Week 0 provided a sip, a nice sample, of The Open Man Saturday Six-Pack. The postponement of Richmond-Sam Houston State whittled six down to five, making this the first full sixer of the 2017 season; well, sort of.
With its move to Waco and a Friday night date on Week 1, Richmond-Sam Houston State rounds out the half-dozen previews and picks on this Thursday-Friday special edition. Nothing about the prediction changes, so check out the Week 0 Six-Pack for more.
Speaking of Week 0, the expanded docket brings the Six-Pack to its first scoreboard update! Because the Week 0 edition included so many FCS games, for which finding reputable lines can be a hassle, ATS will begin with the Week 1 installments.
Saturday Six-Pack Record: 2-3
Thursday-Friday Six-Pack: Pizza Port Ponto S.I.P.A
Pizza Port Brewing Company operates out of Carlsbad in North County San Diego, which is my neck of the woods. The area’s the mecca for craft beer — which is to say, you can get about 5,000 different variety of high ABV IPA. One glass, and headaches set in.
Thursday and Friday mark the beginning of a weekend-long marathon for college football fans. Set your Week 1 off on the right pace with Pizza Port’s Ponto Sessionable IPA.
FIU at UCF
Thursday, Aug. 31, 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT
TV: CBS Sports Network
Line: UCF -17; O/U 55
To the shock of literally no one beyond maybe FIU athletic director Pete Garcia, the hire of Ron Turner did not go well. The Panthers have not been back to a bowl game since Mario Cristobal coached them to the only two in program history, while Turner went 10-30 in 3 1/2 seasons.
FIU hits the reset button with Thursday’s kickoff, which marks the beginning of the Butch Davis era. In a stunning upset, this marks an actual good hire by Garcia. Davis is a savvy recruiter of South Florida, having laid the foundation for the dominant 2001 Miami Hurricanes before he left for the NFL. Davis can maximize FIU’s potential — perhaps even reach the heights of fired Mario Cristobal! — but will need time.
His situation isn’t nearly as ready-made for a quick as that which Scott Frost inherited at UCF. Though the Knights went 0-12 in George O’Leary’s final season, the program enjoyed enough sustained success over the previous decade to provide the new head coach a solid foundation.
UCF bowled in Frost’s debut campaign with the former offensive coordinator playing a number of freshmen on that side of the ball: leading rusher Jawon Hamilton, dual-threat quarterback McKenzie Milton, and multidimensional back Adrian Killins, to name a few.
With nine starters back on offense, the Knights should put up some points this season. The defense has areas to address, but the inexperience on that side shouldn’t be too pronounced against an FIU offense that ranked among the nation’s worst in 2016.
Don’t expect a ton of drama from this one — unless, of course, Frost opts to revive the ConFLiCT Trophy.
A budding rivalry between UCF and FIU?
One might even call it a conflict. Somewhere there is a trophy waiting to be repurposed. https://t.co/1Rsc9BmHKP
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) August 30, 2017
Prediction: UCF 41, FIU 20
TULSA at OKLAHOMA STATE
Thursday, Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT
Line: Oklahoma State -17.5; O/U 72
The possibility of a basketball score is very much real when Oklahoma State and Tulsa trot out their potent offenses for Week 1.
Both are coming off double-digit-win campaigns, and each harbors realistic plans of contending for a conference championship. This makes for an especially intriguing Week 1 date as a result.
With Tulsa coached by Philip Montgomery, a former Baylor offensive coordinator, the Golden Hurricane offense should look quite similar to many of the attacks Oklahoma State will see in Big 12 Conference play. This matchup should provide some insight into the Cowboys’ readiness to contend with potent passing schemes.
Chad President inherits the reins from Dane Evans, who last season passed for 3,348 yards and 32 touchdowns. Running back De’Angelo Brewer gives the potent Golden Hurricane offense balance.
For Tulsa, the chance to knock off its in-state counterpart is perhaps the first cornerstone to setting up a run at a New Year’s Six bowl. Certainly a road win over a Power Five opponent helps build that case, but doubly so when it’s the en vogue preseason pick to win the Big 12.
Oklahoma State’s status as the frontrunner feels very tenuous — and not necessarily for any reason relating specifically to the Pokes. Mike Gundy’s a great coach with an impressive roster returning. Mason Rudolph is a viable Heisman contender, and James Washington may be the best wide receiver in college football.
