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Week 1 picks: Let's clean up after NCAA's mess

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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In the past several months college football has seemingly had it all: a coach fired after being arrested for domestic violence and another let go after his blatant coverup of NCAA violations. A third was whacked and his athletic director resigned because of the NCAA black cloud hanging over the university. Another coach was relieved of his duties a year early for not being a team player, while an assistant coach was arrested for relieving himself in public -- but still remains employed.

With both of last year's BCS title finalists under NCAA investigation -- with nearly half a dozen other programs -- the game's leaders promised drastic NCAA reform. That talk immediately was overshadowed by allegations of third-party bagmen and the revelation of a booster playing the role of a modern-day Caligula at the University of Miami. Who knew LeBron James wasn't the most catered-to athlete in South Beach?

Then two weeks before the season began, a starting quarterback demonstrated his kicking skills -- upside someone's skull in a bar brawl. A kick to the head was just another punch to the gut for college football's image.

If that wasn't enough with the start of the college football season less than 72 hours away, the Big 12 learned that Texas A&M just isn't into them anymore and is in search of greener (SEC) pastures.

On Tuesday, a Marshall wide receiver was arrested on four counts of armed robbery, joining "student-athletes" from West Virginia and Auburn, who were all arrested for armed robbery in the past five months.

Then on Wednesday, Tulsa senior Damarius Johnson, the NCAA's all-time leader in all-purpose yards, was charged with felony embezzlement. Johnson's girlfriend works at Macy's, where Johnson purchased $2,834 worth of merchandise but she only charged him $13.25.

Johnson not only is the nation's leader in all-purpose yards, but also just happens to be the nation's best bargain shopper.

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Week 1 previews

The NCAA had it all: slime, scandal, sleaze and shifting conference landscapes -- basically every illegal activity under the sun except for gambling.

That's where I come in: Each Thursday I will fill that void by providing my weekly college football predictions against the point spread (legal disclaimer: for entertainment purposes only), including my 1,000 percent, never lost "Lock of the Week."

Last season, when I was employed by another media outlet, I went 122-102 during the regular season (54.4 percent), but only 21-22 on my bowl picks.

I have been staked an imaginary bankroll totaling 5,000 Brett Bucks (something like dollars, except they're worthless -- like, unfortunately, some of these picks). Each pick is for 50 Brett Bucks, except for the best bets, worth 100 Brett Bucks. Point spreads from Wednesday's USA Today.

All games are Saturday, unless indicated otherwise:

Bowling Green at Idaho (Thu.): Idaho coach Robb Akey has closed practices to the public until further notice because some injury information was posted on an Internet message board. I know exactly what you're thinking: Idaho has access to the Internet? Idaho -7.

Mississippi State at Memphis (Thu.): To boost attendance, Memphis donors received two free tickets to give away for this game. To make the game competitive, Mississippi State is letting any fans who made the trip to Memphis play in the second half. Mississippi State -29.

North Texas at Florida International (Thu.): Based in Miami, FIU is the nation's only FBS program to receive major NCAA infractions twice since 2005. In 2008, FIU received the dreaded "lack of institutional control." Who knew Donna Shalala was president of two universities in Miami? North Texas +14

Akron at Ohio State: There were reports Wednesday that former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor scored a 7 on the Wonderlic Test. That was incorrect. That was the over/under on how many first downs Akron will get against the Buckeyes. Take the under. And Ohio State -34.

Arkansas State at Illinois: At Big Ten media days this summer, Illinois coach Ron Zook remarked "it's hard to believe [I'm] going into my seventh year and I'm actually third in seniority. Actually kind of mind-boggling." Uh, yes it is. Arkansas State +21.

Buffalo at Pittsburgh: I wonder if Mike Haywood will be tuning into this one? Pittsburgh -30½.

Florida Atlantic at Florida: For playing at Florida, Florida Atlantic will receive $500,000 from Florida. Later this season, the Owls will receive $950,000 to play at Auburn. Imagine that: Auburn outbidding another SEC school. Florida -34½ is my best bet.

Fresno State at California: The mayors of Fresno and San Francisco have placed the cliché' "friendly wager." If Cal wins, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee will receive wine, olive oil, nuts, fruits and vegetables. If Fresno State wins, Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin will receive Dungeness crab, Anchor Steam beer, Ghirardelli chocolates and Philz Coffee. The players, of course, should be satisfied with their scholarships. Fresno State +9½.

Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss: Louisiana Tech quarterback Nick Isham, a 17-year old freshman, will make his first start. However, because of the 9 p.m. (local time) kickoff, Isham likely won't be able to play in the second half because it will be past his bedtime. Southern Miss -12½.

Miami (Ohio) at Missouri: I wonder if Mike Haywood will be tuning into this one? Missouri -20½.

Rice at Texas: Now that Texas has the Longhorn Network, coach Mack Brown will have something like five coaches shows on the network each week. Or one for every win the Longhorns had last season. Texas -24.

San Jose State at Stanford: It was nearly 30 years ago the last time San Jose State faced a Stanford quarterback projected to be the first pick in the NFL Draft. In 1982, the Spartans upset John Elway and Stanford. Will Andrew Luck suffer the same fate? San Jose State +30.

Tulsa at Oklahoma: This game will mark Oklahoma's 75th consecutive sellout. The last time OU failed to sell out a home game was 1999. That year, a gallon of gas cost only $1.17 -- or the same price Tulsa's Demarius Johnson pays for every $500 worth of Macy's merchandise. Oklahoma -25.

Western Michigan at Michigan: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's first collegiate carry came against Western Michigan in 2009. He dropped the ball, kicked it, then picked it up and ran for a 43-yard touchdown. It was just like UM had practiced it and practiced it and practiced it and ... OK, you get the idea. Western Michigan +13½.

Marshall at West Virginia (Sun.): This season marks the first time West Virginia will sell beer at Mountaineer Field. WVU officials said they will stop serving beer midway through the third quarter, prompting Mountaineers fans to petition the NCAA to lengthen halftime to two hours. West Virginia -21½.

Trifecta of Terror: Each week, an acquaintance of mine, who goes by the alias of "Cover Me" will also provide his top three picks of the week, including a best bet. This week "Cover Me" likes: USC -23 vs. Minnesota, Ole Miss +3 vs. BYU and Colorado State -6 at New Mexico is his best bet.

Lock of the Week: Schlage B-62 series, double-cylinder deadbolt, antique brass.

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