Huge Top 25 Match-ups Highlight Week 2

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” – Psalm 23:4 – Photo courtesy of Jacob Thompson Photography

Week 2 of the college football season gets underway tonight with some Friday night action. The real show, though, is Saturday afternoon into Saturday night. #12 Texas A&M enters a real Valley of Death (see what I did there) as they face #1 Clemson on the road. Then right after that game is another big Top 25 match-up as #6 LSU travels to Austin, TX to take on Sam Ehlinger and the 9th ranked Longhorns.

I’m going to make my picks for both of these games, plus a number of others. For the season, I am currently 8-4 in picks. Not a bad first week, but we will shoot for a little better in Week 2.

#21 Syracuse at Maryland (-2) – Noon – ESPN

The Orange head to College Park, MD as less than a field goal underdog Saturday as they face a Maryland team that just dropped 79 on Howard… wait I think Maryland scored again. Syracuse didn’t look great against a Liberty team whose head coach was bed-ridden after having major surgery, but that didn’t stop Hugh Freeze from coaching that game! I think a lot of people think Syracuse will walk away with a victory, but I’m not so sure. This to me feels like the kind of game Syracuse is bound to lose, especially since they will be looking ahead to next week’s game against #1 Clemson. I like the Terps in this one.

Maryland – 45, Syracuse – 38

West Virginia at Missouri (-13.5) – Noon – ESPN 2

West Virginia started slow last week against FCS opponent James Madison while Missouri is still reeling from an opening loss on the road at Wyoming, a game in which Missouri was gashed for nearly 400 yards by the Cowboys offense. Neither team plays defense, so this one will probably be a shoot-out. Missouri QB Kelly Bryant will help keep this one close for sure and might even do enough to give the Tigers the win. West Virginia will need a big game from their QB Austin Kendall and they will need to run the ball for more than 34 yards (their total last week… as a team!). Ultimately I think WVU does just enough to squeak out a win.

West Virginia – 42, Missouri – 41

#12 Texas A&M at #1 Clemson (-16.5) – 3:30 – ABC

Possibly the toughest test the top ranked Tigers will have this regular season, they take on a Texas A&M team that nearly derailed them a year ago. Clemson ended up with 28-26 win in College Station, but not before some controversy near the end of the game. Luckily for the Tigers, they are at home this year. Clemson’s secondary didn’t get much of a challenge from Georgia Tech a week ago, so this will be a good measure for those guys. Aggies QB Kellen Mond has had his struggles on the road, and because of that, I like my Tigers in this one. I’m not going to say they will cover the 16.5 point spread, but I think two scores is reasonable.

Clemson – 31, Texas A&M – 21

#25 Nebraska (-4) at Colorado – 3:30 – FOX

I’m actually very excited about this game on Saturday afternoon. A classic rivalry that was renewed last season for the first time since both teams left the Big 12. Nebraska has dominated the rivalry all-time, but it was the Buffs getting the win last year in Lincoln, 33-28. Nebraska looked really bad offensively last week against South Alabama, but their defense was the saving grace. I think the defense will have to play great again against a Colorado team that can put up a lot of yards and a lot of points. I like the Huskers in a close one.

Nebraska – 34, Colorado – 31

BYU at Tennessee (-4) – 7:00 – ESPN

Will anyone actually watch this game or be in Neyland Stadium for this match-up between two teams that, let’s just be honest, are just really bad? I’ll give BYU the benefit of the doubt because they lost to a tough Utah team last week in a heated rivalry game. Tennessee lost to Georgia State. Yes, a program that has only existed since 2010. There aren’t a lot of bright spots in Knoxville right now, and I don’t think it gets any better for Vols fans.

BYU – 35, Tennessee – 21

#6 LSU (-6.5) at #9 Texas – 7:30 – ABC

The second of our Top 25 double-header on ABC is a great match-up between two traditional college football powerhouses. These two teams haven’t played against one another since 2003 and have only met twice since 1963. Both teams had easy wins against lesser opponents in Week 1 so this will be a game to see exactly how good these two teams are. Is this the year that Texas is finally back? I love QB Sam Ehlinger and I think his performance will determine the outcome of the game. LSU proved they can actually throw the ball, but that was against Georgia Southern. How well will Joe Burrow do on the road? I’m not surprised LSU is favored, but 6.5 seems a little high. I think it’ll be close early, but I’m taking Texas to pull away in the second half. Hook ’em!

Texas – 27, LSU – 17

Miami (-4.5) at North Carolina – 8:00 – ACCN

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a very tasty match-up, but I honestly believe that this will be a very entertaining football game. This could make or break Miami’s season and after beating South Carolina a week ago, UNC is riding high and will be ready to get Mack his first home win back in Chapel Hill. Both teams feature really young, but really talented quarterbacks. I like what I saw from Sam Howell last week against the Gamecocks. I’m going to take the Tar Heels in this one.

