I like the NFL, too, but I've always preferred the college game. Maybe I owe it to my father. He's that way, too. Or maybe it's because of where I grew up. In Arkansas, there is no professional team. The University of Arkansas' Razorbacks fill that role.
Well, whatever the reason may be, football is back. Let the games begin. Oh, and for you new readers. I don't pick against the spread, which means I tend to have great weeks in the nonconference portion of the season, not so much when conference play begins. Anyway, it's all in fun. I don't encourage anyone to gamble — and certainly not on the basis of anything I have to say.
- #9 South Carolina at #21 Texas A&M, 5 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: This will be the first–ever meeting between these two schools, but it won't be the last. Under the new arrangement, they will face each other every year as regular non–divisional foes.
The Aggies have a lot of questions at the QB position. Since the now–departed Johnny Manziel was responsible for most of A&M's wins in the last couple of years, that's a pretty serious question mark. I don't think the Aggies will answer them tonight. I pick South Carolina.
- Boise State vs. #18 Ole Miss in Atlanta, 7 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: Another first. In the old days, it would be regarded as a mismatch. It may still turn out that way. But I pick Ole Miss to win what could be a close game.
- Weber State at #19 Arizona State, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: This one, on the other hand, really should be a mismatch. Arizona State should have no trouble.
- Jacksonville State at #8 Michigan State, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: Likewise, Michigan State should have little to no difficulty subduing Jacksonville State.
- Oklahoma State vs. #1 Florida State in Arlington, Texas, 7 p.m. (Central) on ABC: It's been nearly 30 years since the last time these teams met (in the 1985 Gator Bowl), and it's been 55 years since the Cowboys beat the Seminoles (in the 1958 Bluegrass Bowl).
The Cowboys were good last year, good enough to hand previously unbeaten Baylor its first loss of the season, but defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston should be too much for OSU. I'll take Florida State at home.
- West Virginia vs. #2 Alabama in Atlanta, 2:30 (Central) on ABC: First–ever meeting. Logic says Alabama should win — and so do I. West Virginia isn't all that far removed from 10–plus win seasons — but it has been a couple of years now, years in which Alabama was in the thick of the national championship fight.
In fact, Alabama has won 10 or more (usually more) in six straight seasons. It reminds me of the days when Bear Bryant prowled the sidelines.
- South Dakota at #3 Oregon, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: Lots of folks are saying the Ducks will play for the national title. Maybe they will. If they are that good, they won't have any trouble with South Dakota. I pick Oregon.
- Louisiana Tech at #4 Oklahoma: First–ever meeting. I wouldn't be surprised if Louisiana Tech doesn't want to make another trip to Norman when this one is over.
Tech is coming off a 4–8 season, the Bulldogs' fifth losing season in the last eight years. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has been in the BCS conversation the last four seasons. The Sooners' most recent game was their Sugar Bowl triumph over Alabama. I have to pick Oklahoma.
- #5 Ohio State vs. Navy in Baltimore, 11 a.m. (Central) on CBS Sports Network: Ohio State has never played at Navy, but the teams have met before — four times, in fact, and the Buckeyes won them all.
Ohio State did play Navy at Baltimore once, but that was the closest they've come, and nothing changes this time. Still not going to Annapolis. Same outcome, though. Ohio State will win.
- Arkansas at #6 Auburn, 3 p.m. (Central) on SEC Network: This will be the 24th time these schools have faced each other. Their first meeting was back in the 1984 Liberty Bowl; all the other meetings have been as SEC rivals.
Auburn holds a narrow advantage (11–10–1) in those conference clashes. As a graduate of Arkansas, I would love to see the Razorbacks even the conference score with Auburn, but I know they won't. Auburn played for the national title last year; Arkansas didn't even win a conference game (losing to Auburn, 35–17, in the process).
Historically, Arkansas has enjoyed some success at Auburn, winning in four of the Hogs' last six visits, but I can't imagine that they will make it five of their last seven. Auburn will win.
- #7 UCLA at Virginia, 11 a.m. (Central) on ESPN: First–ever meeting. Virginia has had winning seasons only twice in the last eight years. It hasn't been so long since UCLA struggled, too, but the Bruins have developed a taste for winning the last couple of seasons. I pick UCLA to win a contest that may be closer than many people think.
- UC–Davis at #11 Stanford, 3 p.m. (Central) on Pac–12 Network: I've got to wonder if UC–Davis' football team has ever been on TV before. I doubt that UC–Davis will be anxious to repeat the experience after Saturday's game. Got to go with Stanford.
- #16 Clemson at #12 Georgia, 4:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: For such a rivalry, the series tilts heavily in one direction. Georgia has beaten Clemson more than twice as many times as the Bulldogs have lost to the Tigers.
But Clemson upset the Bulldogs last season, snapping a five–game losing streak. I'd like to think lightning can strike twice, but it's been more than a quarter of a century since Clemson beat Georgia in back–to–back seasons. Before that, you'd have to go back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt — and Barack Obama is no T.R. I pick Georgia.
- #14 Wisconsin vs. #13 LSU in Houston, 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN: This one really has the potential to be a good game. These teams met twice in the early '70s, and LSU won both.
But that was 40 years ago. And, while I have more friends who went to LSU than to Wisconsin, I'm going to pick Wisconsin in an upset.
- Fresno State at #15 Southern Cal, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox: This will be the fourth meeting between these schools, and Fresno State did actually win once — in the 1992 Freedom Bowl. USC won the last two, including last year's Las Vegas Bowl.
Fresno should make it competitive for awhile, but I have to pick Southern Cal to win.
- Rice at #17 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on NBC: The bad news for Rice is that this is the fifth time the Owls have played Notre Dame, and they have lost each of those games. However, the good news is that these schools haven't played each other in more than a quarter of a century.
That probably won't matter. I'll take Notre Dame. Heck, if Rice scores 12 points, it will be something of a moral victory for the Owls. Eleven points is their high–water mark in this series.
- Stephen F. Austin at #20 Kansas State: I have to take Kansas State in this one. How can I not?
- Florida Atlantic at #22 Nebraska, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on Big Ten Network: These teams met once before, in the first week of September 2009. Nebraska rolled to victory. I don't know if the Cornhuskers will roll this time, but I will pick Nebraska to win.
- Liberty at #23 North Carolina: I don't know how good North Carolina is this year, but the Tar Heels must be good enough to beat Liberty. I'll take North Carolina.
- South Dakota State at #24 Missouri, 2:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPNU: I think Missouri is going be coming back to earth this season after playing for last year's SEC crown, but this game should belong to Missouri. The comeuppance will come another day.
- #25 Washington at Hawaii, 9:30 p.m. (Central) on CBS Sports Network: I'm not really sure how I feel about the Huskies. I suppose we will learn a lot from watching how they respond to traveling through a couple of time zones to open the season.
The all–time series is tied at 2–2, but it took Washington's win in their last meeting — in 2011 — to accomplish it. Now the Huskies seek something they haven't had since 1973 — the series advantage.
Hawaii has won only nine times since that game with Washington — and five of those victories came in that 2011 season. Hawaii has not been very good in the last couple of seasons. It is hard to imagine the kind of improvement that would be necessary to win this game. I take Washington.
- SMU at #10 Baylor, 6:30 p.m. (Central) on Fox Sports: Back in their Southwest Conference days, this was a pretty competitive series. It should be a better game than most of the meetings between those schools were when they were conference rivals, and Baylor will be showing off a brand–new stadium. I have to take Baylor.