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NCAA Football Week 1 Preview

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BC Tailgate is the official home on Blogcritics for college football news, rants, and riffs. Every conference is covered — we don't play favorites to the big boys.

ACC by Geeves
Big East by Dan McGowan
Big Ten by Geeves
Big XII by Ben Miraski
Conference USA by Matt Sussmann
Independents by Benjamin Cossel
MAC by Matt Sussman
Mountain West by Matt Sussman
Pac 10 by Steve
SEC by Josh Hathaway
Sun Belt by Jerkwheat
WAC by Matt Sussman

Leave it up to the scheduling gurus to continually make the opening weekend of NCAA football incredibly dull.

You really have to be a diehard to want to watch North Carolina against James Madison, or Miami (OH) against Marshall. That said, there are still a couple games that may or may not pull their weight.

Wake Forest gets an early season "prove '06 wasn't a fluke" game against Boston College, and the same goes for Clemson against Florida State. Keep an eye on Virginia as well, as they must head out west to take on an up and coming Wyoming squad.

Winners: Wake, FSU, Wyoming

–Geeves

Six teams from the Big East will play Mid-American Conference schools a total of nine times this season.

It’s sort of a one-sided rivalry (the BCS conference went 8-0 against their mid-western counterparts last season) but nonetheless the Big East/MAC challenge begins this week with three games between the two leagues.

No. 16 Rutgers kicks it off tonight, hosting a Buffalo team that has won just 12 times since 1999. The only possible thing that will upset the suddenly faithful Scarlet Knights fans tonight will be the traffic in and out of Piscataway.

On Saturday, No. 3 West Virginia and Pittsburgh will play Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan respectively. The Mountaineers shouldn’t be challenged, but Western Michigan is supposed be the class of the MAC. The Panthers meanwhile, are playing the team picked to finished last in their divisions by MAC coaches.

Game of the Week

Connecticut vs. Duke

The Huskies kick off the Tyler Lorenzen era with a Blue Devils team that has lost 20 straight. Lorenzen was the best Junior College quarterback in the country last year and should help a team that has won just seven times against D-1A competition since winning the Motor City Bowl in 2004.

For what it’s worth, their opponent in that game was Toledo, from the MAC.

–Dan McGowan

Ohio State against Youngstown State, Minnesota v. Bowling Green, Michigan State hosting Alabama-Birmingham, Iowa at Northern Illinois, and Illinois against Missouri are all more interesting games than they may appear on paper.

Youngstown State is a I-AA team, but a very good one, and Jim Tressel's old school would love to beat him.

Minnesota and BGSU both get an early chance to prove that the upcoming season won't be a slow, dreadful rebuilding process.

MSU/UAB will probably be an interesting game, but there are a number of different reasons why — none of them good.

Iowa travels to NIU, where Iowa has to rebound from last year's skid, and NIU is still a win or two away from being a reasonably legit squad.

Lastly, Illinois gets an early season opportunity to prove Ron Zook's recruiting and coaching genius is paying off against a non-bottom feeder program on their non-conference schedule.

Winners: Illinois, NIU, UAB, Bowling Green, Ohio State.

–Geeves

The premier game in the Big XII this week figures to be Oklahoma State traveling between the hedges to face Georgia. By my count, Oklahoma State will be in the middle of the pack in the North. How they fare against a team projected to be among the tops of the SEC will say much about the total strength of the Big XII conference.

Oklahoma State’s linebackers, including two Butkus pre-season watch players, Chris Collins and Patrick Lavine, will be put to the test against the Georgia offense. The Bulldogs return starting quarterback Matt Stafford and tailback Thomas Brown returns from injury to the starting role. With a short passing game behind an experienced offensive line, they will test the speed of the linebackers to get outside fast and stop them.

”AdariusOSU has touted themselves as the “most explosive offense in the world” – pretty tough words to live up to. However, the Cowboys do have Adarius Bowman looking to make a statement early in the Heisman race and seven other returning starters on offense. With Georgia’s defense depleted from last season, they have a tough assignment against an offense which was one of the tops in the nation last season. Yet, the new pieces on that side of the ball are more than capable of keeping up with the Cowboys.

The best I feel Oklahoma State can do is to outlast Georgia. Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman said that they will rotate in at least 22 players against the Bulldogs in the first quarter. If this strategy can keep their defense fresh, and their offense is as “explosive” as they claim to be against the Georgia D, maybe they have a shot to pull a late shocker. However, the solid money will be on Georgia to win, and cover (-6.5), in Athens.

Likely Winners: Colorado (Colorado State), Missouri, Nebraska (Nevada), Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas (Arkansas State), Texas A&M (Montana St.), Texas Tech (SMU)

Likely Losers: Baylor (TCU), Kansas State (Auburn), Oklahoma State

Upset potential: Illinois over Missouri, Central Michigan over Kansas

–Ben Miraski

Well, aren't the C-USA gentlemen a little ambitious on their first week.