UNC – 28, Miami – 14

And my SoCon games of the week this week:

The Citadel at Elon – 2:00

Both of these teams are coming off really heartbreaking loses against ranked opponents. The Citadel could have won, had it not been for three turnovers, and Elon lost on a last second 52 yard field goal. This is an old SoCon match-up circa mid-2000’s. I think both programs are really good and can still have really good seasons, but a loss here hurts moving forward. I’m going to stick with the SoCon team and take the Bulldogs. I think they do a better job of holding on to the ball this week and wind up getting the W.

The Citadel – 27, Elon – 20

Chattanooga at Jacksonville State – 7:00 – ESPN+

Chattanooga looked a little sleepy against Eastern Illinois in Week 1, but they got the win. Jacksonville State got obliterated by Southeast Louisiana 35-14. I know Jacksonville State is good and they are ranked in the FCS Coaches Poll, but I’m not big on the Gamecocks. QB Nick Tiano, I expect, will have a bounce back game after a poor performance last week. I’ll take the Chattanooga Choo-Choo’s (not there name for those that may be confused).

Chattanooga – 38, Jacksonville State – 21

Furman at Georgia State – 7:00 – ESPN3

And finally, in the best game I think in the SoCon this week, Furman travels down to Atlanta to take on a Georgia State team that is riding high after the win over Tennessee. Dan Ellington proved he can ball and Georgia State played a nice game defensively. But Furman has weapons of their own and I believe actually have a more talented and physical defense. Not many are going to give Furman a chance, but I like them in this one. I believe Darren Grainger and Devin Wynn will have a big game for the Paladins. I don’t know if it will be a runaway, but I’m taking Furman on the road. Go Dins!

Furman – 31, Georgia State – 27

Comment below and let me know who you like in some of these match-ups. Do you agree or disagree with my predictions?

Also, check out our show on SoundCloud.com. Search for The Spread w/ Cameron Tarrant. SoCon John Hooper and I had a great discussion as we previewed this upcoming week of college football. The Sunday recap show will air Sunday evening, so stay tuned for that.

Like and follow The Spread on Facebook and Twitter.

Star Freshman and Transfers Shine and Other Week 1 Observations

My conclusions and observations after the first full week of college football. I’ll take a look at the things that I got right and the things I got very wrong. – Photos courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser

Week 1 of the 2019 college football season is officially in the books. It all began with a sloppy and rather disappointing game between Miami and Florida. There were poor performances all across the sport in the first weekend, but there were also very surprising and memorable performances as well.

It was a big weekend for Freshman quarterbacks. Hank Bachmeier was able to take Boise State into Tallahassee and lead a ferocious second half comeback over the Noles. Bachmeier completed close to sixty percent of his passes for over 400 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s win. Two other Freshman quarterbacks were able to lead their teams to comeback wins in week 1. Bo Nix of Auburn and Sam Howell of North Carolina did just enough for their teams as UNC beat South Carolina and Auburn took down Oregon. Howell ended with 245 yards of passing and 2 touchdowns. Bo Nix looked shaky early, throwing two interceptions, but pulled it together late and ended up throwing the game winner with 15 seconds left in the game.

We live in a time where freshman phenoms at quarterback are becoming more and more normal. Go back just 10 years or so and the thought of starting a freshman on the first game of the season would have been unheard of. In fact, coaches that would even consider it would be thought of as crazy. But now, these kids are at a completely different level coming out of high school and there are a growing number of them that are poised and confident enough to lead big time programs right away.

Big name quarterback transfers also made a statement in Week 1 for their new teams. Two former Georgia Bulldogs, Justin Fields (now with Ohio State) and Jacob Eason (now at Washington) had great games against weaker competition, each throwing 4 touchdown passes on Saturday. But by far, the biggest performance of the weekend was Jalen Hurts lighting up the Houston defense on Sunday night for the Sooners. Hurts, the former Alabama quarterback, ended up with over 500 of total offense and 6 total touchdowns as Oklahoma beat Houston 49-31.

There were also a number of surprises that took place this past weekend. No one expected Duke to hang around with Alabama, but that’s just what the Blue Devils did… for a half at least. Duke managed to hone in the Tide offense, giving up just 14 first half points. Alabama didn’t even score until five minutes into the second quarter. The second half was a different story, however, and the Tide went on to rout Duke 42-3.

#21 Iowa State was nearly the first FBS team to lose to a FCS team this season as they barely survived Northern Iowa in triple overtime. Tennessee lost their home opener to Georgia State, a program that has only existed for a decade! Tennessee had not lost to a Group or 5 opponent since 2008. Things are very rocky there in Rocky Top. And Missouri went on the road with Clemson transfer QB Kelly Bryant and lost a wild game to Wyoming, though Kelly did play well overall.

What I got right in Week 1

What didn’t surprise me this week? Those teams at the top, as the big dogs ate and they ate a lot in week 1. The Top 6 teams in the country (Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State & LSU) all won by an average margin of 32.5 points. I had a feeling that all of those teams, and others in the Top 25, would roll this week, with most of them playing much lesser competition.

