So I’m supposed to write about sure picks for Week 1 of the 2016 college football season? Well, there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but here are two games I feel pretty comfortable about on NCAA football odds.
Let’s Take a Look at the College Football Week 1 ATS Picks
— Auburn Football (@FootballAU) August 4, 2016
Clemson at Auburn (+7.5 on NCAA football odds)
It’s a matchup of Tigers here on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 9 p.m. ET from Jordan-Hare Stadium and televised by ESPN. Clemson of course won the ACC title last year and was the only school unbeaten entering the bowl season. The Tigers, led by Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson, beat Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinal but lost to Alabama in the national title game.
Auburn was preseason Top-10 team last year but flopped and the pressure is on Coach Gus Malzahn. And now Auburn won’t have its top returning rusher. That would be Jovon Robinson, who was dismissed from the program this week. Malzahn he made the decision because “He did not meet my standards or expectations of what it takes to be an Auburn Tiger football player. … We’re going to have zero distractions on this team this year.”
Robinson, who missed five games due to an ankle injury in 2015, rushed for 639 yards rushing and three touchdowns with five 90-plus yard outings in the final six games, including 126 yards and a score en route to being named Birmingham Bowl MVP. The dismissal leaves Auburn with a large void not just in the backfield, but the offense overall as Robinson was expected to be a focal point of Malzahn’s run-centric scheme this year. Peyton Barber led Auburn with 1,017 rushing yards last season, but he's moved on to the NFL. Roc Thomas, who rushed for 261 yards last season, transferred to Jacksonville State.
The first opportunity will go to sophomore Kerryon Johnson, who was in line to be the No. 2 option behind Robinson. Johnson was solid in multiple roles as a freshman in 2015, totaling 753 yards on the season. He rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns while recording carries both at running back and as the Tigers’ Wildcat quarterback. Johnson had 159 receiving yards on 14 catches and added 386 yards in kick returns.
This is the last thing Auburn needed. Clemson has won the past two meetings in the series, last in 2012. The Tigers will win here as well and cover the spread.
Notre Dame at Texas (+5 on NCAA football lines)
This game was moved to Sunday, Sept. 4 for TV reasons and will be played at 7;30 p.m. ET on ABC from Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.
The Irish pummeled Texas in Week 1 last year, 38-3 in South Bend. Malik Zaire threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, and Notre Dame held Texas to 163 yards of total offense. Zaire was 19-of- 22 passing, an 86.6 percent completion rate that was second-best in school history. Steve Beuerlein completed 10 of 11 passes against Colorado in 1984, a 90.9 percent completion rate. Ten of those passes went for 15 yards or more. Will Fuller caught a pair of touchdown passes — one a 66-yarder — and finished with 142 yards receiving. Fuller is now a rookie with Houston.
The Irish improved to 9-2 against Texas, and to 10-2 in home night games. Notre Dame will be without a key player for this game and season in tight end Alize Jones. He will sit out the year due to academics. The 6-4, 240-pound Jones was a four-star 2015 recruit, rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 1 tight end in the country. As a true freshman, Jones started five of the eight games in which he played. He caught 13 passes for 190 yards, with five of those receptions going for a first down. Jones was poised to take on a larger role in 2016, especially after wide receiver Corey Robinson decided to walk away from the game.
As for Texas, the pressure is on Coach Charlie Strong this season. Win at least nine games or be fired most likely. But this will be a young team. The nation’s seventh-ranked recruiting class from this past year should pay immediate dividends at Texas, which could open the season with eight true freshmen on the two-deep. Quarterback, receiver, both of the lines, and the secondary will rely on freshman to fill in depth or start — including at QB.
The Irish will cover the NCAA betting spread here.