Ladies and gentleman ... the long wait is over. We have endured the barren wasteland and the sweet sounds of Trombone Shorty ring in our ears. Who wants Winners? You do. Can I continue the year-long heater from last season? Mayyyybe. When you get this bookkeeping -- I don't expect you to like it, but at this point in our relationship, you know I just don't care. Play 'em or don't. I'm fine either way. Remember, you are NOT obligated to have action on every game with a posted line -- pace yourselves -- manage your bankroll, and if these picks suck -- they were free.
Van Pelt's pick: Northern Illinois +8.5
Let's start with MACtion -- as the Lord intended. Any time you can back the boys from Dekalb off a 3-9 campaign opening on the road at Chestnut Hill, you kinda have to. So we are.
SVP:3-1 all-time when picking Northern Illinois
Van Pelt's pick: Fresno State +3.5
Fresno State is tough as nails. They're catching a small piece of candy in West Lafayette. We'll take that nibble -- for the Valley.
SVP:5-2-1 all-time when picking against Purdue
Van Pelt's pick: UTSA -2
Meep Meep. Triangle of Toughness. Jeff Traylor has a program -- some might say progrum -- they are laying points to Houston. Don't know if I've ever had a Week 1 favorite -- but I do now.
when picking UTSA
Van Pelt's pick: Toledo +9.5
More MACtion? Why wouldn't I? Toledo and QB Dequan Finn to make it interesting with a good Illinois team. They're getting 9.5 points.
SVP:1-6 all-time when picking a MAC team vs. a Big Ten team
Van Pelt's pick: South Alabama +6.5
At this point I ask a question ... Steve, who was America's premier Sun Belt tout last season? That's right, me. Boasting -- and I do mean BOASTING -- a preposterous 14-2 mark on games involving Sun Belt teams. We have several selections Week 1. Do you remember when Tulane played last? I do. it was against USC and the Heisman Trophy winner. The Green Wave, with Early Cuyler on the helmet, won that game. They now play USA and are giving less than a TD? C'mon. Make it harder than this. This is SVP Winners 101. God Bless the USA in this one. This is a ranked and very good Tulane team -- but the Jags have some dudes.
SVP:3-0 all-time when picking South Alabama
Van Pelt's pick: Old Dominion +16
We are also on Old Dominion -- too early for a GPG game. But the General Principle being applied here is I have to take this many until Virginia Tech proves it can win by this many. Yes, I know it's a revenge game -- maybe the Hokies get it. We say not by quite this many.
SVP:4-2 all-time when picking a Sun Belt team vs. an ACC team
Van Pelt's pick: Florida State +2.5
Beauty of this Labor Day weekend is that there are games all weekend -- we are pacing the Winners as well. ACC 'dogs on both Sunday and Monday. Florida State plus the small number from LSU in the best game of the weekend, which won't ruin either team's big picture hopes with a stumble.
SVP:26-9 all-time when picking top-10 matchups
Van Pelt's pick: Duke +13
And we close it out with Duke at home vs. Clemson. Duke's got a bunch back off a 9-win team, and this is too many to give them in Durham.
SVP:3-3 all-time when picking Duke
How many is that, Steve? Eight! Fantastic. The slate is clean -- the hopes are high and Trombone Shorty and Winners are back. Hallelujah.