Bragging Rights Are on the Line

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher leads the Aggies onto Kyle Field for an NCAA college football game against Northwestern State on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

The first few weeks of the season often set the tone for which conference will be deemed best for the rest of the season.

It’s a debate that can be both fun and tedious. Does it really matter whether Kentucky is better than California when it comes time to figure out if the Pac-12 champion should be in the College Football Playoff?

The Southeastern Conference, which has touted itself on being No. 1 for years (and is usually correct), got off to a great start in week one going 13-1 with four victories against other Power Five conference teams. The Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 combined for four Power Five nonconference victories.

This week, nine nonconference games match Power Five teams, including No. 2 Clemson at Texas A&M (ACC vs. SEC); UCLA at No. 6 Oklahoma (Pac-12 vs. Big 12); No. 13 Penn State at Pitt (Big Ten vs. ACC); No. 15 Michigan State at Arizona State; and No. 18 Mississippi State at Kansas State (SEC vs. Big 12).

There are also numerous opportunities for teams from the Group of Five to make a statement against Power Five opponents. For those conferences, competing against each other for a spot in the New Year’s Six bowls, notable nonconference victories can help separate the competition. The big ones this week include: Georgia Tech at South Florida (ACC vs. AAC); Arkansas at Colorado State (SEC vs. Mountain West); and Utah at Northern Illinois (Pac-12 vs. MAC).

It’s never too early to build those resumes.

The picks:

No. 16 TCU

(minus 21¢) at SMU (Friday)

The Horned Frogs have won six straight in the crosstown Battle for the Iron Skillet … TCU 49-21, BEST BET.

Arkansas State

(plus 36¢) at No. 1 Alabama

Arkansas State is getting $1.7 million for this game, so don’t feel too bad … ALABAMA 45-14.

No. 2 Clemson

(minus 12) at Texas A&M

The first big test for Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies comes too soon … CLEMSON 35-17.

No. 3 Georgia (minus 10)

at No. 24 South Carolina

Bulldogs have won three straight and four of five in the traditional early SEC opener … GEORGIA 35-21.

Rutgers (plus 35)

at Ohio State

Scarlet Knights have not scored against the Buckeyes since 2015 and have lost all four since joining the Big Ten by a combined 219-24. … OHIO STATE 55-8.

New Mexico (plus 35¢)

at No. 5 Wisconsin

Can the Lobos’ option frustrate the Badgers’ typically stingy defense? … WISCONSIN 48-20.

UCLA (plus 30)

at No. 6 Oklahoma

If the Bruins couldn’t handle Cincinnati in the Rose Bowl last week, can’t expect them to be ready to compete with the Sooners … OKLAHOMA 49-21.

Ball State (plus 34¢)

at No. 8 Notre Dame

Good week for the Fighting Irish to get their new running backs confidence and carries … NOTRE DAME 52-13.

No. 17 Southern California (plus 5¢) at No. 10 Stanford

Cardinal star Bryce Love had 285 yards on 39 carries and two touchdowns in two games against the Trojans last season, both losses … STANFORD 31-27.

No. 13 Penn State

(minus 8¢) at Pittsburgh

It’s a cool old-school rivalry that the Nittany Lions don’t love because there is little for Penn State to gain these days by beating Pitt and a lot to lose … PENN STATE 35-28.

No. 15 Michigan State

(minus 5¢) at Arizona State

Sun Devils are 9-0 against Big Ten teams in Tempe, not including losses to Nebraska and Penn State before they were in the conference … ARIZONA STATE 34-27, UPSET SPECIAL.

No. 18 Mississippi State

(minus 9¢) at Kansas State

The Wildcats barely escaped an FCS upset last week but expect a better effort from Bill Snyder’s bunch … MISSISSIPPI STATE 28-21.

UConn (plus 31)

at No. 20 Boise State

Poor Huskies go from UCF to the Blue Turf … BOISE STATE 45-10.

Western Michigan

(plus 28) at No. 21 Michigan

Shea Patterson and the Wolverines should be able to work out the kinks in that offense. Right?? … MICHIGAN 48-16.

Kentucky

(plus 13¢) at No. 25 Florida

Gators’ winning streak against the Wildcats is at 31 …FLORIDA 28-20.

∫∫∫

Record last week: 16-5 straight; 12-8-1 against the spread.

Upset specials: 1-0 (straight up).

Best bets: 1-0 (against the spread).

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