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Predicting the winner of every Week 1 college football game

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Bama 30, FSU 23! Texas State 30, Houston Baptist 28! And everything in between!

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Michigan vs Florida State Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After last week’s brief walkthrough, it’s time for the actual start of the 2017 college football season. Thanks to the pervasiveness of early-season tune-ups against FCS opponents, there are a whopping 86 games on the FBS schedule. Let’s predict all of them.

Below are picks and projections using 2017 S&P+ projections. See the bottom of the post for more detail about these.

The spread (listed in parentheses) is shown next to S&P+’s pick for each game. When S&P+ predicts a push (a tie with Vegas, basically), I’m listing the pick on the side that S&P+ would’ve picked, if teams could score in decimals. This document breaks games out into their decimal glory.

Ranked vs. ranked

  • No. 1 Alabama 30 (-7), No. 3 Florida State 23 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, ABC)
  • No. 11 Michigan 24, No. 17 Florida (+5.5) 22 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ABC)
  • No. 21 Virginia Tech (-4) 32, No. 22 West Virginia 22 (Sunday, 7:30 PM ET, ABC)

Here’s a good time to mention that S&P+ is intentionally obtuse. There are no adjustments for suspensions, injuries, etc., from week to week. It does account for preseason dismissals, but brief suspensions are out of its realm. So while it projects Florida to stay slightly closer to Michigan than the line would suggest, it hasn’t taken into account the suspensions that have shaken up the Gators’ two-deep.

The Florida-Michigan line has also jumped by about two points in 24 hours.

Florida v LSU
Running back Lamical Perine is poised to start for Florida due to Jordan Scarlett’s suspension.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Other ranked teams in action

No spread picks for FBS vs. FCS games, which typically don’t have lines.

  • No. 2 Ohio State 34, Indiana (+20.5) 17 (Thursday, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 4 USC 42, Western Michigan (+27) 15 (Saturday, 5:15 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • No. 5 Clemson (-39.5) 46, Kent State 6 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 6 Penn State (-30.5) 51, Akron 12 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ABC)
  • No. 7 Oklahoma 55, UTEP (+43) 13 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Fox)
  • No. 8 Washington 38, Rutgers (+27.5) 14 (Friday, 8:00 PM ET, FS1)
  • No. 9 Wisconsin 38, Utah State (+28.5) 14 (Friday, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 10 Oklahoma State 42 (-18), Tulsa 23 (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET, FS1)
  • No. 12 Auburn 43, Georgia Southern (+34.5) 11 (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, SECN)
  • No. 13 LSU 36 (-16.5), BYU 17 (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 15 Georgia 33, Appalachian State (+14.5) 20 (Saturday, 6:15 PM ET, ESPN)
  • No. 16 Louisville (-25) 42, Purdue 16 (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, Fox)
  • No. 18 Miami-FL 48, Bethune-Cookman 7 (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET, ACCN)
  • No. 19 South Florida 46, Stony Brook 21 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 20 Kansas State 43, Central Arkansas 18 (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 23 Texas 38, Maryland (+18.5) 20 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, FS1)
  • No. 24 Washington State 45, Montana State 18 (Saturday, 10:30 PM ET, FS1)
  • No. 25 Tennessee 31, Georgia Tech (+3) 29 (Monday, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN)

For the most part, S&P+ takes the underdog’s side when the lines are huge. You never know where the line will be drawn in a blowout, when the winning team will call off the dogs, and how much the winning team will keep scoring afterward.

There are some challenging lines here, by the way. S&P+ and Vegas almost completely agree on USC-WMU, Clemson-Kent State, OU-UTEP, OSU-Tulsa, Louisville-Purdue, Texas-Maryland, and Tennessee-Georgia Tech.

