Week 1 College Football Preview
by Trevor Whenham - 8/31/2009
January was a long, long time ago. If you believe, like I do, that college football is the best team sport there is then these last eight months have been painfully endless. Finally, though, the season is here once again, and we can enjoy all the highs and lows that this sport presents like no other. In anxious anticipation of the first week of college football action, here's a look at 12 games that I find to be particularly intriguing:
Thursday, September 3
Oregon (+4) at Boise State - The season starts with a bang with a game between two ranked teams. Oregon seems to believe that they can win the Pac-10 this year with the explosive Jeremiah Masoli behind center. It's possible, but they need to prove that they have no holes, and this game s a good place to start. In the eyes of many, Boise State is an overrated team at this point - their current reputation based more on their name than what they can offer on the field. This game is a perfect test of that theory. There is added intrigue here as well - things got ugly when the teams met last year, so blood will be running hot right from the start.
Utah State (+20.5) at Utah - The Aggies are nothing special, but the Utes have the potential to be. They are ranked No. 19, and they need to post an impressive win here to gain the confidence of voters and start building a case that they belong higher.
Saturday, September 5
Western Michigan (+12.5) at Michigan - Wolverines fans like me are more than a little nervous about this one. Michigan is looking to turn things around after the worst season in history, and they will likely have to do it with a true freshman at QB. They need a win here very badly. Western Michigan is potentially the best team in the MAC, but they have not always risen to the occasion in big games. They did beat Illinois last year, though, so they have some confidence regarding the Big Ten.
Minnesota (-6.5) at Syracuse - Two words - Greg Paulus. The Duke point guard that everyone loved to hate is now the Syracuse quarterback that no one knows how to evaluate. Just watching what happens when he takes his first snap will be worth the price of admission alone. Minnesota is a team that could continue to move forward as well, so they will be interesting to watch.
San Jose State (+34) at USC - Until now, USC has never started a season with a true freshman quarterback. Pete Carroll can't say enough good things about Matt Barkley, but he's still a raw quarterback with huge shoes to fill and all sorts of pressure. This game means little - the Trojans can win it with their eyes closed. What it will be able to do for us, though, is give us a sense of how comfortable Barkley looks, and how well he might fare at Ohio State in Week 2. It will also help us to understand how the team will respond to losing top receiver Ronald Johnson.
Georgia (+5.5) at Oklahoma State - The Cowboys are playing with the big boys now - their No. 9 ranking is the highest they have ever had to start the season. They have a tremendous amount of offensive talent, and most of it is very flashy. A win here would be huge for their credibility. If Oklahoma State would like a win here then Georgia desperately needs one. They are coming off a disappointing year, and they need to prove that they are still relevant, and that their once-feared defense can stop an explosive offense - something they badly struggled with last year.
Nevada (+14) at Notre Dame - Notre Dame is a ridiculously over-hyped team this year. Lou Holtz thinks they can run the table and make the championship game. I'm not entirely convinced that they can beat the Wolf Pack. Nevada is a feisty, talented squad who will give the Irish serious fits. They are well liked by smart money, and it would be too easy to really overlook them. If Notre Dame really is going to turn things around this year then they had better put up a huge effort in this game.
BYU (+21.5) at Oklahoma - Another showdown between ranked teams. BYU isn't coming into the game as healthy as they would like, but the Sooners have all sorts of new faces on offense so a win for them is no gimme. This is a good test of where both teams stand, and a good clash between two teams that love to throw and score like crazy.
Alabama (-7) vs. Virginia Tech - This prime time game is the marquee matchup of the opening weekend. It has it all - highly-ranked teams, high-profile coaches, and ridiculously talented teams. Both teams can play incredible defense, so don't tune in if you like to see the scoreboard get a workout. Both teams have some questions on offense, so hopefully this game will provide a few answers.
Central Michigan (+14) at Arizona - Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour is a very special player - one of the most underappreciated in the game. He heads into his senior season at the helm of a pretty promising team. This game will be a good measuring stick for them. Arizona isn't a great team, but Mike Stoops has to be on the hot seat by now so the team should be motivated. At the very least, Stoops needs to keep making the steps forward that he made last year.
LSU (-17) at Washington - LSU needs to make everyone forget that last year ever happened, and they'll look to start doing that in this game. Washington had a Detroit-Lions-esque season last year, but QB Jake Locker was hurt for much of it. He's healthy this year, and many expect him to live up to his immense potential. Steve Sarkisian needs a statement to prove that he can turn this game around, and a big performance here would be a good start.
Monday, September 7
Miami (+6) at Florida State - This used to be one of the great rivalries in the country, but the problems with both programs in the last few years means that this game isn't even likely to be sold out. Miami has some reasons for optimism, but they can't keep a quarterback on the roster. Florida State has as many questions as they do potential, and they have a lot of potential. There is no question what the best program in the state of Florida is, but this will give us a good idea of which one is No. 2.
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