bowling Green 20


    Missouri State at Missouri, noon ET

    Last meeting: Missouri won 10-0 in October 1923.

    After a brief break of 94 years, the series between in-state schools returns. Missouri will likely need to deal with inconsistency on offense in 2017, but Missouri State won’t be able to handle Drew Lock and the Tigers’ formidable pass-catching unit.

    Prediction: Missouri 58, Missouri State 0


    Cal at North Carolina, 12:20 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    In 2016, this contest would’ve been a shootout, but both teams have new quarterbacks this season. Assuming LSU transfer Brandon Harris gets the nod, though, North Carolina has a little more experience behind center along with a more trustworthy defense.

    Prediction: UNC 31, Cal 23


    Youngstown State at Pitt, 1 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Pitt beat Youngstown State 45-37 in September 2015.

    Off-field issues have created quite a mess for Pitt, and Youngstown State isn’t the FCS school a short-handed team wants to face. Bo Pelini‘s crew has a real chance to repeat what the program accomplished in 2012, knocking off the Panthers. USC transfer Max Browne will do enough to clip YSU, but it won’t be pretty.

    Prediction: Pitt 30, Youngstown State 24


    Portland State at Oregon State (0-1), 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oregon State beat Portland State 29-14 in August 2014.

    Gary Andersen isn’t quite on the hot seat, but a 31-point beatdown by Colorado State last Saturday has rekindled the question marks surrounding his future. Ryan Nall will help his coach escape the criticism for one week and torch Portland State on the ground.

    Prediction: Oregon State 34, Portland State 13


    VMI at Air Force, 2 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Air Force was one quarterback departure shy of being considered a complete rebuild. However, Arion Worthman will steady the triple-option offense and propel the Falcons to a painless triumph over VMI, which was 3-8 last season.

    Prediction: Air Force 47, VMI 14

Top Saturday Midafternoon Games

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    No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 17 Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Michigan beat Florida 41-7 in January 2016.

    Florida coach Jim McElwain said the offense might use three quarterbacks, although on Wednesday, he named Feleipe Franks the Week 1 starter. While that’s unfair to Malik Zaire and Luke Del Rio anyway, Michigan utilizes a challenging set of pressures. The same scheme might frustrate the Gators three times because it’s a new guy under center. Tether that with missing suspended wideout Antonio Callaway, and Florida may have a rough day.

    Prediction: Michigan 30, Florida 17


    UTEP at No. 7 Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Oklahoma beat UTEP 24-7 in September 2012.

    Before we get carried away, Oklahoma is going to win. But it’s an intriguing game because the Sooners will be relying on first-time starters at several positions surrounding Baker Mayfield. With a road trip to Ohio State looming in Week 2, the Sooners cannot afford to waste a tune-up opportunity against UTEP.

    Prediction: Oklahoma 51, UTEP 10


    Temple at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Notre Dame beat Temple 24-20 in October 2015.

    Temple could’ve been a problem for Brian Kelly and Notre Dame last season, but the Owls are in rebuild mode following back-to-back 10-win campaigns and Matt Rhule’s departure. The Irish, who are working to recover from a 4-8 year, can lean on Josh Adams and the rushing attack to eliminate the threat of an upset.

    Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Temple 16


    Nevada at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Northwestern beat Nevada 36-31 in September 2007.

    On the bright side, Nevada returns much of the front seven. However, the Wolf Pack finished 2016 with the worst run defense in the FBS. Attempting to stop Justin Jackson will be hard enough, and Nevada’s struggles on offense will only compound the problem.

    Prediction: Northwestern 31, Nevada 10


    Troy at Boise State, 3:45 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    One of the weekend’s most underrated games will be played on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium. Troy is arguably the Sun Belt’s best team, and Boise State is a perennial contender in the Mountain West. We’re giving the nod to Brett Rypien and the Broncos, but Troy could swing the result if it establishes an inside running game.

    Prediction: Boise State 31, Troy 26

Other Saturday Midafternoon Games

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    William & Mary at Virginia, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Virginia beat William & Mary 35-29 in September 2015.

    According to Jim Hodges of the Virginian-Pilot, William & Mary may play three quarterbacks against Virginia. That’s probably good news for a Virginia team looking to forget a 2-10 season, but quarterback Kurt Benkert would guide the Wahoos past the Tribe anyway.