USC v UCLA
Sam Darnold and USC should win comfortably against WMU.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Power 5 vs. Power 5

  • North Carolina 35, California (+11.5) 28 (Saturday, 12:20 PM ET, ACCN)
  • NC State 29, South Carolina (+5) 25 (Saturday, 3:00 PM ET, ESPN)
  • Texas A&M (+3.5) 30, UCLA 27 (Sunday, 7:30 PM ET, Fox)

S&P+ also doesn’t take body clocks into account. Having Cal kick off at 9 a.m. California time might be worth a couple of extra points for UNC.

NCAA Football: Oregon at California
Demetris Robertson and Cal will have their #bodyclocks tested.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

FBS vs. FBS

  • UCF 34, Florida International (+17) 23 (Thursday, 6:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Minnesota 37, Buffalo (+26) 12 (Thursday, 7:00 PM ET, BTN)
  • Memphis 44, UL-Monroe (+26) 23 (Thursday, 9:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Arizona State 44, New Mexico State (+22.5) 25 (Thursday, 10:30 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • Eastern Michigan (-14) 39, Charlotte 24 (Friday, 6:30 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Colorado State (+5.5) 33, Colorado 33 (Friday, 8:00 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • Navy 36, Florida Atlantic (+9.5) 33 (Friday, 8:00 PM ET, ESPNU)
  • Northern Illinois 26 (+2.5), Boston College 25 (Friday, 9:30 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Illinois 32, Ball State (+6.5) 26 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, BTN)
  • Iowa 31, Wyoming (+11.5) 22 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, BTN)
  • Michigan State 36, Bowling Green (+17) 22 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, ESPNU)
  • Northwestern 39, Nevada (+24.5) 17 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, BTN)
  • Notre Dame 35, Temple (+18.5) 19 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, NBC)
  • Boise State (-11) 37, Troy 25 (Saturday, 3:45 PM ET, ESPNU)
  • Kentucky 35, Southern Miss (+10) 27 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Marshall 28, Miami (Ohio) (+2.5) 27 (Saturday, 6:30 PM ET, Stadium)
  • Coastal Carolina (+2.5) 32, Massachusetts 29 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Ole Miss 44 (-24), South Alabama 17 (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET, ESPNU)
  • Nebraska 33, Arkansas State (+16) 18 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, BTN)
  • Vanderbilt (-3) 36, Middle Tennessee 29 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, CBSSN)

There are no significant differences between S&P+ and Vegas here, but one game stands out. Defending Pac-12 South champion Colorado obliterated in-state rival CSU last year on the way to its first 10-win season in 15 years.

This year, the line is within a touchdown, and S&P+ thinks it’s a virtual tossup. Can the Rams follow up on last week’s easy win over Oregon State and move to 2-0 in the Pac-12 with a revenge victory?

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Colorado State
Michael Gallup and the CSU offense might be among the best Colorado faces this year.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

