Scully’s NCAAF free picks: Florida vs Miami, Arizona vs Hawaii

James Scully

August 22nd, 2019

The college football season begins with a pair of games Saturday. We had a successful first year at, with a 35-21-1 ATS record from our picks in 2018, and we will look to build on it. Couldn't be more excited to get back in the saddle with college football!

Florida (-7.5) vs. Miami (neutral site, Orlando), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

With a pair of strong defenses on display, this game comes down to quarterback play. Both figure to take their lumps in what should be a close and low-scoring game.

Florida's Feleipe Franks holds a significant experience edge on the strong-armed Jarren Williams, who will start his first game for Miami, but the Gators’ signal caller faces a difficult assignment, given the losses from an elite offensive line (four departing starters). Franks improved under coach Dan Mullens and will have some big games against lesser defenses with the Gators' playmakers at running back and wide receiver, but he was an inconsistent passer last season (ranked 10th in the SEC). as Florida featured a bruising ground game. They’ll get better up front as the season develops, but we’re projecting a drop-off against Miami’s defense.
All three starting linebackers (Zach McCloud, Michael Pinckney and Shaquille Quarterman) are back for Miami and the 'Canes have added talented transfers from UCLA and Virginia Tech to provide further athleticism and depth to an outstanding front seven. New coach Manny Diaz is the best young defensive mind in college football, and while Miami has concerns in the secondary, Florida’s ability to throw will be tested against one a formidable pass rush. Diaz has overhauled Miami’s offensive coaching staff following last season’s woes and Williams possesses the arm and weapons to hurt teams if accurate.

Florida must replace several key stalwarts from last year’s squad and we lack faith in Franks. Miami, which won 10 games two years ago behind a less-than-stellar offense, forces turnovers and gets opposing offenses behind the chains with its defensive schemes. We’re bullish on the 'Canes being much improved in 2019 and believe they’ll score enough points under new offensive coordinator Dan Enos to cover against their in-state rival.

College football free pick: Miami +7.5

Arizona (-11) at Hawaii, 10:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN

Quarterback Khalil Tate was a Heisman Trophy contender entering the 2018 season, but injured his ankle and couldn’t run well when the Wildcats opened the year with unexpected losses to BYU and Houston. He remained hobbled all season, which forced him to stay in the pocket and improve his passing skills but led to a disappointing 5-7 campaign for the preseason Pac-12 South favorite. Now, Tate is healthy entering 2019, set to terrorize defenses and Arizona will improve significantly this season.

Hawaii has the offense to stay close for a half, but the Wildcats will prove too good in the end and cover a high-scoring game. Arizona brings back 15 starters, including eight on an underrated defense, and are loaded offensively. J.J. Taylor (1,434 yards rushing in 2018) is one of the best running backs in the nation and the Wildcats' passing game that took enormous strides forward in the second half last year (more than 36 points per game over last five contests) will provide a solid 1-2 punch.

Hawaii features a prolific attack behind quarterback Cole McDonald, a talented wide receivers corps and solid offensive line (all five starters return). But the Rainbow Warriors don’t stop anybody (100th-ranked defense surrendered 40 points or more six times 2018) and will open the season against a motivated opponent.

This game looks poised to be a blowout in the second half. Arizona can make enough stops and its formidable offense will establish the tone for a new season. Lay the points!

College football free pick: Arizona -11