    Prediction: Virginia 41, William & Mary 14


    Alabama A&M at UAB, 3:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: UAB beat Alabama A&M 41-14 in September 2014.

    Following a two-year absence, Alabama-Birmingham will return to the football field. What does that mean? We have no idea what to expect from the Blazers, though they’ve recruited decently during the last two cycles. Pure talent should win out in UAB’s first game back.

    Prediction: UAB 33, Alabama A&M 13


    Stony Brook at No. 19 South Florida (1-0), 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: USF beat Stony Brook 59-14 in September 2010.

    South Florida had a strange opening to the 2017 campaign, falling behind San Jose State 16-0 before rattling off the next 42 points. The offense was inefficient throughout the day, especially on the ground—which needs to be USF’s strength. It’s a good thing the Bulls have a low-risk second game to address the issues.

    Prediction: USF 51, Stony Brook 9


    Eastern Washington at Texas Tech, 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Texas Tech beat Eastern Washington 49-24 in August 2008.

    Gage Gubrud led Eastern Washington to an upset of Washington State last season, and Texas Tech could be next in line. The Red Raiders need to show they’re not an absolute disaster in the secondary. However, considerable losses at receiver will be too much for EWU to overcome in Game 1.

    Prediction: Texas Tech 42, Eastern Washington 32


    Kentucky at Southern Miss, 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Southern Miss beat Kentucky 44-35 last September.

    Kentucky raced out to a 35-10 lead in the 2016 clash between these programs, scoring three touchdowns of 40-plus yards. And then slowly, steadily, painfully, the Wildcats watched the lead disappear. Kentucky will avoid a repeat by winning the turnover battle against a Southern Miss offense that is still unsettled at quarterback.

    Prediction: Kentucky 34, Southern Miss 24


    Charleston Southern at Mississippi State, 4 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Mississippi State learned a valuable lesson last year in a loss to South Alabama. Nick Fitzgerald mostly watched that stunner from the sideline, though, and the dual-threat quarterback will gash Charleston Southern on the ground in the second half. The Buccaneers are a quality team, so they’ll keep it close for 30 minutes.

    Prediction: Mississippi State 48, Charleston Southern 20

Top Saturday Evening Games

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    Brett Davis/Associated Press

    Western Michigan at No. 4 USC, 5:15 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    P.J. Fleck left Western Michigan in good shape for MAC contention, but USC presents an enormous challenge for the retooled Broncos offense. It will struggle to establish a passing attack, which will be the exact opposite of ideal as Sam Darnold keeps scoring.

    Prediction: USC 44, Western Michigan 13


    Appalachian State at No. 15 Georgia, 6:15 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Georgia beat Appalachian State 45-6 in November 2013.

    Appalachian State will try to control the clock with running back Jalin Moore and a heavy dose of quick passes. The problem is Georgia will be more explosive thanks to Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Jacob Eason. The Dawgs will cruise to a respectable nonconference triumph over the defending Sun Belt champs.

    Prediction: Georgia 41, Appalachian State 13


    Central Arkansas at No. 20 Kansas State, 7:10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Central Arkansas has the ability to stick with Kansas State, which is a credit to the Bears more than a knock on the Wildcats. Kansas State QB Jesse Ertz will oversee a methodical offense. Controlling the clock will allow K-State to avoid an uneasy fourth quarter.

    Prediction: Kansas State 36, Central Arkansas 17


    Georgia Southern at No. 12 Auburn, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Auburn beat Georgia Southern 32-17 in August 1991.

    Odds are the postgame analysis will be focused on Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. It makes sense, considering his value for Auburn and the likelihood of a successful aerial attack in Week 1. But Gus Malzahn’s team will also work the ground with Kamryn Pettway bulldozing everything in sight.

    Prediction: Auburn 47, Georgia Southern 14


    No. 16 Louisville vs. Purdue, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Their September 1987 game ended in a 22-22 tie.

    Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will host the contest, which may become yet another Lamar Jackson showcase. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner should find plenty of gaps in a Purdue defense that had to replace its two most disruptive linemen.

    Prediction: Louisville 42, Purdue 17

Other Saturday Evening Games

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    North Carolina Central at Duke, 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Duke beat NC Central 49-6 last September.

