(21) Stanford 31 @ Northwestern 24: Stanford had a bit of a down year last season, but finished strongly with road wins at Cal and UCLA, followed by a rout of Maryland in their bowl game. Northwestern was 3 - 2 after upsetting Wisconsin, then their offense went into the witness protection program. Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan figures to be the difference in this one.
Lousiana-Monroe 13 @ (9) Georgia 44: When coach says his "team will play hard" and "that's the most important thing", it leads one to believe that it might be a long season. The Warhawks head into Athens as prohibitive underdogs and the Bulldogs will no doubt be expecting to win big. I think they probably will.
Tennessee-Martin 14 @ (17) Ole Miss 30: Not much of an early test for the Rebels with FCS UT-Martin invading Oxford.
Wofford 10 @ (12) Clemson 37: Wofford's a decent FCS team, but they're no match for a team many have winning the ACC.
Virginia 24 @ (13) UCLA 28: This is a tough opener for the Cavaliers who are trying to save coach Mike London's job. UCLA will contend again for the Pac-12 South crown.
UTEP 17 @ (18) Arkansas 34: Unlike some of their SEC brethren, the Hogs have a decent matchup to open the season. They'll need to respect the Miners and look to control the line of scrimmage to build on last year's late season momentum.
Louisville 27 vs. (6) Auburn 24 (Atlanta, GA): I like the chances of Louisville to contend nationally. Coach Bobby Petrino is no stranger to big games and Auburn's defense under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will need to show early improvement to reach expectations. This is my first big upset pick of the season.
Bowling Green 24 vs. (25) Tennessee 38 (Nashville, TN): The Vols are picked to contend for the SEC East, but I think they're a year away, given Georgia and Missouri return strong teams. Bowling Green may be the class of the MAC, arguably the toughest of the mid-majors. I don't see the Falcons paying well enough defensively to stun Tennessee.
Southeast Missouri State 13 vs. (24) Missouri: 37 This is the first of an unimpressive list of non-conference opponents for Missouri until a November showdown with BYU. Southeast Missouri is a middle of the pack team in the FCS Ohio Valley Conference.
Akron 16 @ (19) Oklahoma 38: The Sooners are looking to give TCU and Baylor a run for their money in the Big 12. The Zips should be easy pickings in Norman today.
(15) Arizona State 31 vs. Texas A&M 30 (Houston, TX): This is a much bigger game than most people might realize. The playoff committee values conference titles and strength of schedule. There's no shortage of tough conference games for either of these teams, so a big non-conference win would give them a jump start toward qualifying for the playoffs. This is a virtual home game for the Aggies and NRG Stadium will be rocking. I have to go with the Sun Devils, as I still can't go with Texas A&M because of their lack of defensive consistency.
Texas 20 @ (11) Notre Dame 27: If this game was in Austin, I'd have to give the Longhorns a shot, but the Irish get to host Texas in South Bend. Texas, always stacked with athletes, is going to get back to the top of the Big 12 eventually, but coach Charlie Strong still has some work to do. Notre Dame has the schedule and enough talent to aspire to a national championship.
McNeese State 13 @ (14) LSU 44: No contest here.
(20) Wisconsin 24 @ (3) Alabama 27(Arlington, TX): Alabama returns only a pair of starters from last year's playoff participant, and was a point away from losing to Arkansas, a team coached by former Wisconsin head man Bret Bielema. I'm not a big Tide fan this season, but I think they pull this one out, but it could be very close.
Eastern Washington 20 @ (7) Oregon 41: Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams will play against his former team, for whom he put up monster numbers for the FCS title contenders. As the Ducks usher in the post Marcus Mariota era, this could be a tough opening contest. But there's very little chance for the visitors to challenge in Eugene.
Texas State 10 @ (10) Florida State 51: Really, Jimbo? The 'Noles need to beef up that schedule if they want to get to the playoffs without running the table.
Arkansas State 21 @ (8) USC 30: At least the Trojans have Notre Dame on the schedule. But the Red Wolves made a bowl game last year, so USC will need to stay focused against a team that returns 13 starters that played at Tennessee and Miami last year.
BYU 21 @ Nebraska 24: BYU is just a notch below the Big Five teams, but they have a chance to defeat Nebraska as new coach Mike Riley tries to instill a new offensive system in Lincoln. QB Tommy Armstrong will need to step up his passing game. Until he does, I still think the 'Huskers will control the line of scrimmage enough to pull out a close win.