Tailgate Pick ‘Em Week 1 Predictions Including Washington vs Auburn

Washington vs Auburn
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The College Football season is finally here and our panelists Yesh Ginsburg, John Bava, Mike Loveall, Steen Kirby, and Lukas Weese are on hand to preview and predict the biggest games of the week against the spread. Here are your games for kickoff weekend.

Florida Atlantic vs #7 Oklahoma (Saturday at noon in Norman, OK)
Line: Oklahoma by 21

Yesh Ginsburg: Oklahoma has a surprising track record of scheduling–and losing to–good mid-major teams, going back decades. I don’t think that FAU has the overall talent to beat Oklahoma, but they have the firepower and a stingy enough defense to keep this game close. The spread is just way too high. Oklahoma 38, FAU 24

Mike Loveall: The Sooners begin the post-Baker Mayfield era with an interesting match-up with the Fighting Kiffins from Boca Raton. FAU finished last season on a roll, winning their last ten games and putting up some incredible offensive numbers. With another year in charge, and plenty of time to gameplan against a questionable defense, it’s hard to take 21 points against the Owls.  Oklahoma 52, FAU 38

Steen Kirby: FAU will have a chance at the G5 conference spot in the New Year’s Six Bowl Games, and if they pull off an upset here their odds will be strengthened immensely. Lane Kiffin has built up a mid major winner in South Florida and I have a feeling the high scoring Owls will beat the spread here. That said, Oklahoma is the better team and has plenty of their own firepower, I’ll back the Sooners at home in a shootout between quality teams. Oklahoma 49, FAU 35

John Bava: It’s a new era at quarterback for both these teams, most notably at Oklahoma with last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield off to the Cleveland Browns. Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley is going with Kyler Murray while the Owls’ Lane Kiffin has been mum on who starts in Norman. The battle to start is between Chris Robison and De’Andre Johnson, two players who arrived at FAU after off-field issues elsewhere. In Robison’s case, they came at Oklahoma and resulted in him getting dismissed from the team.

The Sooners return six starters on offense including wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown. That should give Murray some good targets right off the bat who can go up and get the ball. Three of those returnees are on the offensive line which should pave the way for running back Rodney Anderson to have a big day against a run defense which ranked 57th nationally last season. Oklahoma 49, FAU 17

Lukas: Oklahoma is one of the best teams in the country. Kyler Murray will fill the void of Baker Mayfield at quarterback, trying to lead this explosive offence back to the College Football Playoff. FAU will not be able to keep up with the Sooners as Oklahoma dominates to their first win. Oklahoma 42, FAU 7

#6 Washington vs #9 Auburn (Saturday at 3:30 in Atlanta, GA) Line: Auburn by 1.5

Yesh: This should be one heck of a game. It’s a neutral site but about 2,000 miles closer to Auburn. Still, Washington and Chris Petersen want to get back to the College Football Playoff. Auburn might have better big-name players, but Washington is better-coached and a more cohesive team on the whole. Washington 37, Auburn 31

Mike: The only top ten match-up of opening weekend pits Auburn against Pac-12 favorite Washington in Atlanta. Only two hours away from Auburn’s campus, the Tigers will have the crowd and the experience after playing in this building in its previous two games (Peach Bowl, SEC Championship). But neither of those games turned out great. Washington has a lot of talent, and this is the best shot Washington will have to make the CFP. Chris Petersen is proven when he has time to prepare his team. Washington 27, Auburn 24

Steen: The game of the week in college football. Both of these teams are playoff contenders with Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin returning for the Huskies and Auburn returning a fearsome defense. This game is a measuring stick for both teams and given I have Auburn having the better season I’ll back the Tigers in a close game. Auburn 24, Washington 21

John: This is arguably the best game of Week One. The Huskies are a trendy pick to make the CFP for the second time in three years, while Auburn’s top 10 ranking indicates they’re looked at as a dark horse themselves. But Chris Petersen’s fifth year at the helm begins with a stern test with Saturday’s clash a de facto home game for his opponent at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

It seems like Jake Browning has been Washington’s quarterback forever and this is indeed his senior season. He’ll look to get it off to a good start but it won’t be easy against an Auburn defense which returns their entire defensive line, a unit that helped the Tigers finish top 20 nationally in sacks. Browning’s counterpart for Auburn, Jarrett Stidham, is looked at as an NFL-caliber signal caller with Phil Steele ranking him as the third best draft-eligible prospect heading into 2018.

