SEC, Big Ten story lines & picks for Week One

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While just short of a handful of schools from two of the most powerful conferences in the country got a jumpstart on the 2010 season Thursday, the vast majority of the SEC and Big Ten will begin the year in earnest Saturday.

Here’s a quick look at a few of the story lines that could be spun throughout the day today.

Miami (OH) at No. 4 Florida (Noon ET)

THE LINE: Florida -38

THE PLOT: In Year One A.T. (Anno Timini), all eyes will be on John Brantley as he replaces a living college legend at quarterback.  And what better way to get your feet wet at a big-time football program than at home with a ritualistic MACrifice?  While you won’t be able to glean much from the results given the level of competition, there could be hints littered throughout the glorified scrimmage that Brantley, and thus the Gators, may very well be just fine.

THE PICK: Obviously, the only question here is whether or not the Gators cover in The Swamp.  Just as obviously, there’s only one answer to that question — a resounding yes.

THE SCORE: Florida 276, Miami (OH) -6

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UConn at Michigan (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: Michigan -3

THE PLOT: A renovated Big House.  Likely a new starting quarterback.  And the same old warmness below Rich Rodriguez‘ ass.

From NCAA investigations at two different schools to a horrific won-loss record his first two years in Ann Arbor, there’s little doubt that the hottest seat in America resides squarely underneath RichRod’s backside.  And the coach enters his third year with the Wolverines with not only a question at quarterback — expect Denard Robinson to start, though — but with numerous questions in a secondary that’s been decimated by injuries and transfers.

Starting off with a loss in a refurbished home in a must-win year?  That would not be the optimum result for a coach who could be pleading the case to keep his job at season’s end.  An “L” in this Game One would not look good on the résumé he tosses on his new athletic director’s desk.

THE PICK: Uh-oh, RichRod.  The Huskies return 16 starters from 8-5 squad, including their starting quarterback.  Somewhere, Zach Frazer is licking his chops at the thought of facing a pencil-thin secondary.  That said, the Wolverines eke out a win — I think — but do not cover.

THE SCORE: Michigan 21, UConn 20

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San Jose State at No. 1 Alabama (7:00 ET)

THE LINE: Alabama -37.5

THE PLOT: No Mark Ingram, no Marcell Dareus?  No problem, at least this week.  Much like with other games involving ranked schools today, the Tide’s main goal will be to come out of the exhibition game relatively unscathed health-wise, setting themselves up for a big non-conference game next weekend in Tuscaloosa against Penn State and the SEC opener at Arkansas three weeks from today.

THE PICK: After much thought and some serious numbers crunching, we’ve gone out on a limb and decided that ‘Bama will both win outright and cover.

THE SCORE: Alabama 55, San Jose State 10

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No. 18 North Carolina vs. No. 21 LSU (8:00 ET)

THE LINE: -10

THE PLOT: There may not be a coach in America with more pressure on him today than Les Miles.  Playing against a school that’s down seven defensive starters, two offensive starters, and 13 players total due to the lingering NCAA investigation into agent-related issues, there is simply no way that Miles can afford to drop this game.  Hell, given the fact that there are already rumblings that he has to win big this year in order to keep a secure hold on his job, there’s simply no way he can afford even a close win against such a gutted and decimated team.  No pressure, Coach Miles.

THE PICK: There’s a part of my soul, way down deep where utter evil and heartlessness lurks, that would like to see the reaction that would come with Miles’ Tigers stumbling and falling to the Tar Heels.  Not even Miles could stub his toes in such a horrific fashion, could he? I think not.  Maybe.

THE SCORE: LSU 34, North Carolina 14

SMU confirms hiring of Sonny Dykes as new head coach

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After a year away from the head-coaching game, Sonny Dykes is back in it.

Not long after reports had surfaced earlier Monday, SMU confirmed a short time ago that Dykes has been named as the football program’s new head football coach.  Dykes replaces Chad Morris, who left for the same job at Arkansas late last week.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be introduced as the Head Coach at SMU,” a lengthy statement from Dykes began. “This is home and this is a program I grew up watching. I watched Mustang legends compete and I could always see myself putting on that iconic pony. Today, I’m proud to do just that.