Overall, Week 1 was a solid week of football. While there were plenty of struggles and mistakes made, even by the best in the country, most teams played up to expectation. We will see how well those mistakes can get corrected as a couple of top teams get ready for marquee match-ups next week. Clemson at home vs. Texas A&M and LSU travelling to Austin to play Texas. Both are very intriguing, early season defining games.

In the SoCon, my pre-season favorite, Furman Paladins, looked really, really strong against Charleston Southern. The young quarterback Darren Grainger had a solid day, but it was the plethora of talent at running back that really showed off. Furman tallied 369 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground as a team, led by star Junior Devin Wynn. If the Paladins continue to play like they did on Saturday, they will be hard to stop this season. They will have a tough game next week against a Georgia State team that is feeling themselves after beating the Vols in Knoxville.

What I got wrong

A number of things.

I’ll stay in the SoCon real quick as Wofford and Samford both lost to teams they should not have lost to. Wofford got beat by South Carolina State, in Orangeburg, and Samford lost a double overtime thriller to Tennessee Tech. Those two opponents, combined, went 6-16 last season. Not a good look for two SoCon teams thought highly of coming into the year.

In FBS play, a couple of teams that I really liked to have big a 2019, lost this week. Oregon, who I thought was a sure Play-off contender, got knocked off in the final seconds against Auburn. Depending on how well Auburn does this year will determine how good of a loss that is for the Ducks. Not a complete post-season killer, but it sure doesn’t help.

My pick to win the ACC Coastal – Virginia Tech – also lost their opener at Boston College. A 35-28 final could have turned into a much different game had the Hokies not turned the ball over 5 times!

Florida, South Carolina and Missouri all looked bad and made it very clear that none of them are ready to compete for the SEC East and take the crown from Georgia. South Carolina made the move on Monday to turn the offense over to Freshman QB Ryan Hilinski after it was reported Jake Bentley will be out indefinitely with a foot injury. This is a move that I honestly believe is a week overdue. I thought for sure we would see the freshman in Week 1, but Muschamp decided to ride with Bentley. A move he will regret after the veteran QB threw a couple of interceptions late in the game versus UNC. Let’s see how Hilinski does against Charleston Southern next week. Maybe he can get comfortable before the Tide rolls into Columbia in Week 3.

Again I’ll say, overall not a bad first week, but some things to consider differently going into next week. Looking forward to a great slate of games next weekend.

Upstate High School

Some final scores from this past weekend here in the Upstate. Congrats to my Devildogs on a big win! 2-0 now on the season.

Southside – 17, J.L. Mann – 14

Byrnes – 40, Northwestern – 0

Liberty – 24, Berea -14

Spartanburg – 20, Greer – 12

Woodmont – 27, Palmetto – 7

T.L. Hanna – 40, Emerald – 7

Eastside – 49, Riverside – 7

Travelers Rest – 54, Carolina – 7

Greenville – 49, Wade Hampton – 0

D.W. Daniel – 51, Easley – 6

NFL

Week 1 of the NFL regular season kicks off Thursday night with a NFC North rivalry between the Packers and the Bears.

The NFL power rankings for Week 1 were released today. Carolina is ranked in the bottom half of the league at #18. The Panthers will take on defending NFC Champs the LA Rams at home on Sunday.

I don’t expect big things out of Carolina this year. Possibly a wild card contender, I believe that New Orleans is by far the strongest team in the NFC South with Atlanta not far behind. With Cam Newton getting older and a defense that has showed a major weakness on the back end, I just don’t see Carolina contending for the division this year.

ACC Takes Center Stage; Upstate Set for Big Week of Football

Week 1 of the College Football season gets into full swing starting tonight. I’m going to go through some of this week’s games and pick the winners of both national marquee match-ups and local South Carolina schools.

Georgia Tech at #1 Clemson (-37) – Tonight – 8:00 PM – ACCN

The defending National Champs look to defend home field as their 2019 campaign kicks off tonight with conference rival Georgia Tech. The Tigers bring back some of the best young talent in the FBS on the offensive side of the ball. QB Trevor Lawrence leads a ferocious offense that looks to break plenty of NCAA records this season. Clemson’s defense lost a ton to the NFL this off-season and has a lot of young guys that are looking to leave their mark. A new look Georgia Tech offense will be just the test these young players need to start the season. It will be a good marker going into next week against Texas A&M.

Geoff Collins was named the head coach following the retirement of Paul Johnson at the end of 2018. Collins is coming off a 15-10 two-year stint at Temple, and he brings with him a spread attack, which is a brand new look for the Yellow Jackets, who for over 10 years ran a triple option offense. There are a lot of question marks for Georgia Tech coming into the year, both on offense and defense, as the defense will also be playing under a new scheme this season. Probably a reason the Tigers are currently a 37 point favorite over GT tonight.

