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S. Carolina (-2-) vs. N. Carolina 6:00 ET ESPN (Charlotte, NC)

S. Carolina meets N. Carolina in the opening game of the 2015 CFB season. The game will be contested in Charlotte, NC at the home of the Carolina Panthers. This is a true neutral site with Charlotte virtually equal distance between Columbia, SC and Chapel Hill, NC. This is the 3rd consecutive season that S. Carolina, under HC Spurrier will appear in the lid-lifter game. Two years ago, the Gamecocks defeated N. Carolina in this contest (27-10) as an 11 point favorite. Last year, as 9 point underdog, the Gamecocks lost 52-28 to Texas A&M. It proved to be a microcosm of the defensive season for the Gamecocks. In the previous 3 seasons, S. Carolina allowed less than a cumulative 19 PPG, while authoring 3 consecutive 11-2 SU seasons. Those all culminated with Bowl victories. Last year, despite 6 defensive starters returning to the fold, S. Carolina allowed an uncharacteristic 30 PPG on 433 YPG. That included 212/5.4 overland and a 200/200 Club defensive season. Along the way, the defense surrendered 3 double-digit 4th quarter leads, which led to S. Carolina finishing the year at 7-6 SU, 5-7 ATS. Consider it to be a major bounce back season for S. Carolina under 11th year HC Spurrier. Nine returning defensive starters will be entrusted with the task of returning the Gamecocks to the defensive standards of old. Guiding the group will be new DC Jon Hoke. Combined with a trio of JUCO linemen, it will be a turnaround season for the S. Carolina defense. QB Mitch, who is highly touted, takes the reins of a S. Carolina offense which returns just 4 starters. Expect Mitch to have great success against a N. Carolina defense that was even worse than the Gamecocks last season.

In the first 2 years, under 4th year HC Fedora, the Tar Heels allowed an average of 25 PPG. Last year, the bottom fell out on the defensive side of the ball. In what many feel was the worst N. Carolina defense ever, the Tar Heels allowed a whopping 39 PPG, including 241 yards or more, both rushing and passing. And that was with 7 returning starters! Again, this year, N. Carolina will return 7 starters to the defensive side of the ball (is that good or bad?!). Along with 10 returning offensive starters, led by QB Williams, this Tar Heel team is now one of the most veteran experienced teams in the country. With a total of 17 RS, returning starter aficionados will be all over the Tar Heels in this opening game. They will point to the fact that DC Chizik (the former Auburn HC) has been hired to put his finger in the dyke. Don’t expect that to happen overnight or even in this first game! Remember that 7 losses by N. Carolina last year were by an average of 20+ PPG. No question that the Tar Heels’ offense should be potent behind electric QB Williams, who will operate behind a veteran OL and the majority of his skill position players.

In a battle of 2 teams, who each fielded 200 Club defensive units last year, we will side with the SEC pedigree of S. Carolina and the coaching of Spurrier for the outright victory in a game where the line is a full TD less than where it would have closed last season.

Florida Int’l at C. Florida (-14) 6:00 ET CBC

A UCF look ahead to Stanford means this defensive rivalry dog is in an outstanding situation with the right tools to come inside this number. In FIU 3rd year HC Ron Turner’s first home game, his Golden Panthers took it in the chops by a count of 38-0 to their up-state rival. As a result, Game 1 may actually be a letdown situation for the Golden Knights. FIU is improving by leaps and bounds under Turner, going from 1-11 to 4-8 SU, including 4 losses by 3 or less points. This, despite the fact in going from 1-11 to 4-8 SU, they increased their offensive output from 10 to 23 PPG. There was defensive improvement as well, from 37/430 in 2013 to 25/364 last season. This year with 15 RS and a yet again improved defense, look for the Panthers to come in under the number in a game that holds far more significance for the visitor.


Oklahoma St. (-24) at C. Michigan 7:00 ET ESPNU

Each week in this space, I will isolate the CFB CRUSHER OF THE WEEK. It will be a blend of statistical, situational and technical analysis that will result in an outstanding opportunity for you to cash a winning ticket. Look for this dominating favorite to either DOUBLE RUSH their opponent (a 75% chance of pointspread success) or run and pass for 200+ yards (200 CLUB, A 74% pointspread winner). Here is this week’s winner.

