Pick Eastern Washington -7.5 & 'Under' vs. Sam Houston State

Matthew Jordan

Friday, August 22, 2014 4:40 PM UTC

Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 4:40 PM UTC

The 2014 college football season kicks off Saturday, but it may have escaped you because it's an FCS matchup between Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington. While this matchup might look boring on paper, we are here to help you start your season off with two winning college football picks.

Opening Odds
EWU opened as a 7.5-point favorite on 5Dimes college football odds with a total of 71.5.

First Powerhouse Program
Of course the top level of the sport finally unveils the College Football Playoff this season, but the FCS has had one in place for years -- that's why it's laughable FBS athletic directors and school presidents said they worried about a playoff because it would mean more time away from school. Those players travel in style and have tutors on call. Think that happens in the FCS?

Eastern Washington, of the Big Sky Conference, was the 2010 FCS champion and is expected to be a top contender this season, ranking No. 2 in the preseason NCAA Coaches' Poll behind North Dakota State. Last year the Eagles, who won at Oregon State to open the season, were shocked at home in the FCS semifinals, 35-31, as Towson backup quarterback Connor Frazier scored on a 1-yard run with 17 seconds left. Towson went 71 yards in the final 1:35 for the upset. Towson led 21-0 in the second quarter only to fall behind 31-21 early in the fourth.

It's a bit surprising that an FBS program hasn't snapped up EWU head coach Beau Baldwin. In his six years as Eastern’s head coach, the Eagles have ranked in the Top 10 in FCS in passing offense five times and total offense three seasons. EWU returns 11 starters, none bigger than quarterback Vernon Adams, the 2013 Big Sky Player of the Year and a favorite for the 2014 Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy. Adams was runner-up for the award last year behind Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-round pick of the Patriots.

In 2013, Adams passed for 4,994 yards and 55 touchdowns -- both third all-time in an FCS season -- and rushed for 605 yards and four touchdowns. His 5,559 yards of offense were the second-most in FCS history. And you thought Jameis Winston put up big numbers? The Eagles have another candidate for the award in receiver Cooper Kupp. He won the Jerry Rice Award (nation's top receiver) as a freshman in 2013 with 93 catches for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns.


Second Powerhouse Program
Sam Houston State hasn't won an FCS national championship but lost in the championship game in 2011 &  '12. The Bearkats open the year at No. 14 in the Coaches' Poll. Sam Houston is one of only three teams to earn FCS postseason playoff berths each of the past three seasons (North Dakota State and New Hampshire). It was beaten in the second round in 2013. The Bearkats have a new head coach as Willie Fritz left to take over at fellow FBS powerhouse Georgia Southern. K.C. Keeler, who led Delaware to three FCS title games and one national championship, takes over. Keeler coached Joe Flacco when he was at Delaware.

When looking at College Football odds, keep in mind that only seven starters are back from last year's Bearkats team that was ranked No. 4 in the nation when it hosted No. 2 Eastern Washington and won 49-34. The teams combined for 1,052 yards. Adams threw for 355 yards and three scores. Sam Houston is an old-school run-first team and had 450 yards of rushing in that game. Timothy Flanders carried 32 times for 280 yards and two scores, but he's now trying to make an NFL roster. The schools also met in the 2012 playoffs, won 45-42 by SHSU in Cheney, Wash. Sam Houston has won all three career meetings with EWU with both schools ranked.

Look for the focus of SHSU's offense to be senior running back Keshawn Hill, who backed up Flanders, a three-time Walter Payton Award finalist and Southland Conference all-time leading rusher, the past three seasons. Sophomore Jared Johnson replaces QB Brian Bell, the school's winningest quarterback.

Both EWU and SHSU have a chance to make a national splash this season. The Eagles visit No. 25 Washington on Sept. 6, while the Bearkats go to No. 13 LSU on the same day.


NCAAF Free Picks
Take Eastern Washington -7.5 and go 'under' 71.5 points as your College Football picks. The teams usually put up big numbers but might be a bit rusty in the opener and both had weeks to prepare for the other. It appears SHSU is in a bit of a rebuilding mode and is picked third in the powerful Southland Conference. EWU has the nation's best player in Adams and rarely loses at home on the awesome (but loud) red turf. 

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