COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS: Michigan, Auburn, Miami start fast
After a quiet offseason in college football, the final month leading up to kickoff was dominated by scandals.
As lousy as off-the-field issues can be in the sport, and the topics were unsettling in August, the games rarely disappoint and are the reason fans tolerate the bad news.
The season starts with its traditional marathon holiday weekend schedule, a fair amount of which will be nothing more than scrimmages. No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Georgia start the season with FCS tuneups and there will be plenty of lopsided match-ups involving FBS teams, too. At least a few games are thankfully appointment viewing.
But most of all college football is back and there is a lot of it spread out over the five days. Try to enjoy it.
No. 21 UCF (minus 23) at UConn
The other defending national champions open on the road ... UCF 42-24.
Western Kentucky (plus 35½) at No. 4 Wisconsin
Badgers start with two suspended receivers, but TB Jonathan Taylor and that massive o-line should be enough for now ... WISCONSIN 48-14.
Utah State (minus 23½) at No. 11 Michigan State
Experienced Aggies are good enough to make the Spartans work into the fourth quarter ... MICHIGAN STATE 31-13.
San Diego State (plus 14) at No. 13 Stanford
Aztecs pulled the upset last year of the Cardinal ... STANFORD 34-17.
No. 1 Alabama (minus 24½) vs. Louisville at Orlando, Florida
Tua or Jalen? Does it really matter? ... ALABAMA 45-17.
Oregon State (plus 38) at No. 5 Ohio State
Game one of three without Urban Meyer on the sideline. Whatever issues that might cause the Buckeyes, it's doubtful the Beavers will be able to exploit them ... OHIO STATE 56-10.
No. 6 Washington (plus 1½) vs. No. 9 Auburn at Atlanta
After 1-8 bowl season the Pac-12 can really use this one ... AUBURN 27-20.
FAU (plus 21) at No. 7 Oklahoma
Lane Train can't keep up with the Sooner Schooner ... OKLAHOMA 55-21, BEST BET.
Appalachian State (plus 23½) at No. 10 Penn State
App State has maybe the greatest upset in college football history on its resume, but is 0-5 against Power Five schools since moving to FBS ... PENN STATE 39-14.
No. 14 Michigan (plus 1) at No. 12 Notre Dame
Rivalry has been dormant for three years. It ended with the Irish shutting out Brady Hoke's last Michigan team and resumes with Jim Harbaugh looking for a statement victory ... MICHIGAN 23-17.
UNLV (plus 26) at No. 15 Southern California
Will the Trojans start freshman QB J.T. Daniels? ... USC 42-14.
No. 17 West Virginia (minus 7) vs. Tennessee at Charlotte, North Carolina
Mountaineers enter the season with lots of hype and a Heisman contender quarterback in Will Grier. Tennessee is rebuilding with a new coach ... WEST VIRGINIA 28-17.
No. 22 Boise State (minus 10½) at Troy
Two of the best from outside the Power Five ... BOISE STATE 21-13.
No. 23 Texas (minus 13) at Maryland
Hard to guess where the Maryland players' heads will be considering their last month ... TEXAS 28-20.
Bowling Green (plus 31½) at No. 24 Oregon
Ducks debut their latest digs with numbers that will allow even the folks in the nose-bleed seats at Autzen Stadium to identify who is in on the play ... OREGON 56-21.
No. 8 Miami (minus 3½) vs. No. 25 LSU at Arlington, Texas
The U. is lined up for a 5-0 start if it can handle an LSU team breaking in a new quarterback ... MIAMI 23-16.
No. 20 Virginia Tech (plus 7½) at No. 19 Florida State
New 'Noles coach Willie Taggart debuts with a conference game and a chance to make a great first impression ... FLORIDA STATE 31-20.
Northwestern (plus 1½) at Purdue — @dvolpi88
How can Jeff Brohm follow-up a solid first season with the Boilermakers? ... PURDUE 24-21.
North Carolina (plus 7) at California — @raybelkora
Player suspensions for selling (their own) shoes has the Tar Heels depleted ... CAL 28-23.
Northern Illinois (plus 10½) at Iowa — @JeffMiles9
Hawkeyes face NIU sackmaster Sutton Smith with both their starting offensive tackles suspended ... IOWA 28-14.
Mississippi (plus 2½) vs. Texas Tech in Houston — @TurnerDad
NCAA-sanctioned Rebels can't play in the postseason, but they have potential to be fun to watch with All-America WR A.J. Brown ... OLE MISS 35-28, UPSET SPECIAL.
Overall record last season: 253-90 straight; 156-169-7 against the spread.
Bowl record: 23-17; 20-18-1.
Upset specials: 5-9 (straight up).
Best bets: 8-5 (against the spread).
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://www.podcastone.com/AP-Top-25-College-Football-Podcast