In our Week 1 CRUSHER OF THE WEEK, a vastly improved and very experienced Oklahoma St. team, from the explosive Big 12 Conference looks to carry over their momentum from last season and make an opening week statement that they are a viable contender for Big 12 supremacy. Last season, the Cowboys had just 8 RS. Prospects for their season looked dim when they carried a 5-6 SU record into their rivalry game with Oklahoma last December 6th. They had just lost 5 consecutive games by margins of 33 at TCU, 24 to WVU, 34 at Kansas St., 21 vs. Texas and 21 at Baylor. But, the Cowboys, as rivalry 20 point road dog at Oklahoma, rose up for a 38-35 upset. They parlayed that success into a January 2nd Bowl victory vs. Washington by a score of 30-22. That provides Oklahoma St. solid momentum, as they enter the 2015 season. Now, with 17 RS and only 19 lost lettermen, look for 11th year HC Gundy to return the Cowboys to a potential double-digit victory season. Behind sophomore QB Mason Rudolph, the explosive Cowboy attack will return to the form that saw them average 45 PPG in the 3 previous years combined. It all starts tonight against a rebuilding C. Michigan team.

After 5 years at the helm of the Chips, former HC Enos bolted Mt. Pleasant for a job as the OC at Arkansas. This, despite the fact, that he led the Chips to a winning season last year. It culminated with one of the most exciting Bowl games ever played, a 49-48 loss vs. W. Kentucky. Now, the Chips hand the reins to 1st year HC Bonamego, a CMU alumni who just completed a 16-year NFL career as Special Teams coach. Though the majority of the recruiting class has remained, it looks like a rebuilding year for the Chips. In the 3 previous years, CMU benefited from 15 or more returning starters. This year, only 11 starters return in what could kindly be termed a rebuilding year. With a brutal 1st half schedule (excluding Monmouth next week), it will be no surprise if the Chips have dug themselves a major hole by mid-October.

In what could only kindly be referred to as the CRUSHER OF THE WEEK, expect a dominating 4 TD or more victory by the Cowboys, as they re-establish themselves as a Big 12 power with whom the rest of the league must reckon. In so doing, they will improve to 18-10 ATS as road chalk, while the Chips fall to 1-9 ATS as home dog of late.

Michigan at Utah (-5) 8:30 ET FS1

In one of the most unique statistical oddities on the college football landscape, we find that the Utah Utes, under 11th year HC Whittingham, are the only team in CFB who has outrushed their opponents in each of the previous 4 years, but has been out passed by their opponent each of the previous 4 seasons. No surprise then, that the Utes have been a far superior underdog play (15-10 ATS) than favorite proposition (9-12 ATS). Again this year, with the 16 RS, the Utes will be a highly competitive team, akin to their 9-4 SU, 8-4 ATS unit of last year. That record includes a 26-10 victory in the 3rd game of the year at Michigan last season, a game in which they were outgained by the Wolves 308-286, but profited from a +3 in the net TO column. That was just part of a Michigan season that included a -16 in the net TO column, an indicator of better things to come. Tonight, they will be aided by a mile-high altitude advantage as well as their 7-0 ATS record in non-con games. But, all that would be ignoring the fact that Michigan alumni, Jim Harbaugh, has been entrusted with returning Michigan to their glory days, after a trio of consecutive seasons under former HC Hoke, resulted in a record of 20-18 SU (far from Wolverine standards). Can’t blame a Wolves’ defense that was among the best in the nation last year, allowing just 22 PPG, including 117/3.2 overland and 311 total yards! Nine RS on that side of the ball indicate continued excellence. Little doubt that Harbaugh, who had great success at Stanford in college, along with San Diego and San Francisco in the pros, will benefit from the experience of Iowa transfer, QB Ruddock, at the controls. No surprise to this bureau if Harbaugh’s maiden voyage results in an outright victory.

