Michigan, Auburn start year fast

By Ralph D. Russo

The Associated Press

After a quiet offseason in college football, the final month leading up to kickoff was dominated by scandals.

As lousy as off-the-field issues can be in the sport, and the topics were unsettling in August, the games rarely disappoint and are the reason fans tolerate the bad news.

The season starts with its traditional marathon holiday weekend schedule, a fair amount of which will be nothing more than scrimmages. No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Georgia start the season with FCS tuneups and there will be plenty of lopsided match-ups involving FBS teams, too. At least a few games are thankfully appointment viewing.

But most of all college football is back and there is a lot of it spread out over the five days. Try to enjoy it.

The picks:

THURSDAY

No. 21 UCF (-23) at UConn: The other defending national champions open on the road … UCF 42-24.

FRIDAY

Western Kentucky (+35 1/2) at No. 4 Wisconsin: Badgers start with two suspended receivers, but TB Jonathan Taylor and that massive o-line should be enough for now … Wisconsin 48-14.

Utah State (-23 1/2) at No. 11 Michigan State: Experienced Aggies are good enough to make the Spartans work into the fourth quarter … Michigan State 31-13.

San Diego State (+ 14) at No. 13 Stanford: Aztecs pulled the upset last year of the Cardinal … Stanford 34-17.

SATURDAY

No. 1 Alabama (-24 1/2) vs. Louisville at Orlando, Florida: Tua or Jalen? Does it really matter? … Alabama 45-17.

Oregon State (+38) at No. 5 Ohio State: Game one of three without Urban Meyer on the sideline. Whatever issues that might cause the Buckeyes, it’s doubtful the Beavers will be able to exploit them … Ohio State 56-10.

No. 6 Washington (+1 1/2) vs. No. 9 Auburn at Atlanta: After 1-8 bowl season the Pac-12 can really use this one … Auburn 27-20.

FAU (+ 21) at No. 7 Oklahoma: Lane Train can’t keep up with the Sooner Schooner … Oklahoma 55-21, BEST BET.

Appalachian State (+ 23 1/2) at No. 10 Penn State: App State has maybe the greatest upset in college football history on its resume, but is 0-5 against Power Five schools since moving to FBS … Penn State 39-14.

No. 14 Michigan (+ 1) at No. 12 Notre Dame: Rivalry has been dormant for three years. It ended with the Irish shutting out Brady Hoke’s last Michigan team and resumes with Jim Harbaugh looking for a statement victory … Michigan 23-17.

UNLV (+26) at No. 15 Southern California: Will the Trojans start freshman QB J.T. Daniels? … USC 42-14.

No. 17 West Virginia (-7) vs. Tennessee at Charlotte, North Carolina: Mountaineers enter the season with lots of hype and a Heisman contender quarterback in Will Grier. Tennessee is rebuilding with a new coach … West Virginia 28-17.

No. 22 Boise State (-10 1/2) at Troy: Two of the best from outside the Power Five … Boise State 21-13.

No. 23 Texas (- 13) at Maryland: Hard to guess where the Maryland players’ heads will be considering their last month … Texas 28-20.

Bowling Green (+31 1/2) at No. 24 Oregon: Ducks debut their latest digs with numbers that will allow even the folks in the nose-bleed seats at Autzen Stadium to identify who is in on the play … Oregon 56-21.

SUNDAY

No. 8 Miami (-3 1/2) vs. No. 25 LSU at Arlington, Texas: The U. is lined up for a 5-0 start if it can handle an LSU team breaking in a new quarterback … Miami 23-16.

MONDAY

No. 20 Virginia Tech (+7 1/2) at No. 19 Florida State: New ‘Noles coach Willie Taggart debuts with a conference game and a chance to make a great first impression … Florida State 31-20.

TWITTER REQUESTS

Northwestern (+1 1/2) at Purdue — @dvolpi88: How can Jeff Brohm follow-up a solid first season with the Boilermakers? … Purdue 24-21.

North Carolina (+7) at California — @raybelkora: Player suspensions for selling (their own) shoes has the Tar Heels depleted … Cal 28-23.

Northern Illinois (+10 1/2) at Iowa — @JeffMiles9: Hawkeyes face NIU sackmaster Sutton Smith with both their starting offensive tackles suspended … Iowa 28-14.

Mississippi (+ 2 1/2) vs. Texas Tech in Houston — @TurnerDad: NCAA-sanctioned Rebels can’t play in the postseason, but they have potential to be fun to watch with All-America WR A.J. Brown … Ole Miss 35-28, UPSET SPECIAL.

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Overall record last season: 253-90 straight; 156-169-7 against the spread.

Bowl record: 23-17; 20-18-1.

Upset specials: 5-9 (straight up).

Best bets: 8-5 (against the spread).

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