Expect a low-scoring defensive slugfest in which the Tigers drop the Huskies to 3-11 all-time against SEC schools. Auburn 20, Washington 13

Lukas: Get ready for a defensive slugfest with Washington and Auburn. Last season, the Tigers held opponents to just 18.3 points per game and a 3.6-per carry rushing yield. Washington enjoys the reality of having nine defensive starters return from last season. It will be close but I like Gus Malzahn’s Tigers to take this game. Auburn 21, Washington 17

Tennessee vs #17 West Virginia (Saturday at 3:30 in Charlotte, NC) Line: West Virginia by 10

Yesh: This line is based solely on Jeremy Pruitt hype. Tennessee has been pretty bad for quite a while, and West Virginia should probably be a CFP dark horse. Expect this to turn into a blowout in the second half. West Virginia 45, Tennessee 21

Mike: The Mountaineers are hoping to finally take the next step in the Big 12. They’ve got talent, at least on the offensive side of the ball. And they are darling picks among the media this offseason. But the metrics don’t quite support the PR out of Morgantown. Tennessee is coming out of a turbulent off-season and yet another coaching change. But as bad as the off-season was, there’s still a lot of talent in Knoxville. In the battle of Country Roads versus Rocky Top, this line is lacking a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the Vols. West Virginia 35, Tennessee 28

Steen: Tennessee fans are hoping that new coach Jeremy Pruitt can return them to the top of college football after years in purgatory. West Virginia fans have gotten a bit restless with Dana Holgorsen but hopes are again high for the Mountaineers. The West Virginia passing attack features plenty of talent with QB Will Grier and David Sills at WR while Tennessee debuts a new QB and likely a new look side overall as they seek a fresh start. The result of this game won’t reflect Tennessee’s long term trajectory but West Virginia should run away with this one. West Virginia 35, Tennessee 17

John: Saturday’s clash at the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers harkens the beginning of the Jeremy Pruitt era in Knoxville. The former Alabama defensive coordinator is hoping his Vols can pull off the upset against a Mountaineer team expected to have one of the most explosive offenses in college football. It’s led by quarterback Will Grier who’s a preseason Heisman candidate and familiar to Tennessee fans. Grier was originally at Florida before transferring to WVU. And his 63-yard pass to Antonio Callaway in 2015 late in the fourth quarter resulted in a heartbreaking 28-27 loss for the Vols.

Questions abound at quarterback for Tennessee. Pruitt has the option of starting either Stanford transfer Keller Chryst or redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano. The latter split time with Quinten Dormady last year but didn’t exactly light things up considering the Vols managed 11 passing touchdowns last year which ranked 109th in FBS. Their pass defense was one of the few bright spots as they allowed the fewest yards through the air in the SEC in 2017. They’ll have to rely on that element of the defense to slow down the Mountaineers. In the words of Lee Corso, this one will be “closer than the experts think.” West Virginia 31, Tennessee 24

Lukas: West Virginia gets its opportunity to start its season on the right foot with a matchup against Tennessee. Tennessee is trying to bounce back after a disappointing season of 4-8. West Virginia features a star studded offence led by quarterback Will Grier and David Sills V, who caught a 60 passes and 18 TD passes last year. I like the Mountaineers to take this game. West Virginia 27, Tennessee 14

#14 Michigan vs #12 Notre Dame (Saturday at 7:30 in Notre Dame, IN) Line: Notre Dame by 1

Yesh: Both teams have a ton of talent all over the field. This should be the best game of Week 1, and it will probably come down to just one play here or there. Notre Dame has the more experienced offense and quarterback. Shea Patterson will need a bit of time to fit in at Michigan, and that will be the difference here. Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24

Mike: It’s a make or break season for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Harbaugh finally has his franchise quarterback in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. It’s time to see some dividends from the hype and cash invested in the mercurial Michigan man. Conversely, it seems that Brian Kelly has finally settled in at Notre Dame a little bit. The Irish return much of their core, including quarterback Brandon Wimbush. If Wimbush can be effective through the air, Notre Dame has a legitimate shot at the CFP this season. Notre Dame 31, Michigan 20

Steen: Two blue blood programs from the Midwest will square off in a rare marquee on campus game in week 1. Michigan boasts an impressive defense that should keep this game low scoring, while Notre Dame returns enough talent that they are hoping to move off of the bubble and turn into playoff contenders. New Wolverine QB Shea Patterson is the x factor here, if he has a good season and it starts in this game, Michigan’s ceiling could result in a BIG 10 title. Look for Notre Dame to come up short in another big game. Michigan 24, Notre Dame 21

John: Is this the year Jim Harbaugh finally gets Michigan over the hump and into national title contention? The answer to that question will come right off the bat as the Wolverines face a road test in South Bend against Notre Dame. It should be an evenly matched contest if the preseason rankings are any indication. One thing is for certain. It’s a shame that this game isn’t played annually anymore. The good thing is that they renew pleasantries once again in 2019.