    Daniel Jones made his college debut in last year’s matchup, accounting for 217 yards and three touchdowns. The sophomore will propel the Blue Devils to a similar victory over the FCS school.

    Prediction: Duke 47, NC Central 10


    James Madison at East Carolina, 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    East Carolina gets an interesting opponent to start 2017. The Pirates take on James Madison, the reigning FCS champions. However, suspensions to three key returning Dukes will allow ECU to narrowly edge a worthy opponent.

    Prediction: East Carolina 32, James Madison 30


    Albany at Old Dominion, 6 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Old Dominion beat Albany 66-10 in September 2013.

    Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox will be a frustrating combo for Albany to contain. Together, they accumulated 1,987 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground last season. Old Dominion will limit the pressure on first-time starter Blake LaRussa and rumble to a win.

    Prediction: Old Dominion 38, Albany 17


    Miami (Ohio) at Marshall, 6:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Marshall beat Miami, Ohio, 42-27 in August 2014.

    Gus Ragland helped Miami win six straight games to close the 2016 regular season and earn bowl eligibility. He’ll show off that efficiency in a solid victory over Marshall, which is retooling the offense around third-year starter Chase Litton.

    Prediction: Miami 30, Marshall 24


    Lamar at North Texas, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: North Texas beat Lamar 33-13 in October 1986.

    The first year of Seth Littrell’s tenure was promising, and North Texas should be confident the 2017 team will sustain that momentum. Most importantly, starting quarterback Mason Fine is healthy after an injury ended his freshman campaign. The Mean Green roll to 1-0.

    Prediction: North Texas 41, Lamar 14


    Eastern Kentucky at Western Kentucky, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Western Kentucky beat Eastern Kentucky 37-13 in September 2008.

    The in-state clash is worth monitoring for two main reasons. First, it’s the debut of head coach Mike Sanford. Second, the Hilltoppers must replace Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris. Western Kentucky will score a bunch of points with Mike White behind center, but the receiving corps—while promising—is loaded with players who haven’t been in featured roles before.

    Prediction: Western Kentucky 48, Eastern Kentucky 13


    Northwestern State at Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Northwestern State beat Louisiana Tech 30-27 in September 2014.

    On the surface, this matchup may appear to be a typical FCS vs. FBS guarantee game. However, the programs met annually from 1926 to 1987—sometimes even playing twice—until Louisiana Tech joined college football’s top division. Historical tangent aside, the Bulldogs won’t have any trouble Saturday night.

    Prediction: Louisiana Tech 41, Northwestern State 3


    Stephen F. Austin at SMU, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: SMU beat Stephen F. Austin 52-0 in September 2012.

    Cautious excitement should surround SMU. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton is terrific, and the Mustangs return every top contributor at the skill positions on offense. Quarterback play and defensive execution will determine the course of the season, but it’ll be another week until SMU needs to worry about that affecting a result.

    Prediction: SMU 44, Stephen F. Austin 14


    UMass (0-1) at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is the first all-time meeting.

    It’s unfortunate that head coach Joe Moglia, who took a medical leave, won’t experience Coastal Carolina’s first game as an official member of the FBS. The Chanticleers need to keep UMass tight end Adam Breneman out of the end zone, but they’ll stay balanced on offense and clip the Minutemen.

    Prediction: Coastal Carolina 30, UMass 27


    Liberty at Baylor, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    The Baylor offense is one big question mark. Zach Smith and Arizona transfer Anu Solomon will probably share snaps. Running back Terence Williams is sidelined, leaving JaMycal Hasty ahead of several young reserves. The receiving group is full of speed and short on experience. But in Game 1, all of that speed will overwhelm Liberty.

    Prediction: Baylor 54, Liberty 7


    Southeast Missouri State at Kansas, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Kansas beat SEMO 34-28 in September 2014.

    David Beaty is moving Kansas in the right direction, and hiring Doug Meacham as offensive coordinator only bolstered that opinion. The Jayhawks won’t name a starting quarterback until Saturday, per Matt Galloway of the Topeka Capital-Journal, but SEMO is a favorable welcome for either Peyton Bender or Carter Stanley.

    Prediction: Kansas 31, Southeast Missouri State 13


    Hampton at Ohio, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Ohio brings back a healthy portion of the back seven on defense. That cohesion will show in a straightforward victory over an FCS opponent, particularly once Hampton needs to start throwing the ball. The secondary won’t offer much space.

