Welcome to the first NCAA week-ahead glance of the 2012 regular season, a weekly preview of the week to come in college football. Hopefully I will be able to provide you with a few things you might not otherwise have known when placing those NCAA bets.
The past week or so has been incredibly busy in terms of news all over the country, especially with teams settling quarterback battles in fall camp. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger ones.
--Notre Dame: Sophomore Everett Golson, who was on the scout team a year ago, beat out Andrew Hendrix to start Saturday’s opener in Dublin, Ireland (9 a.m. ET kickoff) against Navy. Golson was a highly-recruited dual-threat out of South Carolina, where he threw 151 career TD passes, No. 6 in U.S. prep history at the time. By all accounts, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wants this to be a permanent decision. Tommy Rees was the Irish’s starter last year but was suspended for the opener because of an offseason arrest. Hendrix was Rees’ backup a year ago. Look for Golson to use his legs more than his arm on Saturday as Navy ranked No. 92 in rushing defense on the way to a 5-7 record in 2011. One of those losses was a 56-14 rout in South Bend where the Irish rushed for 182 yards and seven touchdowns. Notre Dame is a 17.5-point favorite this time. The Midshipmen have covered nine of their past 11 as an underdog.
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--Oregon: In an upset, redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota beat out sophomore Bryan Bennett for the Ducks’ starting job even though Bennett was Darron Thomas’ backup a season ago and played well when he got snaps. (Quick aside: the worst decision of any collegian last year was Thomas declaring early for the draft – he wasn’t even taken. Oregon might have been preseason No. 1 if he had returned.) Mariota will be the first freshman to start in an opener for Oregon since Danny O'Neil in 1991. I will touch more on this later this week when I preview Saturday’s Arkansas State-Oregon game, with the Ducks currently 35.5-point favorites against an underrated program.
--Auburn: Kiehl Frazier was named the Tigers’ starting quarterback for their season opener Saturday night vs. reigning ACC champion Clemson in Atlanta – look for a preview of this game later this week here at Doc’s. Frazier, who beat out Clint Moseley, was used mostly as a Wildcat quarterback as a freshman, going 5-of-12 passing for 34 yards and two interceptions. Clemson is a three-point favorite for the game, according to college football odds.
--Stanford: Josh Nunes was the winner of the battle to try and fill the very big shoes of Andrew Luck with the Cardinal. The junior beat out Brett Nottingham, who was Luck’s backup a year ago. Nunes is 1-for-2 for seven yards in his NCAA career and didn’t play a down last season. The Cardinal open against a San Jose State team they crushed 57-3 in the 2011 opener. SJSU hasn’t beaten Stanford since 2006. Stanford, which is a 25-point favorite for this game, had one of the best ATS records in the nation a year ago at 10-2-1. SJSU was a solid 8-4-0.
--Texas: David Ash was named the starter over Case McCoy for the opener Saturday in Austin against Wyoming. Ash was 3-3 as the starter last season. He finished with four touchdowns and eight interceptions and completed 57 percent of his passes. Don’t get too excited about this news as it sounds like the Horns will still use McCoy as well. All UT coaches want is for their QBs to not make mistakes because the Horns will be pounding the ball with an excellent running back trio of Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and super freshman Johnathan Gray behind one of the Big 12's best offensive lines. Texas is a 29-point favorite over the Cowboys. The Horns were 7-6-0 ATS last season, while Wyoming was the same.
--Florida: The old adage is that when you have two starting quarterbacks you really have none. That might be the case with the Gators after coach Will Muschamp announced that both Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will play in the opener vs. Bowling Green. Both struggled in a big way as freshmen a year ago. Look for Brissett to start since Driskel is banged up. UF has a National Championship-caliber defense, but the offense could definitely hold this team back just like last year. The Gators are 29-point favorites vs. BGSU. UF was 5-8-0 ATS a year ago, while Bowling Green was 7-5-0.
--Kentucky: UK opens at Big East-favorite Louisville on Sunday and will have Maxwell Smith under center. No real surprise after Smith was named a freshman All-SEC player by the league's coaches last year, when he completed 84-of-153 passes for 819 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. It’s not going to matter much for the Cats, who were No. 114 in passing a year ago. They are 13.5-point dogs vs. the Cardinals and lost at home to Louisville, 24-17, a year ago. UL was a solid 8-5-0 ATS a year ago, while Kentucky was 6-6-0.
Meanwhile, there was also a significant suspension last week as Tennessee receiver Da’Rick Rogers apparently will not play in 2012. Last season, Rogers led the SEC with 67 catches and was second in the league with 1,040 receiving yards. He also caught nine touchdown passes -- in the six games Rogers scored (mostly against lousy teams), Tennessee went 5-1. I liked the Vols as a potential sleeper in the SEC East this year (12/1 at Bovada), and this certainly hurts. UT opens Friday in Atlanta vs. N.C. State as a 3.5-point dog. The Vols didn’t cover in a game outside of Knoxville last year (0-4), while NCSU was just 1-4 ATS outside of Raleigh.
Colorado doesn’t have many good offensive players as it is, and the Buffs won’t have top receiver Paul Richardson for at least the first few games as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in the spring. Last season, he caught 39 passes for 555 yards and five touchdowns despite missing four games due to a sprained knee. Richardson's school-record 284 receiving yards in last year's Pac-12 opener against California was the top single-game mark in the conference in 2011. Colorado is a 5.5-point favorite vs. Colorado State for Saturday’s game in Denver. The Buffaloes won last year 28-14.
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