Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Well folks, the long, national nightmare is over. That’s right, after eight long months and a couple games to whet our appetites in Week 0, college football is back. Really, unequivocally back, with a full slate of Week 1 games. And not a moment too soon. There is only so much regular season baseball a man can take after all.
And with the return of college football, you know what that means – it’s also the return of my weekly college football picks! If you followed last season, you know that the picks were on fire, hitting right around 60 percent over the course of the season. And we went 1-0 in Week 0 last week, with the Florida-Miami UNDER which I gave out on the Aaron Torres Sports Instagram page on Saturday morning (shout out to the Miami o-line, which might just have had the worst performance of any unit, any where in college football this season... and did it all before Week 1 even started. That my friends, is an accomplishment).
Now those of you that are new to the picks, a quick reminder: Every week I give you the 5-6 picks that I absolutely love for and against the spread. To be clear, I’m not necessarily picking the 5-6 biggest games (Sorry, that’s for suckers) but instead, the places that I believe the most cash can be made.
So with that, let’s get to the picks, but before I do, a couple notes.
One, after posting the picks directly to my personal Facebook page (which you can still link to here), this year I am posting them here, on my new and improved personal homepage. This is where the picks will be every week, so bookmark this page here for my weekly picks, as well as any other articles I decide to write. Also, if you're curious as to why I have a personal page to begin with, please click here.
Two, this year’s picks will be presented exclusively by MyBookie.AG. By the way, if you’re gambling this weekend, make sure to use My Bookie and use promo code “Torres” at check out to receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus.
Oh, and if you like the picks, I will also be doing a college football preview Periscope every Saturday morning – so make sure and follow me on Twitter to get linked up there.
Anyway, enough fluff it’s time to get to the picks.
UCLA at Cincinnati (UNDER 60 ½, now 59 ½): Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
There’s an old saying in life, that “Betting the Under in the opening game, on the Thursday of the first full weekend of college football, is like kissing your sister” – but I don’t buy it.
At least not in this case.
This game is tailor-made to go under.
On the one hand you have Cincinnati, which is an old-school, grind it out team, that would love nothing more than to stuff the ball down your throat, control the line of scrimmage and bleed the clock from the first minute of the game until last. Luke Fickell would win every game 12-9 if he could. The stats back it up: Cincinnati ranked No. 15 in total defense a year ago, No. 8 in time of possession and No. 8 in scoring defense. Does this seem like the kind of team that wants to go up and down the field against UCLA in a shootout?
Speaking of the Bruins, let’s give them a little bit of credit. They were probably a bit better than their 3-9 record looked last season, and they picked things up averaging 38 points over the final two games of the season. Still, on the road, in a hostile environment at Nippert Stadium, I just can’t see Chip Kelly getting crazy aggressive. Especially against a really good Cincinnati defense.
To me, this will be one of the fun, early season games anywhere in college football. But I’d be somewhat shocked if either team breaks 30.
Enjoy the under on this one.
Georgia Tech at Clemson (-35 ½, now -36): Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network
If you’ve read my work or listened to my podcast this summer (and if you haven’t, shame on you – you can subscribe here) you know that I’m not totally, 100 percent on board with Clemson being this invincible juggernaut that is going to boat race the entire college football world this season. Sure, the Tigers are the defending champs and Trevor Lawrence is back. But they also lost a ton on defense, specifically on the d-line where they had three separate guys selected in the first round.
Point being, Clemson isn’t invincible.
But if they can be exposed, this isn’t the game we see it.
First off, it’s opening night, at home in Death Valley, coming off a championships season. So you know the Tigers and their fans are going to be amped.
More importantly, they are playing the best possible opponent to celebrate in style. Georgia Tech comes to town in a season where they aren’t just “rebuilding” – they’ve literally torn down their entire program and are building it back from the ground up. Remember, this was a program that ran the triple option for years. Now Geoff Collins is there and wants to run old-school, smash-mouth football in Atlanta.
Of course the problem is that everyone on the team was recruited to run the triple-option. None were recruited to play smash mouth football. Which is bad enough. What makes it even worse is that on top of the new system, the Jackets also experienced a major talent drain, where they lost their quarterback, top three receivers and three o-linemen off last year’s team.
So when you take one team which already has a significant talent advantage (Clemson), put them at home in front of an emotional crowd, and oh by the way, the other team is completely rebuilding with personnel that doesn’t fit the new coach’s scheme, what do you get?
Pain, lots of pain. And an easy Clemson cover.
Tulsa at Michigan State (-22 ½, now -23): Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET, FS1
Quietly I actually think Michigan State might be the best team in the Big Ten – the only reason I’m hesitant to take them to win the league is because they have to play both Ohio State and Michigan on the road. Not ideal.
