Thursday

Pittsburgh at Utah (-3)
Abramson: I'm excited to see Dion Lewis take the field again. He's the type of player that could (and should) carry the Panthers to a BCS game. And for the Panthers to win this one, Lewis will have to come out of the gate quick -- Pitt is featuring sophomore Tino Sunseri at quarterback. Sunseri has 17 career pass attempts. But I think Pitt rushes its way to 1-0 with a 24-16 win.
Rose: Pittsburgh returns a lot of talent (Dion Lewis, Jonathan Baldwin, Greg Romeus). But sophomore Tino Sunseri makes his first start on the road in a tough place (Utah didn’t lose a game at home last season). So expect Lewis to pile up the yards against a rebuilding Utah defense. The Utes allowed 137.9 yards per game on the ground last season. Another concern for Utah is a young secondary. Sunseri should be able to hook up with Baldwin for a big play or two. The Panthers start the season with a hard-fought and huge road win, 27-20.

Saturday

Purdue at Notre Dame (-11)
Abramson:
This should be a nice first win for Brian Kelly. Beating a Purdue is always more impressive than an Arkansas State. Yes, I'm predicting the Irish to take this one. I'm curious to see the Dayne Crist-Michael Floyd connection begin on Saturday. I'll go Irish 31-13.
Rose: Notre Dame’s offense should be fine as new quarterback Dayne Crist takes over. With running back Armando Allen and Michael Floyd returning, Brian Kelly will have no problem jumpstarting his high-octane offense. The question is Notre Dame’s defense, which wasn’t good last season. Purdue starts former Miami (Fla.) quarterback Robert Marve, who has big-play ability. The Irish, however, return a bunch of players on defense. Kelly will get his first win convincingly, 33-16.

Connecticut at Michigan (-3)
Abramson:
Speaking of Notre Dame quarterbacks, Irish transfer Zach Frazer can really build on a decent season for the Huskies last year. The Big House is a good place to start. But if UConn wants to win this game, it'll be up to the defense to stop whomever is calling the signals. Not having 2009 Big East sack leader Lindsey Witten will hurt, but Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan program have given me little reason to pick them. Huskies win 24-20.
Rose: Connecticut will be very good this season and could win the Big East. The talent is there, with quarterback Zach Frazer and running back Jordan Todman. Senior linebacker Lawrence Wilson anchors the defense.  The Huskies will have the better players on the field Saturday. Michigan should be fine on offense, but the potential for three quarterbacks – sophomores Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, and true freshman Devin Gardner – all getting playing time on Saturday concerns me. Plus, Michigan’s defense, a definite problem area last season, may not be any better this season as the Wolverines switch to a 3-3-5 alignment. Connecticut wins, 27-23.

Kentucky (-3) at Louisville
Abramson: You have to think the two new head coaches are more excited than the players for this one. I think Charlie Strong can quickly build a defense that can win some ball games, but Joker Phillips just has more talent on the field come Saturday, starting with Mike Hartline who should build off a promising start last year. I'll go Wildcats 38-24.
Rose: Charlie Strong will build a solid program at Louisville in the coming years. But for this game, Kentucky has more talent on the field. With quarterback Mike Hartline, tailback Derrick Locke and wide receiver Randall Cobb, the Wildcats have some firepower. Kentucky wins this one, 34-23.

UCLA at Kansas State (-1.5)
Abramson: Can Wildcats tailback Daniel Thomas carry the KSU offense? He might need to, because there was little else around him last year. I think UCLA's defense can key in enough to pull an "upset" in a 24-10 win.
Rose: UCLA has been a little underestimated in the preseason. The Bruins should be able to improve on last season’s 7-6 record. The offense made strides last season and the defense should be good again. UCLA, like it did early last season by winning at Tennessee, starts the season with a nice road win. Take the Bruins, 20-13.

Washington at BYU (-3)
Abramson:
All eyes are on Jake Locker, and I think he's at the helm of a vastly improved team. BYU has too many new faces and I think the Huskies can start a good campaign with a 41-33 win.
Rose: BYU is in for a bit of a fall this season. The Cougars have to break in a new quarterback. On the opposite side, Washington is a rising program in the Pac-10. The Huskies’ offense will be strong this season with Jake Locker. The defense, however, could continue to struggle. Washington wins this high-scoring game with offense. The Huskies prevail, 42-38.

Oregon State vs. TCU (-13) (at Arlington, Texas)
Abramson: What an awesome stage for two Top 25 teams to kick it off. TCU is pretty loaded and I still see the defense being rather stingy even without Jerry Hughes. Oregon State is going to be a good football team this year, but this game is HUGE for TCS and I think it pulls off a 20-13 win.
Rose: This is definitely one of the more interesting games of the weekend, just from the standpoint of actually getting the proper read on each team. The Beavers will contend for the Pac-10 title with the electrifying Jacquizz Rodgers back on offense. But will the defense be better than last season? TCU is loaded on offense with quarterback Andy Dalton leading the way. But can the Horned Frogs replace some starters on defense, such as All-American Jerry Hughes? I think TCU has the answers to plug the holes on defense. TCU wins, 24-13.

LSU (-1.5) vs. North Carolina (at Atlanta)
Abramson: There's just too much uncertainty with the UNC program right now. Some players have been running with the practice squad. Marvin Austin isn't playing and there could be more depth chart casualties before kickoff. LSU's offense will exploit this and win 31-21.
Rose: How can North Carolina be prepared to play this game? With NCAA investigators on campus, Marvin Austin suspended indefinitely, and the prospect of numerous Tar Heels missing this game, LSU should be in a good position to get a big win to start the season. LSU wins, 27-13.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Cincinnati at Fresno State (-2.5)
Abramson: No Tony Pike, but I like Zach Collaros. No Mardy Gilyard, but Armon Binns can get the job done. But the name that's not in this game and will be missed the most is Ryan Mathews. I don't see another 12-0 regular season for Cincy, but I like the talent on offense Saturday night. Bearcats win 41-38.
Rose: Cincinnati won’t miss much on offense this season with Zach Collaros throwing to Armon Binns and Vidal Hazleton. Plus, Isaiah Pead returns at running back. The Bearcats, however, will struggle again on defense. Fresno State doesn’t have Ryan Mathews anymore, but the Bulldogs return quarterback Ryan Colburn and a solid offensive line. Fresno State allowed fewer than 200 passing yards a game last season. But in the end, Cincinnati still has too much firepower on offense. Cincinnati wins, 38-34.

Monday

Virginia Tech vs. Boise State (-1.5) (at Landover, Md.)
Abramson: Boise State returns most of a very talented team, but I am not sure the Broncos defense can stop the run against what could be the best backfield in the country. Last year, the Broncos showed a lot of weakness against the run in at least half a dozen games. The Hokies win a close one, 24-20.
Rose: The key matchup will be Virginia Tech’s running attack – with Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and Tyrod Taylor – against Boise State’s defensive front. The Broncos gave up some huge rushing performances last season, including 234 yards by Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews. But Boise State only allowed 120 rushing yards a game last season, good for 28th nationally. Boise State returns a lethal offense with Kellen Moore, Austin Pettis, Titus Young and Jeremy Avery. Virginia Tech’s defense is in rebuilding mode and the secondary is a bit inexperienced with two new starters. But I’m going with Virginia Tech in this one. Frank Beamer will have his team ready to play and the special teams will make a big play (count on a blocked punt) at some point in this game. Virginia Tech wins a close one, 21-20.