Clemson wins big tonight. Clemson – 52, Georgia Tech – 13

South Carolina (-11) vs. North Carolina – 8/31 – 3:30 PM – ESPN

The Carolina’s get set to clash on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The Tar Heels got rid of Larry Fedora in the off-season and brought back former coach Mack Brown. The 2018 Tar Heels finished with a 2-9 (1-7) record, but that easily could have been 7-4. They had at least five games last year that were decided by 7 points or less. I expect UNC to fare a little better this year with Mack back at the helm. Not sure if it necessarily starts that way though.

South Carolina didn’t have the 2018 they wanted either as they went 7-6 with an ugly shout out loss to Virginia to end the year. Head Coach Will Muschamp hasn’t exactly had the best of times in Columbia. I personally didn’t think that was the right hire for the Gamecocks to begin with. One thing Carolina does do good at is winning the opener. They are 8-1 since 2010 in their season opening contests. A good sign coming into this game. Senior QB Jake Bentley has continued to improve, but I believe is completely out-shadowed by True Freshman Ryan Hilinski. I expect to see this kid get some playing time on Saturday.

South Carolina – 27, UNC – 20

Duke vs. #2 Alabama (-33.5) – 8/31 – 3:30 PM – ABC

Can we all just take a minute and appreciate the fact that Duke is less of an underdog to Alabama than Georgia Tech is to Clemson? I mean, it’s not a whole lot of difference, but look at ESPN at least giving the Blue Devils a little credit. I think we can all say that it would be sweet to see Duke upset the Tide on Saturday, but that ain’t happening. Tua and the Tide are on a mission this year Duke is going to get every ounce of frustration taken out on them.

Alabama – 56, Duke – 17

Virginia Tech (-4.5) at Boston College – 8/31 – 4:00 PM – ACCN

A really good ACC Conference game that no one is really talking about. The Hokies and Eagles set to revisit an old Big East rivalry on Saturday. Virginia Tech has had its ups and downs over the last couple of season, especially last year after finishing 6-7. Tech has a lot of talent coming back and a schedule that perfectly sets them up to get to the ACC Championship game. I did pick them to win the Coastal Divsion. Couple all of that with the fact that long time Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster is retiring at the end of the year, I think VT comes out on Saturday hungry for a winning season. The “Lunch Pail” defense gets it done against BC.

Virginia Tech – 24, Boston College – 14

#3 Georgia (-22.5) at Vanderbilt – 8/31 – 7:30 PM – ESPN

All I can say for this SEC East match-up is… Poor Vandy. Coming into this year, Georgia is the second best team in the SEC and the favorite to repeat as East Division Champs. Vanderbilt on the other hand, continues to be the bottom dweller of the league. The Commodores haven’t had a winning season since James Franklin’s last year at the school in 2013. The Dawgs are going to tear up Vandy.

Georgia – 45, Vanderbilt – 7

#11 Oregon vs #16 Auburn (-3.5) – 8/31 – 7:30 PM – ABC

Probably the best game on Saturday night, I’m actually a little surprised that Auburn is opening up as big as a favorite as they are. 3.5 may not seem like much, but I personally think that Oregon has the better team and better chance to win this game. They have, arguably, the best quarterback that will be eligible for the draft this year in Justin Herbert. The Ducks are one of my pre-season favorites to make the College Football Playoff at the end of the year. That being said, I’m riding with the Ducks in what will be a thrilling shoot out in the heart of Texas.

Oregon – 49, Auburn – 41

Houston at #4 Oklahoma (-23) – 9/1 – 7:30 PM – ABC

An interesting game to start the year, Houston is definitely going to be a contender this year in the American Conference. But trying to go into Norman and knock-off the #4 team in the country is no easy feat. Oklahoma has a, not so new face, under center with Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts. Oklahoma has a ton of weapons on offense, which is good because they didn’t play much defense a year ago. Houston shouldn’t be too much of test for the Sooners, but you never know. I think its closer than the “experts” think.

Oklahoma – 45, Houston – 31

#9 Notre Dame (-19) at Louisville – 9/2 – 8:00 PM – ESPN

The first full weekend of college football ends with a sleepy game in Kentucky on Labor Day. I mean, who did the scheduling for this game? This is the best we could do for the Labor Day night game? The Irish win this game before they even take the field. Louisville’s defense was so bad a year ago, DIII Earlham could have scored enough points to win. (For anyone who doesn’t get that reference just google Earlham Quakers. Spoiler, they cut football last year after a 53 game losing streak). Notre Dame wins by a large margin.

Notre Dame – 56, Louisville – 14

Let’s move onto some other local upstate games with some SoCon Picks.

Charleston Southern at Furman – 8/31 – 1:00 PM

I like Furman to have a really good 2019 season. They are my pre-season favorite to win the league. The Paladins are young, but are a really talented group. The defense should be one of the best in the conference. There may be some messiness out of the gates, but I think Furman ultimately pulls away and starts 2019 off on the right foot. Go Dins!