If you’re a fan of old school, smash-mouth football, tune into this one. The Wolverines and Fighting Irish return a combined 19 starters on the defensive side of the football. ND may struggle to run the ball having lost Josh Adams to the NFL while facing an experienced Michigan run defense that was 17th nationally in rushing yards allowed last year. The big question for Michigan surrounds whether Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson can reverse the trend of mediocre quarterback play that’s been a frustrating staple of the Harbaugh era. ND gave UM a 31-0 spanking the last time these two teams met back in 2014. This one will be a lot closer even though the Blue and Gold inevitably come out on top once more. Notre Dame 20, Michigan 17

Lukas: This is the game of the week. Both seasons for Notre Dame and Michigan hang in the balance with this first game. This is one of the most storied rivalries in college football and will be renewed under the lights in South Bend, featuring two of the top defenses in the country. Michigan has 10 starters returning on defense, with many destined to appear in the NFL. Nine starters are returning to the Fighting Irish defense, who was 31st in scoring defense. It will be close but I think Michigan’s offence is incredibly underrated. Wolverines QB Shea Patterson makes a late play to give the Wolverines their first win of the season in an upset. Michigan 27, Notre Dame 24

#8 Miami vs #25 LSU (Saturday at 7:30 in Arlington, TX)
Line: Miami by 3.5

Yesh: LSU always has a ton of talent, but recently they haven’t done much with it. They might have some advantages over Miami in the trenches, but Miami has a huge advantage on the sidelines. I’ll take Mark Richt over Ed Orgeron every time. Miami 31, LSU 14

Mike: Miami hopes to capitalize on stellar 2017 season and keep the program moving forward into 2018. The Canes return experienced talent at several key positions, and an opening weekend win against an SEC opponent will definitely help them come December. LSU, always with talent, is dealing with the same issues as they have for the past five seasons. Have they finally found their quarterback? This game is a mirror of the coaches: Miami hoping to get past “10 win Richt” and LSU trying to get Ed Orgeron off the hot seat on game one. And just like the coaches, Miami is better in this one. Miami 31, LSU 14

Steen: LSU debuts transfer QB Joe Burrows while Miami enters this season hoping to win the ACC and make the college football playoff. Despite the difference in ranking Miami is just a small favorite in this one. The question about LSU has always been can they capitalize on their talent base, rather than whether they have talent at all. Miami meanwhile has positioned themselves as ACC contenders under Mark Richt. This should be a great game with favorites Miami positioned to win and beat the spread. Miami 24, LSU 17

John: JerryWorld will be the site of this tussle between two squads looking to return to national relevance. Miami looked to be there last year when they got off to a 10-0 start and were ranked as high as two in the CFP poll. Then Pittsburgh pulled off an upset and Clemson blew them out in the ACC title game. LSU suffered one of its most embarrassing defeats when they lost to Troy at home but closed the regular season on a high note, winning six of seven with the only loss coming to eventual national champions Alabama.

Miami seems closer to CFP viability in year three of the Mark Richt era. They come into this game ranked eighth in the nation and boast a highly experienced quarterback in fifth-year senior Malik Rosier. Joe Burrow, who transferred to LSU from Ohio State, brings promise but at the same time uncertainty. The “turnover chain” became the talk of college football last year and three players who combined for 10 interceptions last year, Jaquon Johnson, Michael Jackson and Sheldrick Redwine, all return for the Canes. That doesn’t bode well for an inexperienced quarterback. Miami 34, LSU 23

Lukas: Miami will be taking on LSU under the lights in Arlington. Both schools are trying to get back in the national conversation as College Football Playoff contenders. Miami had a fantastic season last year winning 10 games until losing the regular season finale to Pittsburgh. LSU had a disappointing season last year trying to bounce back in the SEC. It will be close but the Hurricanes have talented players on both sides of the ball to take control of this game. The U starts 1-0 with a solid win in Texas. Miami 24, LSU 21

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