    Prediction: Ohio 38, Hampton 6


    Southeastern Louisiana at Louisiana, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: SE Louisiana beat Louisiana 7-0 in September 1981.

    After a tumultuous offseason, Mark Hudspeth must be eager for the campaign to start. Louisiana will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, easing the pressure on new starting quarterback Jordan Davis to excel right away.

    Prediction: Louisiana 34, SE Louisiana 14


    Houston Baptist at Texas State, 7 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Texas State had a rough 2016, especially to close the campaign. The offense mustered no more than 14 points during any of its final six games. Most of the offensive skill-position players are back, though, so Texas State will start strong in 2017.

    Prediction: Texas State 33, Houston Baptist 10


    South Alabama at Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Ole Miss must’ve enjoyed watching its rival, Mississippi State, fall to South Alabama in 2016. It would be awfully embarrassing for that to be repeated. Fortunately for the Rebels, Shea Patterson and an exciting receiving corps will connect for a handful of explosive gains and send the Jaguars home unhappy.

    Prediction: Ole Miss 44, South Alabama 17


    Cal Poly at San Jose State (0-1), 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: San Jose State beat Cal Poly 19-9 in September 2009.

    San Jose State put a scare into South Florida before consecutive interceptions allowed the 19th-ranked Bulls to break open the game. Cal Poly is no pushover, but the Spartans will avoid costly mistakes after building another early lead.

    Prediction: San Jose State 37, Cal Poly 20

Saturday Night Games

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    No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 1 Alabama, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Florida State beat Alabama 21-14 in September 2007.

    In a battle of elite defensive lines, the running game will be essential. That advantage goes to Alabama, which has a superior blocking unit compared to Florida State. The ‘Noles, though, will hang with the Crimson Tide down to the final whistle.

    Prediction: Alabama 27, Florida State 20


    Abilene Christian at New Mexico, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    New Mexico’s triple-option attack has an experienced quarterback as well as one explosive and one efficient short-yardage runner. That collection of talent will be lethal against Abilene Christian, which mustered a 2-9 record last year.

    Prediction: New Mexico 43, Abilene Christian 10


    Arkansas State at Nebraska, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Nebraska beat Arkansas State 42-13 in September 2012.

    Tanner Lee will officially assume the starting duties for Nebraska, but expectations must be tempered for the Tulane transfer. The Cornhuskers are rebuilding the skill positions, and Arkansas State has a defense capable of sticking too close for comfort. It may be an unnerving fourth quarter for Nebraska.

    Prediction: Nebraska 27, Arkansas State 16


    Jackson State at TCU, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Kenny Hill, king of the September Heisman, has the weapons necessary—as long as they stop dropping the ball—to unleash fury on Jackson State. The FCS program finished 3-8 in 2016, allowing 63 points in an early loss to UNLV. Hill will throw for 400-plus yards in a blowout.

    Prediction: TCU 58, Jackson State 9


    Northern Iowa at Iowa State, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Northern Iowa beat Iowa State 25-20 last September.

    What a difference one year makes. Matt Campbell’s debut at Iowa State did not go as planned as the Cyclones fell to Northern Iowa. The Panthers are a top-tier FCS school, but that’s not supposed to happen. A healthy Jacob Park will help Iowa State push the upset further out of memory.

    Prediction: Iowa State 30, Northern Iowa 17


    Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Vanderbilt beat Middle Tennessee 47-24 last September.

    Brent Stockstill and Richie James highlight a formidable Middle Tennessee offense. However, the Blue Raiders couldn’t stop anyone on the ground in 2016, and the most disruptive players on the defensive front are all gone. That’s not an encouraging notion with Ralph Webb, Khari Blasingame and Vandy coming to town.

    Prediction: Vanderbilt 31, Middle Tennessee 27


    Grambling at Tulane, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Tulane returns most of its defense, and that should come in handy. Grambling State boasts an FBS-caliber quarterback in Devante Kincade, who transferred from Ole Miss and guided the Tigers to a 12-1 campaign last season. The Green Wave will need a late touchdown to put away Kincade and Co.