Furman – 31, Charleston Southern – 20

Wofford at South Carolina State – 8/31 – 6:00 PM

Last year’s SoCon Co-Champions and coach’s Pre-Season favorite travel down I-26 to Orangeburg to take on the Bulldogs. Wofford has a great rushing attack and will look to put that on show against a middle of the road defense. In this battle of canines, I think it’ll be the Terriers topping the Bulldogs.

Wofford – 28, SC State – 17

Mercer at Western Carolina – 8/31 – 6:00 PM

This is the only conference match-up this week in the SoCon. Both of these teams finished toward the bottom of the league a year ago and will both look to get that first conference win under their belt. Western was just terrible last year, but they have R-SR QB Tyrie Adams, who is a game changer and a first team All-SoCon player. Both teams have talent, but I think Mercer has just a little more. I’ll take the Bears.

Mercer – 35, Western Carolina – 21

2019 Season Predictions

With kickoff just a few days away from the first full weekend of college football, I’m going to make my predictions on the conference winners and my four teams to reach the College Football Playoff and eventual National Champ. I will also make a prediction for the SoCon.

American

UCF starts the season as the only team in the American to be ranked in the Top 25. The Golden Knights have been on top of the conference for the last two years and I don’t see that changing in 2019. While I think that teams like USF and Temple could give them a run in the East Division, I believe the Knights will ultimately make it to the American Conference Championship. In the West, while I have always loved Navy, they have not fared well since joining the conference. Houston or Memphis seem like the likely favorites to come out of this division. I really don’t think it will matter as the Golden Knights will, for the third year in a row, don the American Conference crown.

UCF – 51 Memphis – 45

ACC

This one is a no brainer. Four time defending champion Clemson will roll through the ACC again this year. The conference is getting better, but the level of talent that separates the Tigers and everyone else is clear. Florida State is still rebuilding under second year coach Willie Taggart while NC State and Syracuse just can’t seem to get over the hump in the Atlantic division. In the Coastal, it’s really just a toss up. Who will rise up out of the division this year? There have been six different schools in the last six years to win the division. Since 2009, its been either Clemson or FSU in the Atlantic. I’m big on either of the two Virginia schools, Virginia or Virginia Tech, to win the Coastal this year. But again, it won’t matter as Clemson will crush whoever they face.

Clemson – 49 Virginia Tech – 14

Big 12

This conference will be fun this year. Tom Herman has Texas in prime position coming into the year to win a conference title. It would be their first since 2009. Junior QB Sam Ehlinger is a solid player and has the talent and the weapons to lead Texas to the championship game again this year. Of course, #4 Oklahoma returns as the favorite as well they should, seeing that they are the four time defending conference champions. These are the two best teams in this conference and I fully expect to see Texas and Oklahoma meet up for a second time this season (the first meeting being the Red River Rivalry). However, I think this year has a different ending.

Texas – 35 Oklahoma – 31

Big Ten

Ohio State comes into the season as the highest ranked team out of seven ranked teams in the Big Ten. Not far behind them is #7 Michigan who will look to wrap up some unfinished business with the Buckeyes come November. A conference that is riddled with talent, the Big Ten regular season is always a gauntlet. Will this be the year Michigan beats OSU and gets to the Championship? Or will it be the same old story for the “Fighting Harbaughs”? I seriously doubt it as I seriously believe Ohio State wins the East again this year. The West is also a touch division, with three ranked teams that can all take the division title. I know Scott Frost had a tough first year in Lincoln as the head coach of Nebraska, but I believe he is building a solid culture and has talent to make a run with the ‘Huskers this year. I’m going out on a limb with Nebraska.

Ohio State – 30 Nebraska – 27

C-USA

I think the most underrated story in college football last year was UAB winning the C-USA Championship in only their second year back after having previously cut football at the university. What would be even sweeter, would be backing that championship up again this year. I like the Blazers.

UAB – 45 FAU – 38

MAC

I love watching teams from the MAC play. The talent pool is small, but the heart and drive is very large. Last year’s championship game was a thriller. A one point victory for NIU over underdog Buffalo. Probably the most entertaining championship game other than Georgia/Alabama. NIU should return as West Division champs. Buffalo has a lot of returning talent and could definitely make a push again this year. I like the rematch in the title game, but the Bulls get their revenge.

Buffalo – 31 NIU – 28

Mountain West

The last two Mountain West Championship Games have featured contests between Fresno State and Boise State, with them splitting the two games. Utah State in the Mountain Division is a good looking team, who nearly took down Sparty and whose only conference loss was to Boise a season ago. The Aggies are in a good spot to play spoiler in the Mountain Division. Do they have enough to get past Boise? Very likely, but I’m sticking with the Broncos. I would say that Fresno State is a lock again to win the West Division, but after seeing Hawaii beat Arizona last weekend, I’m not so certain anymore. I think the division ends up coming down to one of these two teams.