TCU (-15) at Minnesota 9:00 ET ESPN

TCU is the type of team we love to fade in Game 1. Their incredible assent last season is well documented. In 2013, the Frogs went 4-8 SU being outscored 39-25. Last year, they were 12-1 SU, outscoring the opposition 46-19. QB Boykin leads 10 RS on offense who, along with 6 returning defensive starters, has the returning starter aficionados licking their chops. They are one of the most experienced teams in NCAA football, worthy of their Top 10 ranking. But with the proliferation of preseason hype, it is easy for the average player to jump on the bandwagon. What they seldom take into account is that this line is 2 TDs higher than where it would have been to start last season. Last year, these teams met in Ft. Worth, TX on September 13th. The Frogs rolled 30-7 with a 427-268 yardage edge. But, the real difference in the game was 5 Gopher TOs. This year, 5th year HC Kill has his best team ever in Minnesota! Coming off combined seasons of 16-10 SU, 16-8 ATS, Kill returns 13 starters, along with his entire coaching staff, who has been with him for the last decade (rare these days in CFB). It is unusual that a team (Minnesota) has been to 3 consecutive Bowls, while being outgained each year. But, Kill’s teams are at their best in the role of underdog, including a mark of 4-1 ATS as a home dog the last 2 seasons. Sources widely agree this is Kill’s best team ever with speed on defense and a notably improved secondary. Final support comes from the technical arena with a record for TCU HC Patterson of 7-14 ATS as a (-14+) road favorite.

Duke (-8) at Tulane 9:30 ET CBC TV

Duke is 19-8 SU, 18-7 ATS L2Y, averaging 33 PPG and over 400 YPG in those 2 seasons combined. That has resulted in the Dookies being more than a TD favorite on the road, under 8th year HC Cutcliffe. That’s a significant amount of weight to carry considering this team has allowed 400+ YPG in each of the last 4 seasons. In last year’s matchup between these two, the Blue Devils prevailed in Durham on September 20th by a score of 47-13. But, the 437-375 yardage edge for the Blue Devils was more representative of how the game was played. You see, Tulane turned the ball over 5 times in that game, virtually assuring ATS failure. Detractors of this selection will note that the Greenies were just 2-7 ATS as dog last year, including 0-3 ATS as home pup. That was all part of a 3-9 SU, 3-8 ATS log which was a big come-down, after the 7-6 SU, 8-4 ATS record of 2013 (all under 4th year HC Johnson). This year, however, the Green Wave has 16 RS, including a veteran OL, behind which QB Lee will operate. In addition, the 7 RS look to improve on a sub-400 yard defense each of the last 2 seasons. Looks like a flat spot for an overrated Duke team, against a resurgent Tulane contingent.

Colorado (-7-) at Hawaii 1:00 AM ET CBCTV
Colorado travels to Hawaii for the opening game of the 2015 CFB season for each team. Each of these teams will be among the most improved in the nation this season. Last year, these teams matched up in Boulder with the Buffs, an 8 point favorite, covering the number in a 21-12 victory in which they outgained Hawaii 405-286. Tonight, however, the venue changes to Honolulu, a site that provides a major advantage to the home-standing Rainbow Warriors. Not only must Colorado deal with the distractions of being in Hawaii, but they are playing 4 time zones west, making this a 9:00 pm body time start for them. Even college-aged kids rarely line up for a football game at this time of night.

To say the Buffs have underachieved in recent seasons would be putting it mildly. In the last 4 years, Colorado is a combined 10-39 SU with only 4 away wins. Major issue has been a 200 Club defense, who last year allowed 39 PPG on 460 YPG. The result was a 2-10 SU season, despite 15 RS. Now, 3rd year HC MacIntyre has 16 RS which has hopes running high for a turnaround in Boulder. Improving QB Liufau leads the way for an offense that averaged 28/439 last year. But, the sieve that has been their defense for the last 3 years can only have this team qualifying as a “false favorite.”

On the opposing bench is a Hawaii team, who has struggled to find continuity under 4th year HC Chow. It seems Chow has reached his Peter Principle. He was a highly-successful OC in nearly 40 years of coaching experience in both the college and NFL level (nearly 30 of those years, where he was the legendary OC at BYU). But in stepping up to the head man at Hawaii, Chow’s teams have failed badly with a mark of 8-29 SU, 16-19 ATS. Hope for improvement comes in the form of a revamped coaching staff, including new coordinators for the offense, defense and special teams. Further hope comes in the form of USC transfer, QB Wittek, whose pedigree far surpasses that of most MWC signal callers. With Chow as his mentor, Wittek could well blossom. This would, at last, make the Rainbow Warriors the type of 30 PPG offensive team that has been missing since the time of HCs Jones and McMackin. What better opponent for the Rainbow Warriors to explode against than the sieve that has perennial been the Colorado defense.

In a game where Hawaii holds many of the intangible edges, look for them to bark loudly as a home dog, while increasing their mark to 5-0 ATS as home dog vs. the PAC 12 and drop Colorado to a record of 2-7 ATS as road chalk.