Houston, last year's conference winner, may not get the 4-0 start they enjoyed last year. Because last year, they beat up on Rice. This year, they likely won't beat up on Oregon. It may be an interesting game, but unless they can change the rules in 24 hours and get Kevin Kolb back from the Eagles … well, just because a team starts 0-1 doesn't mean it's the end of the world.

On the Obscure Sports Trivial Pursuit card with the question "After the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy, who was the first team they walloped on?" you can say that it will likely be East Carolina. Christ, this won't be close.

We are Marshall, but they are Miami. They're just sorta better. We don't have a chance.

Stick around for Labor Day with an exciting "First to 40 Wins" game between Southern Methodist and Texas Tech. Expect upwards of three punts!

–Matt Sussman

Western Kentucky vs. #6 Florida

What a way to enter Division 1-A. What really can you say for WKU as they open their season against defending national champions, Florida. Notre Dame transfer, junior David Wolke, gets the nod at quarterback for WKU, replacing four-year starter Justin Haddix. Luckily for Wolke, Florida lost losing nine starters from a defense that allowed only 13.6 points per game last season. However, it won’t be nearly be enough for Western Kentucky to pull this one out. This is the third straight year the Hilltoppers have opened against an SEC team, having lost to Georgia 48-12 last year and going down to Auburn in 2005, 37-14.

Army vs. Akron

As Army takes the field in the inaugural FirstMerrit Patriot Bowl at Cleveland Browns stadium, they look to open the season against a team in which they’ve had some success. The last time Army played Akron (2005), the Black Knights blanked the Zips 20-0. The season opener also ushers in a new era in Army Football as first year head coach Stan Brock takes the field. Army will have give QB Carson Williams who plenty of time in the pocket if Army has any chance of taking this game. At 6-3, 210 pounds is big a QB with a good arm but prone to mental mistakes when rushed. I take Army in a squeaker.

Navy vs. Temple

Navy kicks off the season a little early, opening at Temple, Friday, Aug. 31. Returning junior QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will look to lead the Mid-Shipmen in the slot option offense that features the return of three solid slotbacks in seniors Reggie Campbell, Zerbin Singleton and junior Shun White. Navy’s defense suffered heavy losses last year with only two returning starters from last year’s squad but facing the Owls, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Navy easily takes this one.

Notre Dame vs. Georgia Tech

Or should we call this the game where Charlie Weis finally announces his starting quarterback? Georgia Tech has not forgotten last year when Notre Dame edged the Yellow Jackets 14-10 at home. With Notre Dame in a rebuilding mode and Tech smelling blood, the Irish are going to need more than Touchdown Jesus and the miracles of the Golden Dome to help them out this year. With so many question still unanswered on the Blue and Gold side of the ball, Tech takes this one.

–Benjamin Cossel

Welp, after one day of college football, the MAC has drawn even (1-1) against BCS conference teams. Buffalo went down to Rutgers in orderly fashion 38-3, but Kent State drove into Ames, Iowa to beat Iowa State 23-14.

As for Saturday's games:

2:30 p.m. — Iowa at Northern Illinois [ESPNU]Over 60,000 tickets were sold for the game. Although I think that was mean of Ticketmaster to write "THE POLICE" on them.

3:30 p.m. — Western Michigan at #3 West Virginia [ESPN+]A battle of who's more West. Apparently a map didn't settle the dispute. Not everyone has them.

6:00 p.m. — Central Michigan at Kansas
Beating a Mark Mangino-coached team is like fighting King Hippo from Mike Tyson's Punch Out! Because, you know, of the fat thing.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Bowling Green travels to Minnesota Saturday night. (Seriously, Geeves? BG wins this one? You're a naïve temp editor, you are.)

–Matt Sussman

Utah will have their hands full during a trip to Oregon State. The OSU Beavers just don't lose at home against non-conference opponents, seeing as how they've won 22 of their last 22 such games.

Wyoming hosts ACC middleweight Virginia in what many consider to be a territorial battle. Last year Virginia escaped with a 13-12 overtime win after Aric Goodman couldn't kick an extra point, but this year the game's in Laramie, so the Cowboys might exact some revenge, Aric Goodman style. (Or maybe they'll let someone else kick the important points.)

One of the more intriguing games is Arizona/BYU. The Wildcats and Cougars (which one's which? Does it really matter?) are on two different paths. With Max Hall replacing John Beck at quarterback for BYU, he might have trouble with UA actually-pretty-good defense.

Colorado-Colorado State is one of those intrastate games that sounds like a rivalry, but really isn't. Both teams are mediocre, which means it could turn out to be a great game.

Air Force is hosting I-AA team South Carolina State. I have no idea why.