    Prediction: Tulane 30, Grambling 20


    Southern Utah at Oregon, 8:15 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Willie Taggart will bring a more diverse offense to Autzen Stadium. Tethered with a healthy offensive line and a motivated backfield, Oregon is destined to hang some crooked numbers on the scoreboard. The Ducks win easily.

    Prediction: Oregon 54, Southern Utah 13


    UC Davis at San Diego State, 8:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Replacing a program legend like Donnel Pumphrey isn’t supposed to be easy. Nevertheless, San Diego State has Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington, who combined for 1,459 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. They’ll run effectively behind a rebuilt offensive line.

    Prediction: San Diego State 44, UC Davis 14


    Howard at UNLV, 9 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Positive: UNLV returns nearly the entire offense. Negative: The defense is plugging in new starters all over the field. In an outing against Howard, an FCS school that trudged to 2-9 last season, the positive side will take center stage for 60 minutes. UNLV can deal with the defense later.

    Prediction: UNLV 50, Howard 7


    BYU (1-0) vs. No. 13 LSU, 9:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    BYU only scored 20 points in a victory over Portland State. The Cougars’ execution must improve in a hurry, considering LSU surrendered only 15.8 points per game in 2016 and should feature a defense of similar quality. BYU has a solid defense, but the gap between the offenses will be too much to overcome.

    Prediction: LSU 27, BYU 13


    Incarnate Word at Fresno State, 10 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Jeff Tedford is back on the headset. The former Cal coach will attempt to revamp a reeling program just four years removed from an 11-2 season. There will be growing pains in 2017, but at least the Bulldogs will start with a victory and an encouraging day from Chason Virgil.

    Prediction: Fresno State 37, Incarnate Word 10


    Montana State at No. 24 Washington State, 10:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Washington State beat Montana State 23-22 in September 2010.

    Washington State has never won a regular-season opener during the Mike Leach era, including consecutive losses to FCS schools. Streaks are meant to be broken, right? Luke Falk won’t let his senior campaign begin with another negative result.

    Prediction: Washington State 44, Montana State 16


    Northern Arizona at Arizona, 11 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Arizona beat Northern Arizona 77-13 in September 2015.

    Trouble is brewing in Tucson, but Rich Rodriguez‘s future won’t be questioned for a few weeks yet. Late Saturday night, Brandon Dawkins will shred Northern Arizona on the ground. Although the defense won’t be dominant, the outcome will never be in doubt.

    Prediction: Arizona 45, Northern Arizona 20


    Western Carolina at Hawaii (1-0), 11:59 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: This is their first meeting.

    Fresh off a fourth-quarter comeback, Hawaii will welcome Western Carolina to paradise. How will the Catamounts respond to such a long flight and weird kickoff time? Our guess is not well despite having experience on both sides of the football.

    Prediction: Hawaii 41, Western Carolina 13

Sunday Games

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    No. 22 West Virginia vs. No. 21 Virginia Tech, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Virginia Tech beat West Virginia in October 2005.

    After a 12-year hiatus, the Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy has returned. Virginia Tech is in excellent position to snatch this showdown between former Big East rivals. The offensive line is better, the linebackers are tenacious and the secondary is strong. But the Hokies are also breaking in a redshirt freshman quarterback. Will Grier will thrive in Dana Holgorsen’s offense and lead WVU to a close win.

    Prediction: West Virginia 31, Virginia Tech 26


    Texas A&M at UCLA, 7:30 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Texas A&M beat UCLA 31-24 last September.

    Los Angeles will host the season’s first clash between coaches on the hot seat. The return of Josh Rosen will steady Jim Mora Jr.’s offense, and he’ll propel UCLA to an early advantage in the fourth quarter. That’s when Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin’s problems at quarterback will become clear.

    Prediction: UCLA 27, Texas A&M 23

Monday Game

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    No. 25 Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech, 8 p.m. ET

    Last meeting: Tennessee beat Georgia Tech 29-15 in October 1987.

    Tennessee will tab Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano as the signal-caller, though both could play. Georgia Tech listed four quarterbacks as potential starters. In other words, which team’s “everything else” do you trust more? The dismissal of Dedrick Mills has compounded the difficulty of replacing Justin Thomas, and the Vols will take advantage of that inexperience in the Jackets backfield.

    Prediction: Tennessee 30, Georgia Tech 23