Alabama vs. Louisville – Orlando, FL
All Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide do is win baby, rolling to their fifth title since the 2009 season. Now the pressure will be on Saban this year to eclipse Bear Bryant with his seventh national championship.
The Crimson Tide have won 16 straight week one games and won those contests by 24.8 ppg. The last week one loss for the Crimson Tide came in 2001 against UCLA.
Over the past 2 seasons, Alabama is 17-1 against the SEC and have won those games by 26.3 ppg. Last season, Alabama was 8-1 against SEC opponents and won those games by 27.6 ppg.
Louisville enters the season coming off a disappointing 2017 campaign and will be chomping at the bit to knock off the defending champs. Last year, the Cardinals had a balanced offense that averaged 245 rushing yards per game and 299 passing yards per game.
New starting quarterback Jawon Pass (2 TD’s, 0 INT’s) has a dynamic group of receivers in Jaylen Smith, Seth Dawkins and Dez Fitzpatrick that combined for 147 receptions for over 2,300 yards and 20 TD’s in 2017.
There is not a lot of game film on Pass and in recent years, teams that can stretch Alabama vertically (West Virginia, Ole Miss, Clemson, Texas A&M and Colorado State) have been able to move the football on the vaunted Crimson Tide defense.
To read more about this match-up, order the “Power 5” College Football Preview right HERE
Prediction: Louisville 35 Alabama 30
Auburn vs. Washington – Atlanta, GA
Since 2011, Auburn is 11-13 on the road or on a neutral field site or .468%. During that span the Tigers are 4-10 against top ranked competition or .400%.
Last year, the Tigers were 10-4 overall with all four losses coming on the road or on a neutral field (Clemson, LSU, Georgia and UCF). The Georgia and UCF games both were played in the Mercedes Benz Dome.
Is the third time a charm for Gus and his team? Only time will tell.
Auburn rushed for over 200 yards in 12 of their 14 games last year and rushed for over 300 yards in 4 games in 2017. The Tigers were 4-0 in those contests and won those games by 28.0 ppg.
Conversely, in all four losses, the offense rushed for 107.7 yards per game with team losing those games by 10.0 ppg.
Washington will be looking to avenge a bowl loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Fiesta Bowl last year. The Huskies have a senior quarterback in Jake Browning (19 touchdown passes in 2017) and a running back in Myles Gaskin that rushed for 21 touchdowns in 2017-more than Stanford’s Bryce Love.
A win for the Huskies could catapult the team to a possible top five ranking and provide them momentum for the PAC-12 season.
Prediction: Washington 28 Auburn 24
Virginia Tech vs Florida State – Tallahassee, FL
New Seminole head coach Willie Taggart will look to hit the ground running with a high octane offense that features quarterback James Blackman and running back Cam Akers.
Florida State won 7 games in 2017 against FBS opponents who had a combined overall record of 35-39 or .472%. The Seminoles lost 5 of 6 games within the ACC last year and lost those games by 12.4 ppg.
The Seminoles rushed for over 200 yards in 6 games last year and were 5-1 in those contests winning by 17.7 ppg.
On the other hand, the Hokies held 5 opponents under 100 yards rushing in 2017 and won all five games by 30.6 ppg.
That could be the match-up to watch for this battle.
Virginia Tech has had off the field issues surrounding starting quarterback Josh Jackson (20 TD passes, 7 INT’s in 2017) along with linebacker Mook Reynolds being kicked off the team entering this contest. However, expect the team to be ready as they open up the new campaign with a ACC conference road opponent.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 31 Florida State 24
LSU vs. Miami – Arlington, TX
New LSU quarterback, Joe Burrow (Ohio State transfer), will look to attack a Hurricane defense that allowed 21.0 ppg in 2017.
LSU will have a very inexperienced rushing attack along with a raw wide receiver corps heading into this contest. Gone are running backs Derius Guice and Darell Williams, who accounted for 76% of the Tigers rushing yards and 80% of the rushing touchdowns in 2017.
LSU rushed for 207 yards per game last season and rushed for over 200 yards in 6 of the teams 13 games last season. The Tigers won those six games by 17.6 ppg. However, in the team’s four losses to Mississippi State, Troy, Alabama and Notre Dame the offense rushed for 153 yards per game. LSU lost those games by 12.7 ppg.
