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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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Free College Football Picks, Predictions and Odds for 9/1/2012

Texas State at Houston (-35 ½) 8:00 ET

This is a big number to lay for a Houston team who lost their head coach, their offensive staff and one of the all-time best signal callers in Case Keenum.  Tony Levin, last year’s Asst. HC steps into the void while fielding and entirely new staff.  With Texas State back in the betting rotation, it marks the return of highly travelled, but respected HC Franchioni (most recently TCU, Alabama, and Texas A & M).  With 16 returning starters, these Bobcats may have some bite.  Lean:  Texas St

Clemson (-3 ½) vs. Auburn 7:00 ET Georgia Dome ESPN

Slight preference to the SEC underdog in this matchup who looks to cycle upward following a 8-5 SU, 5-8 ATS season.  Remember this is a team just 2 years removed from a National championship season.  With 15 returning starters, they’re far better prepared to face this season than they were in 2011 when they had just 6 returning starters and a target on their chest.  One of those losses came by a score of 38-24 at Clemson a game which Auburn controlled early on.  But that was the story of the Clemson season that saw them soar to top 10 status following an 8-0 SU start.  Then their porous 29 PPG defense let them down in a 2-4 SU 1-5 ATS finish in which they failed by 85 points to the line.  Yet they are still rated more highly then they were at the start of last season while Auburn, which has a far greater upside is accorded equal rating.  Loss of Clemson WR Watkins a bit overrated, as they still feature QB Boyd, RB Ellington, a deep receiving corps, and the clever tutelage of second year OC Chad Morris. Lean:  Auburn

Hawaii at USC (-40) 7:30 ET Fox TV

After a distinguished career as OC at numerous stops, Norm Chow returns to his Hawaii roots to close out his career with his first job as collegiate HC.  Though USC was one of his stops, there is no love lost between Chow and USC mentor Lane Kiffin.  With the programs headed opposite directions, this could get ugly.  Hawaii has just 10 returning starters, has among the least experienced teams in the country and is changing offensive schemes to more of a pro-style offense.  USC is loaded with 16 Returning starters led by Heisman hopeful QB Barkley for a team that is coming off a 2 year probation and will now challenge for the National title.  Kiffin names the score.  Lean:  USC

Michigan vs. Alabama (-14) 8:00 ET Arlington, Texas ABC TV

These are 2 of the most highly successful college coaches in the country.  Michigan HC Hoke transformed a Ball State team from mediocrity to an undefeated regular season.  He then guided San Diego State to their first winning season in over 10 years.  Last season he led Michigan from the nadir of their discontent (a 3 year record of 15-22in the Rich Rod years) to a mark of 11-2 SU, 7-4 ATS.  This year the Wolves will contend for a Big Ten Championship with 13 returning starters led by QB D. Rob.  But the athletic signal caller has not faced anything like the Alabama defense.  Though just 5 starters return to that side of the ball, and they will not match their gaudy numbers from last year of 8/184, this is still one of the best stop units in the nation with plenty of speed and depth.  With QB McCarron having the confidence of a National title, the Tide is set to roll again.  Credit HC Saban who parlays his coaching acumen into a +49 net TO margin the last 5 years, due to his fanatical attention to detail. The result is a 35-18 ATS mark L4Y.  Don’t think we are fading that. But the psychological disadvantage of the players knowing they are the defending champions is something that will try the mental acuity of Saban the entire season. Lean:  Alab

Rutgers (-20 ½) at Tulane 8:00 ET CBC TV

Just imagine how little regard the Linemaker has for Tulane to install them as a 3 TD home dog on opening day, yet it may be warranted based on the situation.  This is a 2-11 team from last season who made a coaching change to CJ Johnson, the former Saints wide receiver coach.  Johnson will try to improve on the 21 PPG offense while stopping the bleeding of a defense that has allowed 33 PPG L 3Y.  But Rutgers is undergoing their own coaching change with former HC Schiano headed to the NFL and replaced by Kyle Flood an Asst. Coach here since 2007.  He will inherit one of Rutgers best stop units in recent memory and an experienced signal caller in QB Nova who is capable of extending a margin on a field where Tulane is 11-29 ATS since 2005. Lean:  Rutgers

Oklahoma (-31) at UTEP 10:30 ET FSN

This line a bit bloated for the obvious class difference and public opinion surrounding these two.  But road favorites of this magnitude are often highly profitable in week 1.  QB Jones returns with a better balanced offense thanks to return of RB Whaley an addition of RB Williams.  UTEP has its own experience in QB Lamaison, an experienced line, and quality receivers.  That may not be enough against an improved Oklahoma defense and a team who is very hungry after losing 2 of their last 3 regular season games in 2011. Lean: Okl

