College football picks: Notre Dame will cover big number

Snap a shot of the Top 25. It won’t look this way for long — or anytime again soon.

Due to the current absence of the Big Ten and Pac-12 from the polls, this week’s rankings feature seven teams unaffiliated with power conferences. Louisiana-Lafayette sits at No. 19 in the AP poll. Army is No. 22. Appalachian State is No. 23.

Next month, the Big Ten returns and six teams from the preseason Top 25 will be back. An already unlikely Group of Five playoff berth will now require a miracle. Two playoff spots for one conference — which has happened once in six years — seems like a stretch now, too.

Notre Dame temporarily joined the ACC to save its season. Now, it must steal the league crown to return to the playoff.

Unlike in 2018, the Irish don’t need to be flawless before the selections are made — one loss and an ACC title win over Clemson will suffice — but they need to be far better than last week’s version to run through a slate which includes the top-ranked Tigers, No. 12 North Carolina and No. 18 Louisville.

Rust likely played a factor in the 27-13 win over Duke, as did the weather, producing an uncharacteristically underwhelming showing from Ian Book. But Notre Dame is too talented to put forth many more efforts like that. Against South Florida, the Irish (-24.5) will play like a champion Saturday.

Tulsa (+22) over OKLAHOMA STATE: The return of the nation’s leading rusher, Chuba Hubbard, elevated expectations in Stillwater, but the return of nearly the entire defense isn’t as impressive as it sounds, considering the unit ranked seventh in the Big 12 last season. Since three consecutive 10-win seasons, Mike Gundy has gone 15-11. Another underwhelming campaign could free him up to dig deeper into Pizzagate and the Easter Bunny’s control of the deep state.

Syracuse (+21.5) over PITTSBURGH: This pick will make you feel as safe as Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito, whose offensive line returned from a disastrous season to surrender seven sacks in the opener against North Carolina. However, Syracuse’s defense showed promise in holding the high-powered Tar Heels to 10 points through three quarters. The Panthers averaged just over 21 points per game last season and didn’t win any of their eight games by more than 10 points.

Tommy DeVito
Tommy DeVitoAP

GEORGIA STATE (+16.5) over Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns are set for a letdown, following their upset of Iowa State. Meanwhile, the Panthers will relish another chance to pull a shocker in their season opener after knocking off Tennessee in Knoxville last year.

Liberty (+14) over WESTERN KENTUCKY: I’m curious to see what Auburn transfer/dual-threat quarterback Malik Willis can do in Hugh Freeze’s system. I imagine former Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. will tune in, too. I know he likes to watch.

Navy (+7) over TULANE: It’s impossible to erase the memory of Navy’s 55-3 loss to BYU, but overreactions need to be avoided in the second game of the season. Expect 13th-year coach Ken Niumatalolo to get a team that won 11 games last season back on track after what he called “the worst Navy football game we ever played.”

DUKE (-5.5) over Boston College: The Eagles are a mystery, entering their first game under first-time head coach Jeff Hafley, but the Blue Devils have shown a glimpse of their potential. During a game in which Duke trailed Notre Dame by four points in the fourth quarter and held the 10th-ranked team in the country to 10 points below last season’s scoring average, Clemson transfer Chase Brice took his first steps out of Trevor Lawrence’s shadow, throwing for 259 yards, while rushing for 20 yards and a touchdown.

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Appalachian State (-3.5) over MARSHALL: The Mountaineers will appear on CBS for the first time since 1983. It’s about time the entire country gets to see how strong the former Cinderella has become, having gone 25-3 since 2018.

GEORGIA TECH (+7.5) over Ucf: Led by former Florida State commit and true freshman quarterback Jeff Sims, the Yellow Jackets won their first ACC opener on the road in 24 years against the Seminoles. Another could be within reach late against the talented, but shorthanded Knights — 10 players opted out due to the pandemic — who suffered three road losses last season.

Charlotte (+29.5) over NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels will win big, but the 49ers have a wild card to cover, with transfer dual-threat Dom Shoffner making his first FBS appearance since 2018.

Troy (-3.5) over MIDDLE TENNESSEE: This isn’t the place to overthink overreactions. A 42-0 loss to Army demonstrated the Blue Raiders defense remains an issue, unlikely to be fixed against an offense returning the core of a group which averaged 34 points per game last season.

Smu (-14.5) over NORTH TEXAS: Shane Buechele received a much-needed week off after the Mustangs struggled to pull out a 31-24 win over Texas State. The senior quarterback won’t allow a lesser team to hang around with two interceptions again. He’d only thrown multiple picks in a game once since 2016.

Miami (+2.5) over LOUISVILLE: Last year, the Hurricanes put up 52 points in a blowout win. This year, Miami actually has an offense to fear — led by transfer D’Eriq King, who’ll outduel Micale Cunningham in an entertaining shootout.

Wake Forest (+2.5) over N.C. STATE: The season only gets easier after playing Clemson. And a date with the Wolfpack — who lost 44-10 at Wake Forest last season — couldn’t be timed more perfectly.

Best bets: Appalachian State, Liberty, Wake Forest
This season (best bets): 9-5 (1-2)
2014-19 record: 772-756-13

New York Post

Source: Newzandar.com

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