NCAA Football Week 1 Picks: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday, 8/30/14, 3:30 PM EST
Opening Point Spread:  Alabama -26.5
Current Betting Line:  Alabama -26.5
Opening Total:  55.5
Current Total:  55.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

The Alabama Crimson Tide return 13 starters and 51 lettermen for NIck Saban in Tuscaloosa
The Alabama Crimson Tide return 13 starters and 51 lettermen for NIck Saban in Tuscaloosa

West Virginia has produced 24 games with 400 or more yards of total offense in the Dana Holgorsen era, but that number is going to be difficult to achieve against one of the top programs in the country, which is important to consider when making your Week 1 NCAA football picks.  The Mountaineers are 98-29-4 SU all-time in season openers, including a 24-17 victory over William & Mary in 2013.  Offensively, the squad welcomes back 31 players with starting experience, with quarterback Clint Trickett expected to open things up for the eighth time during his career in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers return 12 players on defense with starting experience, but it’s important to point out that 17 players were injured and missed 73 games of possible time in 2013.  West Virginia’s returners account for 655 of the team’s 900 tackles last season, with leading tackler Nick Kwiatkoski back in the fold after recording 86 a year ago.  Holgorsen may benefit greatly from all three of his specialists returning, including All-Big 12 Conference punter Nick O’Toole.

Alabama has laid claim to three of the last five BCS National Championships, which can’t be ignored when looking over the NCAA football odds page, especially since it has had 37 players taken in the NFL draft over the last five years.  The Crimson Tide return 13 starters and 51 lettermen from their 2013 squad that finished 11-2—tied for the SEC’s Western Division.  During the Nick Saban era, the team has captured 11 of 15 games played on a neutral field, with this matchup being played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The Crimson Tide’s dominance starts and ends with their defense—a group that leads the country in allowing just 91 touchdowns since 2009—36 better than the next closest team in that all-important statistical category.  Alabama is also capable of winning games offensively, as it has compiled a 60-1 straight-up record when rushing for at least 140 yards.  Running back T.J. Yeldon is the main player to watch, as he ranks 12th on the school’s all-time list with 2,343 career rushing yards.

Sports bettors will likely back the Mountaineers due to the Crimson Tide being 0-2 ATS in dome stadiums since 2012.

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