Dirty Dozen: Crystal Ball Run goes on the record, and this time it counts

Atlanta has been kind to AJ McCarron and Alabama in recent years. Our staff feels secure with their chances in Atlanta again this weekend. Photo: USA Today Sports

Remember when Major League Baseball was embarrassed they had an All-Star Game end in a tie, and commissioner Bud Selig decided that the overblown travesty would never happen again on his watch? The next year baseball decided their all-star game was finally going to count for something, anything. The winning league would receive home field advantage in the World Series, because it makes total sense that the lone all-star from Kansas City would be the one to determine the fate of the most important baseball games of the season. But hey, it stuck for better or worse.

This year Crystal Ball Run is sort of using that same logic. This year, rather than just have our staff make their weekly picks and hope that by week five or six we all forgot about that one lousy pick from week two, we are going to keep score. That's right folks. Our staff is now going to be held accountable for our picks with a running total from week to week so you can see just how smart we are (or not). This will also serve as the official scoreboard for our behind the scenes bragging rights.

To refresh our longtime readers and to introduce our new readers to our format, we have 12 games highlighted for each week of the season. One of us will offer a quick blurb about each game and we will all make picks for all 12 games. Then, starting next week we will have the official scoreboard so we can see where everyone stands. You'll get the hang of it. Let's get started with our first Dirty Dozen of the 2013 season…

SMU vs. Texas Tech: Friday, 8:00 p.m. ESPN

Allen's Take: The loss of projected starting quarterback Michael Brewer for Texas Tech really throws a wrench into the outlook for this game. With the Red Raiders turning to one of two true freshmen in coach Kliff Kingsbury's debut, SMU looks like a live dog. When all is said and done, however, the Mustangs won't have the horses to keep up.

The Pick: Texas Tech 31, SMU 27

Aaron: SMU 31, Texas Tech 24
Andy: SMU 33, Texas Tech 34
David: Texas Tech 31, SMU 30
Jonathan: Texas Tech 45, SMU 38
Kevin: SMU 52, Texas Tech 49
Tom: Texas Tech 38, SMU 35

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta, GA): Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ABC
(Early Analysis)

Dave's Take: Alabama opens with a neutral site game against a Hokies program that is looking to rebound after a sub-par year for them. The Crimson Tide is looking to chart a course for the record books. Expect AJ McCarron to make a few big plays early down the field, and then the Tide will slowly grind the teeth off of Virginia Tech's gears with their power running game. This one might be over quickly.

The Pick: Alabama 38, Virginia Tech 10

Aaron: Alabama 42, Virginia Tech 6
Allen: Alabama 28, Virginia Tech 6
Andy: Alabama 44, Virginia Tech 17
Jonathan: Alabama 40, Virginia Tech 16
Kevin: Alabama 31, Virginia Tech 10
Tom: Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 9

No. 8 Clemson vs. No. 5 Georgia: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ABC
(Early Analysis)

Tom's Take: With Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd slinging the ball all over the place in Death Valley, this has a chance to be the weekend's best game. Both teams believe they are national title contenders, but only one of them will walk away still looking good. Clemson usually disappoints its fans when faced with a big opportunity like this one, but the time is right for the Tigers to deliver in the clutch.

The Pick: Clemson 24, Georgia 21

Aaron: Georgia 24, Clemson 16
Allen: Clemson 27, Georgia 23
Andy: Georgia 27, Clemson 24
Jonathan: Georgia 35, Clemson 29
David: Georgia 41, Clemson 38
Kevin: Clemson 34, Georgia 31

No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU (Arlington, TX): Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ESPN
(Early Analysis)

Aaron's Take: It’s another season, meaning it’s another excuse to overlook LSU. And honestly, why wouldn’t you? We don’t know when Jeremy Hill will see the field again. We’re in, what, the 27th year of the Zach Mettenberger experiment? Not to mention that no one short of Harvard’s business school lost more talent to the professional ranks than LSU did last spring. Just do me a favor and don’t doubt Les Miles, ok?