Boise State – 45 Fresno State – 35

Pac-12

Oregon and Washington are the two favorites in the North this year. Washington, the defending champion, no longer has their star QB Jake Browning. However, they do have Georgia transfer Jacob Eason. The Ducks have SR Justin Herbert returning, a Heisman contender, at quarterback. The game between these two teams in October will decide who makes it to the Championship Game, and possibly even the College Football Playoff. The South Division really only has one team that I feel good about making it to the conference finale, and that would be Utah. The Utes lost a hard fought game last year to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship. I think they get back again this year, but it will be the same result as last year, a loss for the Utes.

Oregon – 56 Utah – 31

SEC

Before last Saturday, I would have picked the Gators as my favorite to win the SEC East this year. After Saturday’s performance against Miami, I no longer feel that way. Georgia is still the leader in the division and the only teams that might give them problems in the East are Missouri and Kentucky. The SEC West is even more cut and dry. Its ‘Bama and then everyone else. LSU still can’t throw the ball to save their life and I think Texas A&M is still another year away. We will see how Auburn fares this year. They are probably the most likely team in the West to knock off the Tide this year. But I’m going to go ahead and call it now – Bama vs. Georgia in a rematch.

Alabama – 35 Georgia – 33

Sun Belt

The Sun Belt, also known as the “Fun Belt”, hosted their first ever conference championship game last year with App State taking down the Rajun’ Cajuns’ of Louisiana. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that App State has the best team in the conference. This is a team that could very well beat both UNC and South Carolina this year. App State is my dark horse pick to be the highest ranked Group of 5 team this year. All that to say, App State will win the Sun Belt title again this year.

App State – 40 Louisiana – 17

Notre Dame

Notre Dame doesn’t play in a conference, although they play several games against ACC opponents and compete in the ACC in every other sport, but I felt the need to talk about the Fighting Irish’s 2019 season. Coming into the year ranked #9, the Irish were a Playoff contender last season, and could very well get back this year. Notre Dame plays a very tough schedule on the road this year with three games against pre-season Top 25 ranked teams – Georgia, Michigan & Stanford. Other than that, the schedule is pretty easy. USC and Virginia Tech would be the next toughest games for the Irish and both of those games are at home in South Bend. If Notre Dame can go 12-0 again this year, then they get into the playoff, but I don’t see that happening. I’ll give Notre Dame a solid 10-2 regular season.

SOCON

Last year, the SoCon had three teams take a share of the conference title – Wofford, ETSU and Furman. The first two made it to postseason play, while Furman was left sitting at home. The SoCon race looks to be a good one in 2019. I believe Wofford and Furman will be big players in the league again this season. Furman gets Mercer at home, which is a plus, but have tough road tests at Chattanooga and Wofford. I suspect that Chattanooga will be better than they were a year ago after finishing T-5 in the final conference standings. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I’m going to pick the Paladins to take at least a two-way share of the conference title and make a FCS Playoff run.

College Football Playoff

Now to unveil my top four teams that make it to the College Football Playoff this year.

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Oregon
  4. Ohio State

First two out:

5. Texas
6. Georgia

And the two teams I think will make it to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in New Orleans are:

Clemson vs. Alabama (Again)

I’ll take the Tigers over the Tide in yet another National Championship rematch. This year though, I think Alabama keeps it closer than 28 points.

Clemson – 38 Alabama – 31

Gators edge the Canes; Colts out of Luck

Plenty to talk about after a very interesting weekend in the world of football. From an uninspiring college football opener, to the shocking retirement from one of the NFL’s best Quarterbacks.

SC – High School

I want to start with some local high school action that took place on Friday. Plenty of good contests here in the Palmetto State. South Carolina ranked #1 (#22 nationally) Dutch Fork didn’t necessarily have the start they wanted with a 27-27 tie against Mallard Creek High School (NC). Byrnes absolutely rolled the Greer Yellowjackets 33-8 in their season opener. Fort Dorchester, Daniel, Summerville & Clover all got off to impressive starts. Those four teams won their games by an average of 30 points over their opponents.

My Devildogs put a hurting on Riverside Friday night with a resounding 41-7 victory. Travelers Rest Senior Quarterback Wilson Hendricks led the charge for the Devildogs offensively scoring five total touchdowns, two through the air and three more on the ground. Hendricks went 14-28 for 182 and rushed for 75 more yards on 10 carries. Senior Zeirean Riley was Hendricks’ favorite target on the night with 5 catches for 77 yards and both receiving touchdowns. The Devildog defense came up big in the game forcing a pair Riverside interceptions. A great way to start the year for Travelers Rest as they now look to next weeks game at Carolina Academy to take on the Trojans. It’s great to see Travelers Rest on the winning side of things for a change. My alma mater has had a tough decade or so on the gridiron, but I believe the program is finally starting to turn the corner. WE ARE TR!