“Coach Morris did great things here and I am fortunate that I have been selected to take the foundation Chad and his staff put in place and take it to a new level. And, make no mistake – That is what we plan to do.”

Prior to 2017, Dykes had spent the previous seven seasons as a head coach — four at Cal (2013-16) and three at Louisiana Tech (2010-12).  After being fired by the former school, he was considered a candidate for the offensive coordinator position at Arizona State.  Family issues, however, made TCU a better fit as he spent this past season as an offensive analyst with the Horned Frogs.

A native of Texas who played college baseball for Texas Tech, Dykes has gone 41-45 as a head coach — 22-15 at Louisiana Tech, 19-30 at Cal.

In Morris’ third season at SMU, the 7-5 Mustangs are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012.

Florida DL Taven Bryan declares for NFL Draft

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The Dan Mullen era has everyone excited in Gainesville, but one key contributor won’t stick around to see it.

Defensive lineman Taven Bryan announced Monday he will leave school to enter his name in the 2018 NFL Draft. According to the statement released on his Twitter account, it sounds as if he made his mind up during the Jim McElwain and Randy Shannon regimes and nearly returned upon Mullen’s arrival.

Bryan ranked fifth on the team with 40 tackles while also recording six TFL and four sacks, just half a sack off the team lead.

A native of Casper, Wyo., Bryan will attempt to become just the third Wyoming native to be among the ranks of active NFL players.

SMU reportedly tabs former Cal, La Tech head coach Sonny Dykes as new head coach

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Sonny Dykes will take over as SMU’s head coach, according to multiple reports. The move was first reported by FotballScoop on Monday morning, and since confirmed by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

Dykes takes over for Chad Morris, who left last week to become the head coach at Arkansas.

Morris was hired to re-establish ties with the Texas high school community after the program flatlined under June Jones, and Dykes has a similar appeal as his predecessor. Like Morris, Dykes is a former Texas high school coach, though only briefly. (He spent one year as the running backs coach at Richardson Pearce High School in 1994.) But more importantly he’s a name that will resonate with Texas high school coaches as the son of the legendary Spike Dykes.

The younger Dykes served as an assistant at Navarro Junior College and Texas Tech before taking over as the head coach at Louisiana Tech, where he led the Bulldogs to a 22-15 mark with one WAC championship from 2010-12. That success led him to Cal, where he took the Golden Bears to one bowl game in four seasons.

He was let go after the 2016 season, and spent the 2017 campaign laying low nearby the Hilltop, as an offensive analyst at TCU.

Dykes will inherit a 7-5 SMU team that ranked eighth nationally in scoring offense and 113th in scoring defense. The Mustangs will meet Dykes’s former team Louisiana Tech in the inaugural Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Interim head coach Jeff Traylor garnered significant support inside the locker room to take over on a full-time basis, so it will be interesting to see if Dykes works to keep the former Texas high school coach on staff, perhaps in an offensive coordinator capacity.

Report: Former Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard named Cardinal offensive coordinator

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It can be argued Tavita Pritchard started the current era of Stanford football. Trailing 23-17 with 48 seconds left, it was Pritchard that hit Mark Bradford for a 10-yard touchdown to push the Cardinal past No. 2 USC for a 24-23 win in 2007, at the time the largest point-spread upset in college football history and kickstarting the Jim HarbaughDavid Shaw era that continues today.

And now it will be Pritchard’s job to keep the ball he first pushed way back when rolling.

According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, Pritchard will be named Stanford’s offensive coordinator.

Still only 30, Pritchard graduated from Stanford in 2009, but he never really left the Stanford football program. He volunteered with the coaching staff in 2010, began working with the Cardinal defense in 2011 and was promoted to the full-time coaching staff in 2013, working with the running backs.

Pritchard was moved to quarterbacks and wide receivers in 2014 and has remained there the past four seasons, but is now in line to take over the entire offense with offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren now the head coach at Rice.

Led by Doak Walker Award winner Bryce Love, Stanford concluded the regular season ranked 32nd in rushing, 61st in passing efficiency, 19th in yards per play and 39th in scoring at 32.0 points per game. The 13th-ranked and Pac-12 North champion Cardinal will meet No. 15 TCU in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).