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August 30, 2019
NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS at STANFORD CARDINAL -6
The Cardinal finished 122nd out 129 FBS teams in rushing last season as star back Bryce Love struggled with injuries before leaving for the NFL and a patchwork offensive line failed to live up to the usual standards at Stanford. Easing the pain from that deficiency was the performance of quarterback K.J. Costello, who threw for 3,540 yards (second most in school history) and 29 touchdowns (third most).
The questions at Northwestern are at quarterback, where coach Pat Fitzgerald had not announced whether senior TJ Green or Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson will start. Green has more experience, playing in nine games as a backup last season, going 20 for 36 for 169 yards. Johnson has better pedigree as a former five-star recruit who left the Tigers after being beaten out for the starting job by Trevor Lawrence.
(Take the Stanford giving 6 points)
GEORGIA SOUTHERN EAGLES at LSU TIGERS -25
The time has come for LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and the sixth-ranked Tigers to debut the revamped offense they’ve been raving about since spring practice. “We’re going to spread the ball around,” Burrow promised as he looked forward Saturday night’s season opener against upstart Georgia Southern. “We have playmakers all over the field that they’re going to have to account for.” LSU coach Ed Orgeron says the new offense is going to be “strictly spread,” with five receiving targets on many plays and as few as five pass protectors for Burrow, who’ll have to be ready to unload the ball quickly.
Georgia Southern was among the most improved teams in the nation last season under coach Chad Lunsford and sees itself as a contender in the Sunbelt Conference. “We will get in trouble if we sit here and go, `We’re going to sneak up on people,” Lunsford said while addressing the notion that LSU might be focused more on the Longhorns than the Eagles. “I’m sure LSU is preparing to play us and not play another football team. “What we talk about an awful lot at Georgia Southern is our history of going up against these types of opponents — and how close we’ve come in a lot of them.”
(Take LSU giving 25 points)
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE at DUKE BLUE DEVILS +31
The second-ranked Crimson Tide opens another season with championship aspirations as a huge favorite to beat Duke in Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which just happens to be the place where Alabama captured its most recent national title less than 20 months ago. “It’s a new season,” Alabama safety Xavier McKinney said. “We’re not worried about last season. It happened. We’re moving on from it. All we can focus on is this season and trying to go for the big goals.”
Duke will be breaking in a new quarterback after Daniel Jones left early for the NFL and was picked sixth overall by the New York Giants. Quentin Harris has some big shoes to fill, but the fifth-year senior has Cutcliffe’s full confidence. When Jones went down in Week 2 last season with a broken collarbone, Harris stepped in to finish off one victory and lead the Blue Devils to two more as the starter. While not as proficient as Jones as a passer, Harris brings more of a running threat to the position.
(Take Bama giving 31 points)
SYRACUSE ORANGE at LIBERTY FLAMES +17.5
Syracuse plans on making that as difficult as possible. Calvert threw 18 interceptions last season, and Syracuse intercepted the ball 18 times and forced 31 turnovers, the most among Power Five teams. The Orange also return players that accounted for 34 sacks last season, the most among teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“It’s extremely important. I’s something that we hang our hat on as a defense, being able to put pressure on the quarterback,” defensive end Kendall Coleman, who had 10 sacks last year, said. “It’s what we do up front and helping out the defense and what they do back deep.”
Hugh Freeze isn’t sure whether he will be allowed to be on the sidelines for his debut, back surgery and an infection having sidelined him for a few weeks of practice. The school’s IT department set him up with video monitors from numerous camera angles that enable him to watch practice from a hotel room near campus. Whether Freeze is on the field or not, he knows the stakes are high. “What I preach to our team and our coaches — great opportunity,” he said. “Enjoy it. There’s no stress. shouldn’t be any stress with it. I mean look, they’re a top 20 football team. This is our first full season in FBS if you will and so on paper, they have a better roster than we do but that doesn’t always mean that the best roster wins.”
(Take the Cuse giving 17.5 points)
MIDDLE TENNESSEE BLUE RAIDERS at MICHIGAN WOLVERINES -29.5
Shea Patterson is back as Michigan’s starting quarterback, directing a new offense that is very familiar to him. The senior said the no-huddle, hurry-up offense scheme the seventh-ranked Wolverines will unveil Saturday against Middle Tennessee is a lot like the one he ran for two years at Ole Miss. “It definitely feels a lot more natural,” Patterson said. Jim Harbaugh, coming off his fourth season at Michigan, made a major move in the offseason he is hoping pays off right away. He hired Josh Gattis away from Alabama to be the team’s offensive coordinator, giving him control after being involved in the play-calling process in the past.
The Blue Raiders won eight games last year and played in a fourth straight bowl game for the first time since joining the top tier of college football in 1999. Extending the streak may be a challenge with a lot of new starters, especially at quarterback. Middle Tennessee will be breaking in a new quarterback because Brent Stockstill, the coach’s son, exhausted his eligibility and is on Lane Kiffin’s staff at Florida Atlantic.
(Take the Wolverines giving 29.5 points)
Information from AP and Action Sports Network