With Mike Stoops gone from Oklahoma, and questions abound among the rest of the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s a logical de facto favorite. Removing that de facto qualifier begins in this, the best matchup of the Thursday slate.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 48, Tulsa 35
OHIO STATE at INDIANA
Thursday, Aug. 31, 8p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT
Line: Ohio State -20.5; O/U 51
Bloomington hasn’t been kind to Ohio State in recent years. Sure, the Buckeyes haven’t lost there since 1988, and are winners of every game since 1992 (the 1990 installment was a tie), but in the Urban Meyer era, THE Ohio State football team escaped by a single possession in both visits.
That trend ends in 2017.
Indiana’s introducing a new head coach in Tom Allen, replacing Kevin Wilson after six years. Wilson inherited a program stuck in the basement of the Big Ten and made it a repeat bowl participant, injecting some life into the Hoosier life with his variation on the air-raid offense.
His abrupt and unexpected firing shakes the foundation of a still-building program. Allen was retained after a single season as IU defensive coordinator; not exactly the most head-turning of hires. Couple that with the mammoth task of beating a preseason Big Ten favorite, and it could be a rough start to the new era in Indiana football.
Prediction: Ohio State 49, Indiana 17
NAVY at FAU
Friday, Sept. 1, 8p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT
Line: Navy -12; O/U 69.5
Beyond all the other reasons to embrace kickoff of the 2017 season, perhaps the first FAU game with Lane Kiffin at the helm might finally cool the absurd navel-gazing.
His unexpected hire after an acrimonious split with Alabama produced goofy memes, but also a flood of questionable decisions. FAU became a magnet for those in seeking that oft-referenced second chance — players and coaches alike.
So in Week 1, it’s the pirate ship against the Navy; Kiffin, a coach who can’t seem to stop generating headlines or garnering sometimes undue praise vs. Ken Niumatalolo, the most consistent, and most consistently underappreciated, leader in college football.
Navy doesn’t return much in the way of starters, but the Mids rarely do. Experience in Niumatalolo’s program is often cultivated as a reserve, with upperclassmen stepping into starting roles ready to contribute. That should be the case once again this season. Zach Abey played down the stretch in place of injured Will Worth, and after an offseason commanding the option offense, should improve upon his play late in 2016.
With veteran linebacker Micah Thomas leading the defense, Navy will contend in the American Athletic Conference — and should have little trouble under the big top of the Kiffin Circus.
Prediction: Navy 40, FAU 24
COLORADO STATE vs. COLORADO (in Denver)
Friday, Sept. 1, 8p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT
TV: Pac-12 Network
Line: Colorado State -3.5; O/U 66
Colorado began its surprising run to the Pac-12 Championship Game last season with a Week 1 deconstruction of Colorado State. In an interesting bit of role reversal, the Rams kicked off 2017 in Week 0 with a rout of Oregon State, perhaps setting the table for their own pursuit of the Mountain West Conference championship.
Based on an admittedly tiny sample size, it appears the Rams are both much improved from a season ago, and much better than I anticipated. Colorado State should fare markedly better against rival Colorado than it did in last year’s encounter, a 44-7 blowout that set the tone for the Buffs’ breakthrough season.
That said, I’m ready to roll with the Pac-12 opponent over CSU once again.
Quarterback Steven Montez played meaningful snaps in 2016 against Colorado’s very best opponents: USC, Colorado, Michigan, Washington, Oklahoma State. He had his ups and downs in those games, too, but should be better off for it.
He’s operating behind an excellent offensive line, flanked by one of the best running backs in college football (Phillip Lindsay) and throwing to one of the best wide receiving corps in the nation. I expect Colorado to put up points on Colorado State, without suffering some the miscues that plagued Oregon State.
That said, the question then comes down to if Colorado, without Jimmie Gilbert, Ahkello Witherspoon, Chidobe Awuzie and Tedric Thompson, can slow an impressive CSU offense. The Rams waylaid Oregon State from the outset with quarterback Nick Stevens delivering dots from behind an outstanding offensive line.
While the CU receiving corps might be the best in college football, CSU’s Michael Gallup could end 2017 in the conversation as the best individual wide-out in the game.
“He has size, speed and athleticism,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said of Gallup, whose nickname The Open Man is currently workshopping. “He can also track the ball really well. They use him a lot of different places to get him open and get him the ball.”
Should Colorado State win again, I’ll have to invoke the words of the 43rd President of the United States when picking Rams games going forward.
Prediction: Colorado 41, Colorado State 38