By: Zack Schlegel
#16 Auburn vs. #11 Oregon (AT&T Stadium)
Betting Line: Auburn -3.5, o/u: 55.5
Date: August 31st, 4:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: 2011, 22-19 Auburn (BCS National Championship)
Now that the highly anticipated Florida vs. Miami game has concluded, we can look ahead to possibly the most exciting game of college football week 1. The Oregon Ducks come into 2019 with very high expectations. They return senior QB Justin Herbert, arguably one of the best offensive lines in the country, and loads of experience on defense. A major disappointment for the Ducks over the last month has been the injury bug they’ve sustained at wide receiver. Brenden Schooler, JR Waters, and Mycah Pittman will all miss roughly six weeks of action. TE Cam McCormick is also dealing with an ankle injury and it is unclear if he will play against Auburn.
Oregon will need to rely on their new found attitude of toughness and physicality that head coach Mario Cristobal has established in Eugene. They’ll be facing an Auburn defense which boasts one of the best defensive lines in the country, and all four starters returning in the secondary. The good news for Ducks fans is that Auburn will be starting a true freshman at QB, Bo Nix. This is not to take anything away from Nix’s talent and ability, but starting your first college football game on national television at AT&T Stadium against the #11 team in the country is no easy test. Auburn will look to shut down any sign of an early Oregon run game, and then try to make life difficult for Herbert by applying pressure in the passing game. Oregon cannot let themselves consistently get into 3rd-and-long situations and risk giving up an early lead against this Auburn defense.
The last time these two teams played was in the 2011 BCS National Championship game. Both teams were coming off undefeated regular seasons, and Chip Kelly’s blur offense was taking the college football world by storm. The Ducks did a decent job against Heisman Trophy winning QB Cam Newton (36.4 QBR), but a controversial run by Michael Dyer in the waning minutes of the game set up a game-winning field goal by the Tigers. Auburn won 22-19.
Leans: Oregon +3.5 and Under 55.5
Northwestern @ #25 Stanford
Betting Line: Stanford -6.5, o/u: 47
Date: August 31st, 1 p.m.
Last Meeting: 2015, 16-6 Northwestern
The Cardinal begin the season ranked 25th in the opening AP Polls, but this may be the most questionable Stanford team in the David Shaw era. Vegas has their win total set at just 6.5 — note that the Cardinal haven’t finished a season with less than 8 wins since 2008. Clocking a team in at 25th in the nation when their win total suggests barely making a bowl game seems a little odd, don’t you think? Senior QB K.J. Costello will be looking to prove the doubters wrong this season, coming off of a solid 2018 season (3,540 yards, 29 TD’s, and 11 INT’s). Costello won’t have Bryce Love in the backfield anymore, but senior RB Cameron Scarlett and big TE Colby Parkinson will be dangerous for the Cardinal offense.
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is entering his 14th season with the Wildcats and has done a tremendous job. In 2018, the Wildcats went 8-1 in conference play, won the Big Ten West, and made the Big Ten Championship game. QB Clayton Thorson is now gone, but Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson steps in to compete for the starting role against senior TJ Green. As of this minute, there is no further separation between the two on the depth chart. The area of concern for Northwestern is on the offensive line which needs to replace three starters from a year ago, and ranked dead last in the conference in sacks allowed.
The last time these two teams played was in 2015, when Northwestern’s defense shut down Christian McCaffrey and the Cardinal offense on their way to a 16-6 home win. Stanford went on to win the Rose Bowl that season, and the early loss arguably cost them a shot at the College Football Playoff.
Leans: Northwestern +6.5 and Under 47
Virginia Tech @ Boston College
Betting Line: Virginia Tech -4, o/u: 57
Coverage: ESPN, ACC Network
Last Meeting: 2018, 31-21 Boston College
The Hokies are coming off of what was looked at as a disappointing 6-6 season in 2018. Bud Foster’s defense lost five projected starters before or within the first few weeks of the season. In 2019, Virginia Tech returns the most defensive production in the country (96%). Head coach Justin Fuente enters his fourth season, and will have senior QB Ryan Willis leading the offense. Willis started 10 games in 2018 after Josh Jackson went down with an injury. Their 106th ranked rushing defense from a year ago will likely improve with three of their four starting defensive linemen returning.