–Matt Sussman

Washington State at #7 Wisconsin (Sat 3:30pm EST)

Wisconsin looks to be a tough matchup for Washington State. The Badger defense, which allowed 12.1 points last season, looks to give the Cougars some trouble in this game. On the offensive side of the ball, the Badgers should fare well passing against an inexperienced Cougar secondary.

#15 Tennessee at #12 California (Sat 8:00pm EST)

#15 Tennessee visit #12 California in the season opener. After a 35-18 loss to the Vols last season, California looks to have junior quarterback Nate Longshore and Heisman hopeful DeSean Jackson lead them to victory. Although breaking his pinky on his throwing hand Monday taking snaps this week, Vols senior quarterback Erik Ainge is expected to play in the game.

Other Games
Utah at Oregon State (Thur 10:00pm EST)
Washington at Syracuse (Fri 8:00pm EST)
#14 UCLA at Stanford (Sat 3:30pm EST)
Houston at Oregon (Sat 3:30pm EST)
Arizona at BYU (Sat 5:30pm EST)
San Jose State at Arizona State (Sat 10:00pm EST)
Idaho at #1 USC (Sat 10:15pm EST)

–Steve

As will often be the case, the best game of the week involves an SEC team. The only game this week featuring two ranked opponents will be in Berkeley this week when the Tennessee Volunteers travel to meet the Cal Bears.

Erik Ainge comes into this game established as a quality starting QB. His weapons? Not so much. LaMarcus Coker is suspended and Tennessee wasn't a great running team with him. His top three receivers from last year are gone, leaving only TE Chris Brown. It will be up to Ainge to elevate these newcomers against Cal's pedestrian defense. This is the pivotal matchup.

Cal will have to win this game with big plays – and that means a huge game from the sensational DeSean Jackson — because they won't consistently overpower the bigger Vol defense. My heart says Cal, my head says UT.

A couple other games worth mentioning: The Saban era opens as Alabama hosts West Carolina, coincidentally the first team Saban faced at LSU. This could be Alabama's lone September win. The first team to play defense in the Oklahoma State/Georgia game will win. Bet on the Bulldogs at home, but this should be entertaining to see. If Auburn dispatches Kansas State easily, they should be undefeated when they face Florida. If they struggle, look out.

–Josh Hathaway

Opening weekend for the Sun Belt is not likely to produce too many victories within the conference, but there is some potential for an interesting ballgame or two.

Florida International opens up against Penn State (12:00pm EST), but Deadspin Hall of Famer A'Mod Ned is no match for Zombie Joe Paterno.

Louisiana-Lafayette takes a trip to visit the Ol’ Ball Coach at South Carolina (7:00pm EST) in a game that could be closer than expected, but it’s far more likely that the OBC unleashes an air raid on the Ragin’ Cajuns and click clacks his way to a rout.

The game that has the biggest potential for an upset is Troy at Arkansas (7:00pm EST). In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I am a huge Arkansas fan and this game worries me far more than it should. Troy has a solid football team, but the powers of Heisman hopeful Darren McFadden and Felix Jones should be enough for the Hogs to pull away in the 2nd half.

As for the rest of the games this week, I’m expecting North Texas to be demolished by Oklahoma (7:00pm EST) and for Arkansas State to regret ever making the trip to Austin to play Texas (7:00pm EST). There is also one intra-conference match-up this weekend in the form of Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic (4pm EST).

Jerkwheat

This week, the WAC doesn't feel like playing a ton of good teams. Only Idaho has that idea.

Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State area all "roughing it" by hosting I-AA teams to open the season. If any of these WAC schools had a chance of losing, give me Central Arkansas going to LA Tech and winning a close one.

Any game worth watching might be Nevada traveling to Nebraska. If the Huskers jump on top early, forget it. But Nebraska has two monster games coming up on their schedule, and Nevada could certainly surprise some people with an early lead, although I'm certain the superior NU resides in the Big XII. But with Nebraska favored by 19 points, I'm not certain it'll be that huge a blowout.

Idaho travels to USC. But good news! As of Friday, the game's still tied.

–Matt Sussman

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  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Worse news for Ned … he’s relegated to third string.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh

    I want Cal to destroy UT, but I don’t see it. I don’t think Cal has a speed advantage and they sure don’t have a power advantage. Jackson is a stud and might make a play or two, but Tennessee has guys who can run with him. I don’t see him getting open deep that often.

    Tedford is such a great coach, maybe he can come up with something. It will take that and a few breaks for Cal to come up with the win.

  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Jerkwheat

    But, but, Phil Steele said Ned was gonna be the starter this year!!! VHT!! POS#3983!!!

    Saturday can’t get here soon enough

  • nicolas

    wait…phil steele was…WRONG?!!?! i think i need to rewrite my preview now!

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh

    At least Alabama can beat their 1-AA opponents! Michigan should be contracted. That WR for App. St. was something.

    The UT/CAL game is going about like I anticipated. CAL has gotten the big plays but their defense is having problems.