I've been waiting a long time for today. The college football season is finally here. For me personally, today is significant too. I'm honored to join the CBS team.
Some of you may have seen my work. I spent 17 years at ESPN.
Some of you may only know me from Twitter, when my name and later #FreeBruce became a trending topic back in mid-July.
The truth is I cannot wait to get past that. The past six weeks have been thoroughly bizarre. As part of the job, I ask questions. Well, many folks -- media and readers -- have had plenty of questions about the firestorm around my situation with ESPN. If you want to know more about what really happened, you can listen to this interview from the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday morning.
I've been overwhelmed by the support I have received from friends, peers and especially readers. I am grateful. Let's get to football. Since it's Thursday, it's time for the weekend's guess--, er, picks.
Wisconsin 49, UNLV 17: Expect Russell Wilson and the Badgers' loaded backfield to cruise past the Rebels. Still, UNLV, under second-year coach Bobby Hauck, won't fold. The Rebels gave up 40 or more points eight times last season, but they should be a little tougher in 2011 thanks to the Hauck influence and some solid juco talent on D.
Mississippi State 44, Memphis 9: Larry Porter has a mess on his hands at Memphis. The Tigers have some talent at a few spots (powerhouse DT Dontari Poe is an SEC-caliber player) but they don't have enough to hang with a strong Mississippi State squad, led by improving QB Chris Relf and Vick Ballard, the most underrated back in the SEC.
TCU 23, Baylor 14: Intriguing matchup in Texas featuring a very fast Baylor offense led by QB/hurdler Robert Griffin against Gary Patterson's bunch, which is always salty on D. And to Patterson's credit, he's adept at shifting things up on a yearly basis depending on his personnel. The Horned Frogs will miss Andy Dalton's guile and playmaking ability, especially early in the season, but they still have a potent crew of backs and skill talent to pull out a tight game here.
Michigan State 54, Youngstown State 17: The Spartans have one of the better backfields in college football. They will roll over the Penguins. YSU QB Kurt Hess, who broke into college football last year against Penn State, won't be rattled, but the team that was 3-8 last year will be up against too tough of an offense.
Missouri 27, Miami (Ohio) 23: Don Treadwell takes over a solid team that won 10 games last year and has almost everyone back. New Mizzou starting QB James Franklin is gifted and has good receivers, but don't be surprised if they have their hands full with this MAC team.
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Oklahoma 58, Tulsa 24: Bob Stoops has a lot of respect for new Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship, but that won't slow down Landry Jones and a terrific collection of skill talent. It also doesn't help Tulsa's cause that it will be without its most dynamic weapon, Demaris Johnson.
Alabama 48, Kent State 3: The nation's toughest defense plus a bruising running game are going to equal a blowout. KSU, 5-7 in 2010, couldn't have picked a worse spot for Darrell Hazell to take over.
Oregon 27, LSU 20: Both teams have had more than their share of turbulence this offseason, but the Ducks have had less of it in the past month. They also have a dangerous backfield that is going to be a handful for the Tigers to deal with for four quarters. Look for versatile Tigers RB Spencer Ware to have a good night sparking the LSU offense, but it won't be enough to overcome Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and Co.
Boise State 30, Georgia 24: This may be a virtual home game for the Dawgs, but Kellen Moore and the Broncos won't flinch. They've been in their share of big games. They also have enough quality big people on both lines to more than hold their own against a team that will try to maul them. This is a much, much different Boise State team than the one UGA hammered back in 2005. In the end, Moore's poise and accuracy will be the difference.
Florida State 45, Louisiana-Monroe 7: Enthusiasm for the Seminoles has been surging all offseason and this one is just a tuneup. Look for E.J. Manuel to come out strong and the 'Noles D-line to swarm.
Stanford 44, San Jose State 13: This was a scrappy Spartans team last year that lost four games by four points or less. They return 18 starters. The bad news is Stanford returns Andrew Luck and an eye-popping group of athletic tight ends. The Cardinal also have some impressive talent on defense.
Oklahoma State 61, Louisiana 10: The Cowboys offense is absolutely loaded and will flex its muscle early and often, showing they have a lot more weapons than just Justin Blackmon.
Nebraska 52, Chattanooga 0: Look for the Huskers offense to regain some of its sizzle now that new OC Tim Beck has taken over and speedy QB Taylor Martinez has matured. Jared Crick will be unblockable on defense as Big Red will swarm.
South Carolina 38, East Carolina 24: Ruffin McNeil switched his defensive scheme and the Pirates hope they'll hold up a little better against the run. Marcus Lattimore is not the easiest test to roll it out against. The Gamecocks also will debut new pass-rushing stud Jadeveon Clowney, who joins an already nasty D-line. The Pirates, though, have an experienced quarterback in Dominique Davis and some very good receivers who will keep plugging away.
Ohio State 45, Akron 6: Even without a handful of key starters, the Buckeyes will have no trouble mauling the Zips. OSU is simply too physical and talented on both lines for this not to turn into a rout.
Virginia Tech 38, Appalachian State 9: It's the first game as a starter for new Hokies QB Logan Thomas, but look for the real buzz to be around new starting TB David Wilson, an explosive back who has been behind some other terrific runners. Wilson is a special talent, and don't be surprised if he goes for more than 100 in the first half.
Arkansas 61, Missouri State 14: New Hogs QB Tyler Wilson has the best collection of receivers in college football. They will put on a show in the first half. Don't be surprised if the Hogs roll up over 600 yards of offense here. Terry Allen's MSU team doesn't return a lot of experience to take on a team as potent as the Hogs.
Notre Dame 31, South Florida 17: The Irish have had their hands full with Big East teams in recent years, but things are different in South Bend now that Brian Kelly has taken over for Charlie Weis. Skip Holtz returns to ND to face an Irish program that really seems to be on the upswing. An interesting subplot will be how much damage Irish RB Cierre Wood, a guy who should start to emerge in 2011 as a difference-maker, can do against a Bulls D that was pretty stout in 2010. I expect the balance of the Irish to do a lot of damage by the second half and take over the game.
Florida 45, Florida Atlantic 7: Charlie Weis loves some of the Gator speed he inherited so expect a lot of big plays against overmatched FAU. The Owls also will have a nightmare coping with a young but ferocious group of UF D-linemen poised to emerge.
Auburn 31, Utah State 13: The defending national champs have a brutal schedule, but not in Week 1 as the post-Cam Newton Era will begin with relative ease and the Tigers' collection of running backs will shine against a team that is 1-54 against ranked opponents.
Southern California 43, Minnesota 17: It's true the Trojans have had problems over the years dealing with mobile QBs, and the Gophers have a capable one in big MarQueis Gray. New Gophers coach Jerry Kill knows how to crank up a running game. But Monte Kiffin has simplified his scheme and there is a lot more speed on the defense than there was last year for USC, and it's a group that should be able to stay sharp tackling, unlike in 2010. The Trojans also have an impressive collection of young wideouts for Matt Barkley to work with, led by Robert Woods and top newcomer Marqise Lee.
Texas A&M 44, SMU 37: Compelling matchup between June Jones' Mustangs offense, which is more than just an air show thanks to the punishing running of RB Zack Line, against Tim DeRuyter's always-shifting D. SMU has the firepower to give A&M fits, but ultimately the Aggies have a few more weapons to win the shootout.
West Virginia 51, Marshall 20: The Dana Holgorsen Era is going to kick off with some on-field fireworks. Geno Smith loves the new attack, and the Mountaineers have enough shifty little playmakers to make things miserable for Herd DC Chris Rippon.