It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Football Friday Night on 9 is back on the air, college football kicks off this weekend and the trash-talking has already begun in my NFL fantasy football leagues. The only issue I now have to tackle, is which sports bar to attend to watch all the top games.
College football is king in the state of Florida, so each week I’ll break down the upcoming games for Florida, Florida State, UCF, and Miami. I’ll also make my pick against the spread for those four contests and the monster matchup of the week.
So let’s kick this thing off.
Akron - UCF
UCF opens the year before anyone else in the state of Florida, opening the season on Thursday night against Akron. The Knights went into Ohio last year to open the season and annihilated the Zips, 56-14. Not much has changed for the UCF offense that put up those 56 points 363 days ago. Junior Blake Bortles is still at quarterback and he returns his top three receivers. Running back Storm Johnson is also back. I’m not sure if his name is better suited for meteorology or porn, but he did have two touchdowns last year against Akron. The UCF defense has some question marks, but the newcomers should not have any issues with a brand new Zips quarterback.
Pick: UCF comes out guns blazing and covers the 21.5 point spread. Knights 56 – Zips 17
Toledo - Florida
Florida also begins the 2013 campaign against a team from the “Buckeye State.” Toledo visits “The Swamp” on Saturday, marking the second straight year the Gators have begun the season with some MACtion. All eyes will be on the Florida offense, as Jeff Driskel looks to take the next step in his second year under offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Plus, maybe a wide receiver that was highly-touted out of high school will actually end up being worth a damn. Here’s to you DeMarcus Robinson. The defense is an SEC defense. They’re loaded with size, talent and speed. There just might be a few new names to get used to with Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Jon Bostic and Sharif Floyd off making millions. The newcomers will be tested by the Rockets, who return their top three playmakers from a nine-win season in 2012.
Pick: Florida wins, but won’t cover the 23.5 point spread without RB (running beast) Matt Jones. Gators 28 – Toledo 10
Florida State - Pittsburgh
With the NFL still toiling away in the preseason, Florida State gets to play in prime time on Monday night. It’s not the Canes-Seminoles Labor Day matchup we’ve enjoyed in years past, but FSU-Pitt will have to do. Jameis Winston was crowned the starting quarterback for the Noles this past week and I am drinking the Kool-Aid. JameIs Awesome. JameIs Heisman. JameIs Primetime. Why are shirts like this not already all over Tallahassee? Like Florida, Florida State fans have some new names to get used to on the defensive side of the ball, including a new coordinator. Jeremy Pruitt comes to Tallahassee from Alabama and some have hinted at a more blitz-happy approach. Jimbo Fisher tried to shoot down these assumptions, but with the horses that are in the FSU stable (not Renegade) why wouldn’t you blitz on nearly every play? Pitt’s offense will be a work in progress in 2013. Quarterback Tom Savage is a good story, but he’s at his fourth school in five years. I wish I could have pulled this off strictly for partying purposes.
Pick: JameIs going to win his first start at FSU. Noles cover the 10.5 point spread easily. Florida State 34 – Pitt 17
FAU - Miami
Miami is going to try and pull some viewers from Football Friday Night on 9 by hosting FAU in a couple days. “The Game that Schnellenberger Built” has nothing on Central Florida’s only high school football highlight show! Miami has a couple of Heisman sleepers leading their offense. Quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson are a couple of the most entertaining college football players out there. Morris has an amazingly effortless throwing motion and the ball just explodes out of his hand, while Johnson had one of the most prolific freshman campaigns in Canes history. The 2013 hopes for Miami rests solely on their defense. They gave up 30+ points in 8 of their 12 games last year. Luckily for Miami, Florida Atlantic is talking about playing four, yes four, different quarterbacks in the opener. More is not better when you’re talking about quarterbacks AT&T commercial guy.
Pick: Miami wins by 20+, but won’t cover the 32.5 point spread. Canes 45 – Owls 20
Monster Matchup: Georgia – Clemson
This beauty of an opener can be seen on Channel 9, Saturday night. Georgia has had to sit and stew over the fact that they were five yards away from playing in a national championship game they likely would have won. On the other side, Clemson ended the year with a come-from-behind win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and can become the first ever non-SEC team to beat two top-10 teams from the Southeastern Conference in back-to-back games. Outside of the Manziel-McCarron showdown on September 14th in College Station, we might not see a better quarterback matchup than the one that goes down on Saturday in Death Valley. Both Aaron Murray and Tahj Boyd would have likely been first round picks in April’s draft, but decided to come back to college for one more shot at the crystal football. Murray has more weapons returning from last year, but the Bulldogs defense will have only one returning starter in the secondary for Saturday’s matchup.
Pick: Clemson will not be able to slow down Gurshall and Murray. This game is practically a pick 'em, but I got Georgia by a touchdown. Dogs 34 – Tigers 27
Enjoy the opening weekend of games!