LSU has always been strong on the interior defensive lines in recent years and even with the departure of Arden Key, expect another physical front seven spearheaded by defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
Last year, LSU held 5 of 13 opponents under 100 yards rushing. The Tigers were 5-0 in those games and won those contests by 19.5 ppg.
Miami and head coach Mark Richt will be looking to continue the momentum after last year’s 10-3 overall record. The Hurricanes won those games against 9 FBS opponents who had a combined overall record of 62-52 or .543%.
The offense will be led by quarterback Malik Rosier (26 TD’s, 14 INT’s) and must to continue to develop on third downs in 2018 if the team is to take the next step in winning an ACC crown.
Miami converted 29% of their third downs in 2017 and must stay out of long third downs which could give the Tigers the speed advantage off of the edge in this game.
The Hurricanes were in the top 3 in FBS in total sacks last season with 44. The defense was able to force turnovers each week (+13 in turnover margin) and will look to force an inexperienced LSU offense into mistakes on a neutral field.
Prediction: LSU 24 Miami 20
Michigan vs. Notre Dame – South Bend, IN
The pressure is on Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh as the team’s playoff hopes ride on the road in South Bend. A solid road win could propel the team to a top ten ranking in September and provide confidence for the team heading into conference play later in the year.
Last year, Michigan struggled with offensive balance. The Wolverines rushed for 177 yards per game and passed for 171 yards per game last year. However, in the team’s five losses to Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and South Carolina the offense only completed 48% of their passes for 938 yards with 1 TD and 6 INT’s.
The inability to stretch defenses vertically allowed opposing defenses to stack the box against the run and force the Wolverines to beat them over the top with the passing game. In the Wolverines five losses, the offense rushed for 87.4 yards per game.
That could all change with the addition of former Ole Miss signal caller Shea Patterson. Patterson gives the team the ability to hit big plays on every down and should open-up the running game later in ball games.
The Wolverines had one of the best defenses under coordinator Don Brown last year. Michigan held opposing offenses to 150 passing yards per game along with 26% third down defense while recording 42 total sacks.
That will be the matchup to watch as the team takes on Notre Dame’s offense led by quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush struggled as a passer last year, completing only 48% of his passes and will be without his leading wide receiver (St. Brown) and running back Josh Adams who had both moved on to the NFL.
Notre Dame was a run heavy offense that rushed for 269 yards per game and rushed for over 300 yards in 7 of the team’s 13 games last year. The Irish were 7-0 in those games and won by 26.7 ppg.
However, two main cogs to the offensive line are gone in guard Quentin Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey who are now playing on Sundays.
Another big blow to the Irish for 2018 is the loss of defensive coordinator Mike Elko who is now the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M with Jimbo Fisher.
Prediction: Michigan 31 Notre Dame 20
Florida Atlantic vs. Oklahoma – Norman, OK
It was a dream season for Lane Kiffen and the Owls as they rolled to a conference title and an 11-3 overall 2017 record. The Owls won 10 games against FBS opponents who had a combined overall record of 58-59 or .495% and won those ten games by 24.8 ppg.
FAU won their last 8 games in 2017 and win those games by 25.0 ppg. The Owls rushed for over 300 yards in 7 of the team’s 14 games and won those seven games by 29.3 ppg.
FAU will return leading rusher Devin Singletary who pounded the rock for 1,900 yards with 32 rushing touchdowns.
FAU will look to attack an Oklahoma defense that gave up 156 rushing yards per game and held 5 of 14 opponents under 100 yards rushing in 2017. The Sooners won four of those five games by 29.7 ppg.
For Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and the Sooners, the team must replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield who led one of the most prolific offenses in college football (578 total yards per game).
Oklahoma will turn to Kyler Murray and look for a more balanced offense with Murray’s ability to put pressure on opposing defenses on the perimeter.
Oklahoma won 12 games in 2017 against FBS opponents who had a combined overall record of 68-73 or .482%. The Sooners won those games by a total score of 553-287 or 22.1 ppg.
Prediction: Oklahoma 55 FAU 24
For the most comprehensive College Football Preview publication there is, click HERE to order your copy now.