In the other AAAA Region 2 games that took place, Eastside pulled away in the 3rd quarter against Southside and wound up with a 38-21 victory over the Tigers. Woodmont played a solid game on both sides of the ball as they took down Greenville High 35-14. And in the Battle of Highway 14, Blue Ridge took down Landrum 35-14. The Fighting Tigers look forward to their Week Two match-up against the 0-1 Chesnee Eagles.

And just down the road from my house in Easley, the Greenwave ran their way past rival Pickens totaling over 325 yards on the ground. Leading rusher Dylan Lyda (SR) had 14 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns. An outstanding performance two-way player, who also had three tackles and an interception. during the game. Senior Josh Hill lead the Greenwave defense with 17 total tackles, 11 solo tackles, and an interception. In all, the Greenwave defense forced four Pickens turnovers. Easley would go on to win 31-14.

NCAA

On to college now as the opening weekend to the college football season had a rather disappointing start. In the 3:00 ET contest, the Youngstown State Penguins traveled down to Montgomery, AL to take on SOCON opponent Samford. Coming into the game, I really felt that Samford would have a good game against a team that didn’t have a great 2018. I mean I picked them to win by 11 for goodness sake. However, when your starting QB throws three interceptions and loses a fumble, it’s pretty hard to win a football game. Junior QB Liam Welch will want to forget about this performance as he got pulled mid-way through this game. The Samford defense, which had some returning talent, couldn’t stop anyone as the Pengiuns rushed for close to 300 yards and three touchdowns. A 24-7 game at the half, would ultimately end with a 45-22 thrashing. Samford looks to rebound at Tennessee Tech this Saturday.

Saturday night’s premier match-up featured a rivalry being renewed with Florida and Miami facing off at a neutral site in Orlando. I came into the game with high hopes, I’d would even say high expectations, for the 2019 Gators. I thought what the team was able to do under first year coach Dan Mullen last year would be the catalyst for an outstanding 2019 season. And then… the game Saturday night happened. Florida’s offense was dreadful, to say the least. The Gators could not run the ball, totaling just 52 yards as a team. Coming into this year, I believed that QB Felipe Franks was starting to grow into a good, not great, but a good pass thrower. I judged wrong. Saturday night made me remember who Felipe Franks really is, a garbage college quarterback. He went 17-27 for 254 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble during the game. Even with his mediocre performance, the Gators defense held just long enough to give the Gators the 24-20 win. I picked the Gators winning (good for me), but I picked them winning in a blow out (I won’t make that same mistake). My big take away was Miami’s Redshirt Freshman quarterback Jarren Williams. I honestly didn’t think the kid would play well against a tough, physical Gators defense. I was wrong there too. The kid can play. Williams finished the game going 19-30 for 214 with one touchdown. That was after playing the first half with just TWO incompletions. Even though this is a tough loss for the Canes, they should be able to bounce back with a win next week as they travel to Chapel Hill. There are some definite bright spots for Miami who, even with the loss, still have a lot to play for this season. Florida disappointed, but they have time to fix some of the wrinkles as they get to head home to the Swamp to play FCS opponent Tennessee-Martin.

NFL

The biggest story in football this past weekend didn’t even have to do with a game that was being played. Saturday, Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck decided he was going to retire from football. He is 29. Luck, a four-time Pro-Bowler, was the 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year after having missed 2017 with a shoulder injury. That right there is the reason Luck is stepping away from football. In his six years in the NFL, Luck has been riddle with injury problems. Luck explained in his press conference on Saturday that, “This is not an easy decision. Honestly, it’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me. For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab, and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason, and I felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football.” Luck’s career numbers sit at 3,290 yards passing, 171 passing touchdown and 87 interceptions. He was the Colts #1 pick in the 2012 draft out of Stanford. Luck’s departure leaves a huge hole at the quarterback position for the Colts. Three year NFL veteran Jacoby Brissett will take over as the starting QB. Behind him are Chad Kelly (Ole Miss) and rookie Philip Walker out of Temple. Brissett was the stater for the Colts in the 2017 season, the year Luck was out due to injury. Brissett threw for just over 3,000 yards with 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions with a 43.3 QBR. The Colts went 4-12 that season. If I am a Colts fan right now, I’m honestly crushed and have a bleak outlook now on the season. Luck meant everything to this organization, but I get it. Luck has to do what he thinks is best for him. There is not use risking doing very serious, permanent damage to his body at such a young age. #12 will be missed in Indianapolis and in the NFL. Who’s going to be as gracious and complimentary when they get hit by a defensive player as Luck was?

Football is back!

Ahhh! At long last… the start of football season is upon us. Tonight, here in South Carolina, high schools all across the state will suit it up for the first time this season. Tomorrow, college football officially kicks off, even if it is a rather lack luster start. The NFL is in the middle of the pre-season and still has two more weeks to go until the games that truly matter.