The simple truth is that for all the talent LSU lost on defense, there’s no one better (short of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart) at recruiting and developing talent on that side of the ball than Les Miles and John Chavis are. Simply put, this defense will be fine. And on offense, the Tigers will still be able to run the ball with Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard. Plus, if there’s one guy capable of getting the best out of Mettenberger, it’s new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

At LSU, the names may have changed since last season, but the results won’t. Geaux Tigers.

The Pick: LSU 27, TCU 10

Allen: LSU 23, TCU 21
Andy: LSU 24, TCU 17
David: LSU 20, TCU 17
Jonathan: LSU 28, TCU 20
Kevin: LSU 20, TCU 17
Tom: LSU 27, TCU 16

No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi State (Houston, TX): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2
(Early Analysis)

Kevin's Take: If there is one thing we know about Oklahoma State it is that they will thrive on offense. The 2013 Cowboys team should be no different with a new offensive coordinator (Mike Yurcich) looking to successfully move from one of Division 2's top offenses (Go Ship!) to the Big 12. His style should fit in pretty well but will he be able to make the right adjustments when faced with a dependable defense, often a crutch for these high-flying offenses? Fortunately for Oklahoma State they are not facing the best defense to come out of the SEC, but they aren't playing the worst either. Mississippi State is as middle-of-the-pack as you will find in the SEC, but I like Oklahoma State's chances to get off to a good start and make the Big 12 proud for one week.

The Pick: Oklahoma State 45, Mississippi State 38

Aaron: Oklahoma State 27, Mississippi State 17
Allen: Oklahoma State 34, Mississippi State 24
Andy: Oklahoma State 33, Mississippi State 17
Jonathan: Oklahoma State 36, Mississippi State 25
David: Mississippi State 41, Oklahoma State 28
Tom: Oklahoma State 30, Mississippi State 14

Washington vs. No. 19 Boise State: Saturday, 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
(Early Analysis)

Allen's Take: Depending on who you talk to, Steve Sarkisian is either a (very slowly) rising coaching star or sitting on one of the hottest seats in the country. One way to convert more people to the former position would be to beat heralded giant killer Boise St. to open the season. The Broncos rarely disappoint when put in a big spot like this, but I'll take UW in a charged atmosphere at the new Husky Stadium.

The Pick: Washington 20, Boise State 14

Aaron: Washington 24, Boise State 21
Andy: Boise State 33, Washington 24
David: Boise State 19, Washington 12
Jonathan: Boise State 25, Washington 19
Kevin: Boise State 24, Washington 23
Tom: Boise State 18, Washington 16

California vs. No.  22 Northwestern: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ESPN2

Andy's Take: The Wildcats kick off the season in style as they take on the new look Cal Golden Bears and Sonny Dykes' "BearRaid" offense. This could be a shootout of epic proportions if Cal has the personnel to execute the offense as it was at La Tech. However, Northwestern also happens to have a quick-hitting offense of their own and ultimately the talent of Kain Colter, Venric Mark, and Trevor Siemian should win out over anything Cal can throw at them. 

The Pick: Northwestern 38, Cal 24

Aaron: Cal 26, Northwestern 21
Allen: Northwestern 42, Cal 35
David: Northwestern 34, Cal 23
Jonathan: Northwestern 26, Cal 20
Kevin: Northwestern 30, Cal 28
Tom: Northwestern 20, Cal 10

Syracuse vs. Penn State (East Rutherford, NJ): Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ABC/ESPN2

Kevin's Take: Penn State looks to have plenty of talent on the first team offense and defense to the point where they should easily be able to put away Syracuse with a new QB and head coach making his debut. The Orange had a good season last year but need to prove they can keep that momentum moving in the same direction before taking a step back. Penn State also needs to find a way to build off of what turned out to be a memorable year, but with no experience at quarterback and playing in a big NFL setting there is reason to be somewhat concerned about what unfolds Saturday. Everyone feels comfortable about Penn State in this one, but I have a weird feeling about this one and think Syracuse pulls off an upset in MetLife Stadium.