VT’s run defense will be one of the keys to the game, as they look to limit the production of Boston College’s junior RB, AJ Dillon. Dillon is coming off of back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons for the Eagles, and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry for his career. In addition to the explosive Dillon, BC’s offense will also be led by junior QB Anthony Brown. Brown helped the Eagles get off to a 7-2 start in 2018, before dropping their final three games. He posted an adjusted completion percentage of 51.9% on throws of 20 or more yards last season (best among all active ACC QB’s).
The last time these two teams met was just a year ago. Boston College trailed by a touchdown at halftime, before scoring 21 straight points and holding on for a 31-21 victory in Blacksburg, VA. The Eagles ground game dominated, with AJ Dillon and Travis Levy rushing for a combined 171 yards and 3 TD’s.
Leans: Virginia Tech -4 and Under 57
Houston @ #4 Oklahoma
Betting Line: Oklahoma -23.5, o/u: 83
Date: September 1st, 4:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: 2016, 33-21 Houston
Former West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen makes his way back over to Houston, where he had been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2008-09. Holgorsen is no stranger to Oklahoma, having played them seven times during his eight seasons with the Mountaineers. Unfortunately, he is 0-7 against the Sooners in those games. Both Houston and Oklahoma ranked near the bottom of college football in yards allowed on defense in 2018, and Houston will enter 2019 without the help of star DT Ed Oliver, as well as five of their top seven tacklers.
All eyes will be on the offensive side of the ball for both teams in this match-up. Houston’s D’Eriq King and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, are two of the most exciting quarterbacks in the country. King is a senior this season with a plethora of receiving talent around him. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards and accounted for 50 total TD’s in 2018 (36 passing, 14 rushing). Hurts took advantage of the transfer portal after spending three seasons with Alabama, accounting for 71 total TD’s during that time. The last two Heisman Trophy winners were Oklahoma QB’s (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray). Sooner fans hope that Hurts could be the third. His current Heisman odds are set at 12-1.
The last time these two teams met was in 2016. Houston won 33-21 in NRG Stadium (Houston, TX). The Cougars were 11.5-point underdogs in that match-up, and got the best of a number of current NFL starters. Baker Mayfield, Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook and Mark Andrews, just to name a few.
Leans: Houston +23.5 and Over 83
#13 Wisconsin @ South Florida
Betting Line: Wisconsin -13, o/u: 57.5
Date: August 30th, 4 p.m.
Last Meeting: 2014, 27-10 Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Badgers fell short of some lofty expectations in 2018, but finished the season on a high note, clobbering Miami 35-3 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Jack Coan was the QB for the Badgers in that game, and was also named the starter for 2019, as Alex Hornibrook transferred to Florida State. One thing is certain, projected preseason All-American RB Jonathan Taylor will be back after rushing for 2,194 yards in 2018. Taylor has averaged 6.8 yards per carry in his career at Wisconsin, and is once again a Heisman hopeful (25-1 odds). Theoretically, he should have a field day against the Bulls rush defense that ranked 122nd in the nation in 2018, allowing 247 yards per game.
South Florida head coach Charlie Strong enters his third season with the Bulls, coming off of a disastrous ending to their 2018 campaign. USF started the season with a perfect 7-0 record before dropping their final six games, including their bowl against Marshall. Senior QB Blake Barnett spent time with both Alabama and Arizona State, before finally settling in at South Florida. Barnett will have veteran play-makers around him, including Michigan transfer WR Eddie McDoom who sat out all of last season. McDoom is poised to make an impact in new offensive coordinator Kerwin Bell’s system.
The last time these two teams played was in 2014. Wisconsin had a two-headed monster in the backfield carrying the load. Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement carried the ball a combined 48 times for 258 yards and 2 TD’s. Although the game was tied 3-3 at halftime, the Badgers pulled away and asserted their dominance in the second half on their way to a 27-10 win.
Leans: Wisconsin -13 and Under 57.5
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