FBS vs. FCS

  • Wake Forest 41, Presbyterian 13 (Thursday, 6:30 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Cincinnati 45, Austin Peay 11 (Thursday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Central Michigan 38, Rhode Island 21 (Thursday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Georgia State 33, Tennessee State 21 (Thursday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Toledo 48, Elon 19 (Thursday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Connecticut 32, Holy Cross 23 (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Utah 42, North Dakota 18 (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • Arkansas 51, Florida A&M 10 (Thursday, 8:00 PM ET, SECN)
  • Idaho 38, Sacramento State 25 (Thursday, 9:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Army 33, Fordham 23 (Friday, 6:00 PM ET, CBSSN)
  • Syracuse 45, Central Connecticut 16 (Friday, 7:00 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Missouri 45, Missouri State 20 (Saturday, 12:00 PM ET, SECN)
  • Pittsburgh 45, Youngstown State 20 (Saturday, 1:00 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Oregon State 41, Portland State 17 (Saturday, 2:00 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • Air Force 39, VMI 27 (Saturday, 2:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • UAB 31, Alabama A&M 25 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, Stadium)
  • Virginia 39, William & Mary 18 (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Mississippi State 45, Charleston S'ern 19 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, SECN)
  • Texas Tech 44, Eastern Washington 26 (Saturday, 4:00 PM ET, FSN affiliates)
  • Old Dominion 35, Albany 24 (Saturday, 6:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • East Carolina 35, James Madison 26 (Saturday, 6:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Duke 42, NC Central 18 (Saturday, 6:00 PM ET, ACCN)
  • Western Kentucky 46, Eastern Kentucky 16 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, $FloTV)
  • Ohio 34, Hampton 19 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Texas State 30, Houston Baptist 28 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • North Texas 33, Lamar 23 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Baylor 44, Liberty 16 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, FS2)
  • Louisiana Tech 44, Northwestern State 22 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • Kansas 34, SE Missouri State 25 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • UL-Lafayette 31, SE Louisiana 22 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • SMU 40, Stephen F. Austin 22 (Saturday, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • San Jose State 33, Cal Poly 25 (Saturday, 7:30 PM ET)
  • New Mexico 42, Abilene Christian 28 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET)
  • Tulane 32, Grambling 21 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, ESPN3)
  • TCU 54, Jackson State 7 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, FSN affiliates)
  • Iowa State 42, Northern Iowa 22 (Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, Cyclones.tv)
  • Oregon 46, Southern Utah 19 (Saturday, 8:15 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • San Diego State 42, UC Davis 16 (Saturday, 8:30 PM ET, Stadium)
  • UNLV 43, Howard 22 (Saturday, 9:00 PM ET, MWC Video)
  • Fresno State 36, Incarnate Word 22 (Saturday, 10:00 PM ET)
  • Arizona 41, Northern Arizona 21 (Saturday, 11:00 PM ET, Pac-12)
  • Hawaii 38, Western Carolina 25 (Saturday, midnight ET, MWC Video)

Your best FCS upset opportunities: Houston Baptist is projected to have a 45 percent chance of beating a rebuilding Texas State, Alabama A&M has a 35 percent chance against the unprojectable UAB Blazers, Cal Poly has a 32 percent chance against San Jose State, SEMO has a 30 percent chance against Kansas, and Southeastern Louisiana has a 29 percent chance against UL-Lafayette.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama
Former MSU quarterback Damian Williams hopes to guide Texas State to a better 2017 campaign.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Each year at Football Study Hall, I have posted weekly S&P+ picks as a way of affirming the ratings’ validity. I use my S&P+ system as a complement to most of my analysis, and the picks are a way of showing it generally knows what it’s talking about.

S&P+ tends to hit between 50 (meh) and 54 percent (great) against the spread from year to year. It isn’t always the single best performer, but it holds its own. And beyond picks, it goes deeper than any other set of college football analytics on the market. You can go into granular detail regarding team strengths and weaknesses in a way that no other set of ratings allows. (See the annual team statistical profiles as proof.)

This year, I will be posting the weekly S&P+ picks at SB Nation instead of FSH.

Because I like to experiment, however, I won’t just be posting the official S&P+ picks. Go to this Google doc, and you will find three sets of picks: S&P+, F/+ (combined ratings from S&P+ and Brian Fremeau’s FEI), and what I’m calling an adjusted S&P+ pick, in which I attempt to account for two additional factors: week of play and type of game.

  • Week of play: I’m finding that there are cycles to scoring averages throughout a given season. Week 1 typically falls below the season scoring average, while the final weeks of the season tend to perk up in the scoring department. This adjusted projection will take this into account.
  • Game type: It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the standard deviation of possible results in a game against FCS competition, for instance, is different than that of a conference game. This projection will also adjust for different types of games. This will mean some pretty extreme projections (Arkansas by 63 over FAMU, for example), but we’ll see how it performs.

In the abbreviated Week 0.5 action last week, all three sets of picks performed well, but the adjusted picks performed far better. We’ll see if that remains the case with this week’s ridiculously large set of games.