The Pick: Syracuse 20, Penn State 17

Aaron: Penn State 21, Syracuse 7
Allen: Penn State 6, Syracuse 2
Andy: Penn State 27, Syracuse 14
Jonathan: Penn State 20, Syracuse 13
David: Penn State 24, Syracuse 15
Tom: Penn State 27, Syracuse 12

Arkansas vs. Louisiana-Lafayette: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ESPN3

Andy's Take: Bret Bielema made a ton of headlines by shockingly leaving Wisconsin for the SEC just a few days after his team won their third straight Big Ten title. The ensuing offseason of twitter wars and horrible "tribute" songs can now be put to the side as the Razorbacks must deal with one of the likely contenders in the Sun Belt. Louisiana has plenty of talent to them and with the transition away from the spread offense the Hogs were running under Bobby Petrino this could be an interesting matchup. The Ragin' Cajuns will at least have the better QB in this matchup as Terrance Broadway looks to lead his team to victory. However, the defense is questionable for them and that will be their ultimate undoing in Fayetteville.

The Pick: Arkansas 41, ULL 34

Aaron: Arkansas 34, ULL 13
Allen: ULL 24, Arkansas 20
David: Arkansas 33, ULL 28
Jonathan: Arkansas 28, ULL 21
Kevin: Arkansas 38, ULL 27
Tom: Arkansas 29, ULL 21

Cincinnati vs. Purdue: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ESPNU

Aaron's Take: Ah, one of college football’s most fantastic Week 1 scenarios: Trying to decipher how two young teams will handle an opening week game, under a first-year head coach. To most, the obvious play here is Cincinnati. The Bearcats are at home and fresh off an 11-win season. As for Purdue….well, I mean, have you watched Purdue the last few years?


Actually, neither have I. Which tends to happen when a club hasn’t won more than seven games since Terrelle Pryor’s senior year of high school. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s been a long time since Purdue has been any good in the sport of football.

Yet somehow, inexplicably, I like the Boilermakers to pull the upset here. For one, Purdue returns most of their defense against a Cincinnati offense that’s still trying to figure things out under Tommy Tuberville. Not to mention that there’s Tuberville himself; while I’m unsure of what the reception is to the new coach will be in Cincinnati after Butch Jones led the Bearcats to 11 wins last season, what I am positive of, is that Darrell Hazell is a breath of fresh air in West Lafayette from the Joe Tiller era.

Hazell will start off his time at Purdue the same way things ended at Kent State: With a victory.

The Pick: Purdue 17, Cincinnati 10

Allen: Cincinnati 24, Purdue 17
Andy: Cincinnati 39, Purdue 20
David: Cincinnati 24, Purdue 22
Jonathan: Cincinnati 21, Purdue 18
Kevin: Cincinnati 30, Purdue 27
Tom: Purdue 21, Cincinnati 17

Auburn vs. Washington: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ESPNU

David's Take: Gus Malzahn makes his return to The Plains, this time as head coach. Auburn fans are hoping that he can help reclaim some of the magic of the Cam Newton year. Facing Washington State might help the offense gain confidence. But Washington State, while definitely in the bottom half of the Pac-12, might be able to put enough points on the board to make this game interesting. Expect Auburn to win, but it'll be closer than it should be.

The Pick: Auburn 39, Washington State 35

Aaron: Auburn 31, Washington State 28
Allen: Auburn 30, Washington State 23
Andy: Auburn 33, Washington State 31
David: Auburn 39, Washington State 35
Jonathan: Auburn 38, Washington State 35
Kevin: Auburn 27, Washington State 17
Tom: Auburn 31, Washington State 18

Pittsburgh vs. No. 11 Florida State: Monday, 8:00 p.m. ESPN

Tom's Take: Well, look at this — Pitt is playing a big game at Heinz Field. After more than two decades of toiling in mediocrity the Panthers open their ACC existence with a legitimate contender. Paul Chryst's second season should equate to some improvements on both sides of the ball, but does anyone really believe the Panthers can compete with Florida State's athleticism.

The Pick: Florida State 34, Pitt 13

Aaron: Florida State 24, Pitt 6
Allen: Florida State 17, Pitt 9
Andy: Florida State 27, Pitt 17
Jonathan: Florida State 35, Pitt 10
David: Florida State 37, Pitt 9
Kevin: Florida State 23, Pitt 17

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to NBCSports.com's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.