The beginning of the football season brings everyone joy, but more importantly… hope. Every team starts with same record and every team starts with the same chances of post season glory. However, that dream and that hope won’t last long.

Fan bases are itching to get back in the stands. Itching for the first tailgate of the year. Itching to yell and scream and cuss as their team battles it out on the field. There truly is no better time of year!

High School

The high school football season kicked off last night here in South Carolina, but the majority of schools will take the field tonight. Pre-season #1 Dutch Fork will take on Mallard Creek (NC) in their season opener while the Rebels of Byrnes will be in Greer to take on the Yellowjacks. A very interesting game to keep an eye on.

My alma mater, Travelers Rest, face off against Riverside at home tonight. TR is coming off a decent 7-4 season last year and will look to begin this season with similar success as they started off 2018 with a 35-14 win over Riverside. I’ll take the Dogs again to start the season off on the right foot.

In other AAAA Region 2 match-ups tonight, Eastside takes on Southside, Greenville is at Woodmont and Landrum travels to Blue Ridge.

Where I live, here in Easley, the Green Wave take on the Pickens Blue Flame in an AAAAA vs. AAAA match-up.

NCAA Football

Here in the South, college football is basically a religion. We wear out school’s colors with pride, even in those years where losses out weigh the wins. For me, Orange and Purple run through my veins as well as my wardrobe.

Saturday, we finally get a taste of college football. There are only two games this weekend featuring FBS teams: Miami vs. #8 Florida (neutral site game in Orlando) and Arizona at Hawaii. So while there aren’t really any huge marquee match-ups, these games will definitely suffice.

In the first game, an old rivalry is renewed as the Canes take on the Gators in Camping World Stadium. I loved what Dan Mullen was able to accomplish in his first year as the Gators head coach in 2018. A Gators team which has been steeped in mediocrity, finally showed some proof that the right head coach can make all the difference. A very good 10-3 year was capped off by a drubbing of Michigan in the Peach Bowl. On the other side, the Miami Hurricanes were all but impressive last year going 7-6 and getting whipped by Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Hurricanes have had some pre-season controversy with their quarterback situation by naming Freshman Jarren Williams the starter over highly touted QBs N’Kosi Perry and OSU transer Tate Martell. My thoughts going into this opening season game: With a Freshman QB for Miami going up against a very talented Florida defense and a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball for the Gators, I’ll take the Gators big over the Canes.

In the SOCON, the earliest of the televised games tomorrow features two FCS teams as Youngstown State travels down to Montgomery to take on Samford. The Bulldogs finished with a lack luster 6-5 (5-3) record last year. The Penguins will also be looking to set the tone for 2019 after finishing under .500 last season. A great nationally televised FCS match-up to start the college football season.

My Picks

Youngstown State vs. Samford – Samford 35-24 over YSU

Miami vs #8 Florida (-7) – I’m going with the blowout. Florida wins 41-10 over Miami

Arizona (-11.5) at Hawaii – Late night football offensive fire power. Should be a high scoring game. I’ll stick with Arizona, but closer than 11.5. Arizona wins 52-42 over Hawaii.

Welcome to The Spread

New Beginnings

“It’s only unthinkable if you don’t think it.”

— Dabo Swinney

In the fall of 2016 “SoCon” John Hooper and Cameron Tarrant decided to start a local football show on an AM radio station located in Travelers Rest, SC. After three years away from the media business, Cameron dreamed of getting back into talking about the sport they both love. So they’ve brought back “The Spread” as a weekly podcast and blog. The guys bring you the latest in all sports with a focus on FBS & FCS college football and the NFL. Our hope is to grow and expand the programming over time. We are excited to start this journey and hope you will join us on this ride.

Our podcast goes live on the podbean app and you can catch all the replays of the show here on the website or by going to thespreadpodcast.podbean.com. Check us out on Facebook and Twitter as well.

About Us

Hello! I’m Cameron Tarrant. I am originally from the great town of Travelers Rest here in South Carolina (Go Devildogs!). I currently live in Easley, SC with my wife and my two dogs.

I”m just a down home guy from the Upstate of South Carolina that loves sports, especially the game of football.

I went to Southern Wesleyan University and graduated in 2016 with a B.A. in Media Communications. While in school and traveled on the weekends and sang with the University Singers. (I’m a bass, for those that have never heard me speak). I also did play-by-play for SWU baseball, softball and Men & Women’s basketball.

Out of college I worked for a start-up AM radio station in Travelers Rest (1580 WDAB) where I hosted a weekday morning show and started a Sunday evening sports show. After being out of the media business for a couple of years, I’ve decided to reboot “The Spread” as a podcast and blog.

I’m a lover of all things football, especially my National Champion Clemson Tigers! My goal is to provide listeners and readers with a fun, personal take to local High School, college and NFL football. Although I never played, the game of football runs deep in my blood and I’m super excited to start this new chapter in my life.

Cameron Tarrant