But I do like them here, and let me tell you why: The Spartans were absolutely lethal on defense last year, ranking in the Top 10 in both scoring defense and total defense. They return eight starters on that side of the ball this year. The problem was offense, where they ranked 126th nationally, including a putrid three-game stretch where they scored six points or fewer in three or their final four games. The one game they went above six points? They scored 14 against…Rutgers.
Except here’s the thing to know: Yes, the Spartans’ defense was terrible. But it directly coincided with an injury to quarterback Brian Lewerke in the Penn State game. Prior the injury Michigan State was averaging a respectable 27 points per game. After he got hurt, they averaged closer to 11. Now admittedly, they played easier competition earlier in the season. Still, it was clear they were a different team when Lewerke was healthy.
Anyway, this is a long winded way of me saying that Michigan State’s defense will be elite this season and their offense should be much improved. Against an average Tulsa team they should easily cover here, a sign of things to come this season.
Duke vs. Alabama (-33 ½, now -35): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
In life, there are just a few certainties. Death. Taxes. Ed Orgeron saying one unintelligible thing after another. And Nick Saban coached teams completely obliterating opponents with more than one week to prepare.
At this point it isn’t my opinion. It’s science. Just ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Look, while I have a ton of respect for David Cutcliffe, Alabama is better at just about every position on the field than Duke. The Tide are also coming off a season where they averaged 45 points per game – and might actually be better this year than they were a season ago. Plus, you just know Bama is going to be fired up to get back on the field for the first time since that humiliating loss to Clemson.
The Tide are always big and mean, and for the first time in a long time they had a chip on their shoulder this off-season. That is baaaaaaad news for the Blue Devils.
Auburn vs. Oregon (UNDER 57, now UNDER 55 ½ ): Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Truthfully, I think either team could win this game, so I’m going to stay away from guessing it straight up. Instead I’m going to do what I believe is a much smarter play and grab the under.
There are two reasons, really.
First, from Auburn’s side, their defense is nasty (they legit might have the best defensive line in the country) but the one thing that no one is quite sure of is the offense. Regardless of who starts at quarterback on opening night for them (whether it’s Joey Gatewood or Bo Nix) neither has major college experience, and with Gus Malzahn calling plays I expect him to be cautious.
On the flip side, this just might be the best defense Oregon sees all year. No disrespect to the Pac-12, but they simply don’t have very many defenses quite this one out West. Washington (which Herbert struggled against last year), maybe Utah and that’s it. Herbert also struggled against Michigan State’s elite defense during bowl season last year as well.
Point being, I’d be shocked if either team breaks 28 points in this game. Which is why the UNDER is the way to go.
Fresno State at USC (-13 ½): Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
For all the angst about USC’s 5-7 season a year ago, here is one thing that no one remembers: In each of their last three games, USC actually had the lead at halftime… and still managed to lose those three games. That included the season finale against Notre Dame, where USC led at halftime and managed to fall apart down the stretch.
And for those of you who don’t remember, that is the same Notre Dame who eventually went to the College Football Playoff.
To which I ask: How different would last season seem if USC had won say, two of those final three games (which again, they could have)? How much different would the conversation be if the Trojans went 7-5 last year instead of 5-7?
Which is why I like the Trojans here. As bad as everyone remembers USC being a season ago, they actually weren’t quite so terrible. And after an off-season of dealing with a city full of doubters, I think they’ll be excited to prove people wrong on opening night. The fact that they’re playing a Fresno State team that returns just two starters on offense certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Down the road things could get tough for USC, and with a BRUTAL September and early October schedule there is a chance that Clay Helton could be out before Halloween.
But for one night the Coliseum will be rocking like its 2002 all over again!
Houston at Oklahoma (OVER 80, now 82 ½): Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Before you freak out at the number being insanely high (which it is), just know that it actually started at 79 ½ and was bet up. So if the sharps in Vegas like it to go over, so do I.
But there are also a few other factors to consider as well.
One, let’s just go ahead and assume that 45 points is going to be the minimum Oklahoma scores this game. It sounds preposterous, but keep in mind, the Sooners hit 45 points on 10 different occasions last year. Yes, you read that correctly: Oklahoma scored at least 45 points… TEN… DIFFERENT… TIMES…
By the way, did I mention that Houston ranked 118th in scoring defense last year? Which probably means the baseline should be much higher than 45.
Really though, you know why I like the over here? It’s because of the Cougars. For those of you who have forgotten, do you know who Houston’s new coach is? Dana Holgorsen. And do you know where Dana Holgorsen came from? West Virginia, a team which put up 56 points on Oklahoma last year. Also, do you know how many f***ks Dana Holgorsen gives? Zero. This guy is at a new school, with a fat new contract, against a team that he’s really familiar with and not afraid of.
In the end, I actually think Oklahoma’s defense could be improved this season. I’m just not sure this is the game we see it.
I’ll take the points in this one.