Getting some thoughts and picks down early as I am PUMPED for the beginning of CFB.
Absolutely love this pick. Situationally, UCLA will have revenge on their mind and Cincinnati has Ohio State on deck. Additionally, we know that in a system like Chip Kelly's the usual "jump" comes in year two. When these teams played last year, UCLA actually outgained Cinci....they were winning the game early. In the middle of Cincinnati beginning their comeback starting UCLA QB Speight went down, thrusting Dorian Thompson into the game when he was a true frosh and not prepared. Cinci took advantage and hung on to win. UCLA didn't have much of an answer.
Few other reasons I like this game. In close games, Fickell suffers from Tressel ball fever. He will turtle up and try to win the surest way, which offers some additional value. Also, if you look at Cinci's advanced stats from last year, they actually average fewer YPP on offense than the defenses they played allowed. They are a very vanilla and average offense, despite the great record. If UCLA can use their tempo to score a few Cinci could be in trouble. I personally think Cinci will start the year 0-2 despite my love for Coach Fickell.
I hesitated on this pick but have made it an official play. I was high on Tulane last year and Jonathan Banks was just a huge disappointment. When they made the change to their current QB, LSU transfer McMillan, they went 5-1 down the stretch. This team also has probably the best defensive line in the AAC. Coupled with the fact they are at home, I think this is a good price to lay vs. FIU, especially considering Tulane runs a pretty effective spread option and FIU struggles to defend the run. Definite athletic edge to Tulane.
All of the "insider" info I've heard, including from Pregame's Ken Thompson and VR on twitter is that program insiders are saying this might be the worst Stanford team in a while. Honestly I like the play regardless. Northwestern returns most of their defense which was very good at shutting down the run while Stanford loses a lot of Costello's favorite weapons. Additionally, while Northwestern doesn't return a ton of offensive starters, some of the projected starters were big contributors down the stretch, like RBs Moten and Bowser, who tore up OSU in the Big Ten Championship. I have also never been a big Clayton Thorson believer. I think Hunter Johnson will be better, although you never know for game 1. Also don't think Stanford will have any desire to blow another academic school out if the game is close late.
Wake Forest -3.5
I think Gary Andersen's second stop at Utah State might be a lot like what we are seeing with Randy Edsall at UCONN. Did a great job building a program, left for a legit power 5 job, didn't work out, comes back and the drive to be great is no longer there. While I love Utah St QB Jordan Love, they have basically the least experienced OL in the country, which i love figuring in to early season bets. Wake returns their major playmakers under a coach I like in Dave Clawson. I think at home for the first game they get it done.
More to come.