Toledo at Arizona (-10) 10:30 ET ESPNU

It could be Death in the Desert for this nice little MAC team.  With the 2 headed QB in the persons of Owens and Danlin, they led the Rockets to 42 PPG LY.  OC Campbell inherits the team after former HC Beckman moved on to Illinois.  But the cupboard is a bit bare for the Rockets with just 4 returning starters on each side of the ball.  They will certainly have a hard time making the adjustment to the desert heat in a game that will be played 10:30 PM their body time.  The Rich Rod era  is underway at Arizona following his debacle at Michigan, where he went 15-22 SU for a program that seldom had a losing year before and went 11-2 in 2011 (yes, Rich Rod, you would be the common thread).  It would not be unusual to see his team have a tough time making the transition to his unique offense just as his former teams did at Michigan and WVU.  We must remember that a major reason for the Michigan demise was a defense that allowed over 30 PPG in his 3 years, but have not allowed more than 21 PPG in their recent history of winning seasons.  Not interested in trusting either coach or defense in this lid lifter.  Lean:  Toledo

San Diego State at Washington (15 1/2) 10:30 ET

 Much like California did last year; Washington has moved their home games to Century Link Field, home of the Seahawks, while Husky Stadium is getting a facelift.  Washington looks to build on the return of QB Price to an offense that averaged 33 PPG LY.  It’s the defense that needs the fix after they allowed 36 PPG in 2011.  HC  Sarkisian cleaned house bringing in an entirely new defensive staff led by DC Wilcox (Tennessee and Boise State). Until 7 returning starters prove their mettle, it’s hard to lay this many points.  HC Rocky Long the 2nd year mentor of San Diego State, is a defensive guru who rarely fields a bad stop unit.  Major ? is how well Oregon State transfer QB Katz acclimates to the new schemes.  A good game to watch.  Lean:  Wash

Florida Intl. at Duke (-3 1/2) 7:00 pm

These teams played remarkably true to form last year with Florida Intl. going 6-7 ATS and +5 AFP.  Duke was 6-5 ATS -10 AFP. A 31-27 Duke final further confirms the consistency.  With each team returning 17 starters, it would be no surprise to see this game end close to the opening number.  Each of these coaches has been a bit under the radar with FIU mentor Cristobal recording a 7-3 ATS dog log L2Y while Duke headman Cutcliffe is a solid 13-9-2 ATS L2 Y.  If you’re looking for an edge, consider that Duke QB Renfree passed the Panthers silly LY with 335 air yards while FIU must replace graduated QB Carroll and explosive WR Hilton.  While FIU has more focus on winning the Sun Belt, Duke needs every non-con win it can get in a quest for a winning season. Lean:  Duke

North Texas at LSU (-42 ½) 7:00 ET ESPNU

North Texas may be the perfect foil on whom LSU can vent following the 21-0 National Championship game loss.  Anticipated excellence of new QB Mettenberger just what the Bengals needed to help balance and explode an offense that passed for just 153 yds. last year and averaged just 36 PPG, courtesy of a +20 net TO margin, fueled mostly by a ferocious defense.  This unit, despite the dismissal of do-everything, Matthieu, could be every bit as good.  Still a higher profile game with Washington is on deck and knowing that Miles is 12-21 ATS home L5Y gives pause for concern in a matchup with his clever opposite number, HC McCarthy. Lean:N Texas

 Arkansas State at Oregon (-35) 10:30 ESPN

 It was a fairytale season for Ark State LY as they toiled under now departed HC Freeze.  In his single year at Jonesboro he led the Red Wolves to a 10-3 SU ATS mark.  They’ll have a tough time matching those numbers with just 10 returning starters, a new mentor in HC Malzahn and a pair of new coordinators including highly respected DC Thompson who has 25 years’ experience.  The brilliant offensive mind of Malzahn inherits an experienced signal caller in QB Aplin who will be happy to toss the ball around the lot; and playing a game with at least 90 plays.  Regrettably, in this matchup, that plays right in to the hands of the uptempo Ducks who are most comfortable at that pace.  Ignore the 11 returning starter figure as that is a like number they fielded when outscoring the opposition 46-24 in a 12-2, 8-5 ATS season.  New name to watch is anointed starter QB Mariota.  He toiled on the practice squad last year with many of the graduating Ducks singing the phrases that he would be the most electric signal caller that Oregon has ever seen.  Along with plenty of skilled position fire power, the offensive philosophies of HC Kelly, tune in tonight to see whether Oregon can maintain its lead or whether Ark State comes flying through the backdoor with Malzahn and Aplin  Lean:  Oregon

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